Impetus for Action: A Cultural Analysis of Justice and Organizational Citizenship Behavior in Chinese Society

By Farh, Jiing-Lih; Earley, P. Christopher et al. | Administrative Science Quarterly, September 1997 | Go to article overview

Impetus for Action: A Cultural Analysis of Justice and Organizational Citizenship Behavior in Chinese Society


Farh, Jiing-Lih, Earley, P. Christopher, Lin, Shu-Chi, Administrative Science Quarterly


Although an organization may increase its competitiveness through a multitude of means, Western scholars have increasingly emphasized the importance of employee actions that are not specifically designated in their formal job duties, or organizational citizenship behavior. Organ (1988: 4) defined organizational citizenship behavior as "individual behavior that is discretionary, not directly or explicitly recognized by the formal reward system, and that in the aggregate promotes the effective functioning of the organization"; it includes actions such as aiding one's coworkers, punctuality and attendance that exceeds company norms, or voluntary assumption of ad hoc duties (Van Dyne, Graham, and Dienesch, 1994).

Except for studies devoted to the refinement of an organizational citizenship behavior measure (e.g., Podsakoff et al., 1990; Van Dyne, Graham, and Dienesch, 1994), the extant literature on citizenship behavior has focused primarily on the various determinants of citizenship behavior and its relationship to variables in a nomological network. Despite the voluminous and fruitful literature stemming from Organ's (1988) seminal work in this area, we know little about citizenship behavior in a global context. Our purpose in this paper is to begin to provide an understanding of citizenship behavior and its relevant correlates for people who vary in their cultural values by exploring whether citizenship behavior has an etic (universal) meaning in cultures in which expectations for employees vary drastically.

Organizational justice appears to be a key determinant of citizenship behavior and related outcomes such as satisfaction and commitment (Folger and Konovsky, 1989; Moorman, 1991), and it reflects both the fairness of outcomes as well as procedures used in their allocation (Lind and Tyler, 1988). The citizenship behavior literature has focused on the fairness of outcomes (e.g., pay) received by an employee and the procedures used to determine those outcomes (Moorman, 1991). Findings suggest that if both job satisfaction organizational justice are used to predict citizenship behavior, justice typically shows a stronger relationship to citizenship behavior than does satisfaction. Although it is not known exactly how justice affects citizenship behavior, trust appears to be an important mediating variable (Konovsky and Pugh, 1994). Organizational justice enhances employee trust, which in turn stimulates the display of citizenship behavior.

The importance of justice in the display of citizenship behavior can be seen in Konovsky and Pugh's (1994) empirical results on trust and Van Dyne, Graham, and Dienesch's (1994) conceptual work concerning covenantal relationships. Van Dyne, Graham, and Dienesch argued that a number of individual and contextual factors influence citizenship behavior through the mediating role of a covenantal relationship -- a personal relationship resulting in action being performed without expectations of reciprocity. Over time, the vitality of the relationship itself becomes an important focus for those who have covenantal ties, and citizenship behavior is a way the relationship is maintained and strengthened. Fiske (1991), Foa and Foa (1976), and Van Dyne, Graham, and Dienesch (1994), among others, suggested that this form of relationship is characteristic of people who have a common family structure, shared history, closely linked outcomes, or closely shared cultural perspectives.

Although organizational justice has proven to be an important antecedent of citizenship behavior, the nature of this relationship may differ as a function of individual and contextual attributes. Morrison (1994) found that the concepts of citizenship behavior varied across organizational ranks. What appeared to be citizenship behavior for some supervisors was defined and perceived differently by job incumbents, suggesting that perceptions of citizenship behavior are subjective. If so, then differences in perceptions arising from people's cultural values may have a profound impact on how citizenship behavior is viewed and operates in relation to other constructs.

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