Are "Good Soldiers" Safety Conscious? an Examination of the Relationship between Organizational Citizenship Behaviors and Perception of Workplace Safety

Article excerpt

This study examined the relationship between safety climate and organizational citizenship behaviors (OCB). It involved a comparative analysis between workers active in citizenship behaviors and their colleagues who were passive or inactive regarding OCBs. Additional analyses also compared job satisfaction, compliance with safe work policies, and accident frequency between the two groups. T-tests were used in these comparative analyses. A positive association was found between safety perception and OCBs: workers who actively engaged in citizenship behaviors had positive perceptions of safety in their workplaces, and vice versa. Additionally, the group active in OCBs expressed more job satisfaction, were more compliant with safety management policies, and subsequently had a relatively lower accident involvement rate. The implications of these findings in the work environment are discussed.

The literature presents Organizational Citizenship Behaviors (OCBs) as discretionary behaviors that go beyond those formally prescribed by the organization and for which there are no direct rewards (e.g., Konovsky & Pugh, 1994; Moorman, 1991; Organ, 1988, 1994). Interest in OCBs originated from the field of organizational behavior but has expanded into other disciplines such as human resource management, international business, industrial and labor relations, strategic management, and community psychology. OCBs include volunteering to replace a sick coworker, volunteering for tasks that are not assigned, providing innovative ideas to improve operations, presenting the organization favorably to outsiders, and assisting coworkers and/or supervisors with job-related assignments. Workers who engage in such unprompted productive activities for the advancement of their organizations have been designated as good citizens or good soldiers (Kidder & Parks, 2001; Organ, 1988; Turnipseed, 2002). The etymology of this description thus gives the impression that such workers are more efficient and productive than their counterparts who are passive in citizenship behaviors.

The impact of the good soldier syndrome on organizational efficiency and productivity has been extremely well documented in several studies, literature reviews and meta-analyses. Some of these observations are that workers active in citizenship behaviors do encourage coworker productivity and efficient operation of employee participation programs (Graham, 1991; Karambayya, 1990), promote high-quality leadership and better quality services to customers (Bell & Menguc, 2002; Hui, Lam, & Schaubroeck, 2001), and increase the stability and ability of organizations to attract and retain effective employees (Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Paine, & Brachrach, 2000). As noted by Organ (1988), the architect of this theory, and by Podsakoff et al. (2000) in their impressive review on OCB literature, citizenship behaviors are vital and crucial to organizational survival and effectiveness.

Existing theory and research suggest that citizenship behaviors are context-related phenomena that are influenced by personal characteristics and work environmental factors (e.g., Somech & Drach-Zahavy, 2004). Workers, therefore, do not perform such organizational extraroles in a vacuum. Their appraisals, assessments and evaluations of workplace conditions either promote or discourage participation in citizenship behaviors. When workers have perceived that their organizations/management are supportive and concerned about their general well-being, they have been motivated to engage in extrarole commitments (Eisenberger, Armeli, Rexwinkel, Lynch, & Rhodes, 2001; Simons & Robertson, 2003), displayed loyalty (Setton, Bennett, & Liden, 1996), and abided by safety regulations (Hoffmann & Morgeson, 1999). While the positive impact of the good soldier syndrome as a desirable organizational outcome has been well documented, there is surprisingly little evidence on the empirical relationship between OCB and organizational safety climate-perceptions held by workers regarding the importance of safety in their organization. …