Organizational Citizenship Behavior and Gender: Expectations and Attributions for Performance

By Farrell, Sara K.; Finkelstein, Lisa M. | North American Journal of Psychology, March 2007 | Go to article overview

Organizational Citizenship Behavior and Gender: Expectations and Attributions for Performance


Farrell, Sara K., Finkelstein, Lisa M., North American Journal of Psychology


Recent research suggests that women are more likely to participate in the helping dimension of organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) whereas men are more likely to participate in the civic virtue dimension. Three laboratory studies were conducted to test the hypotheses that observers expect employees to participate in gender-congruent OCBs and that, when exhibited, observers are more likely to attribute gender-incongruent OCBs than gender-congruent OCBs to impression management motives. Results indicated that OCBs in general were expected more of women than of men. Only under specific conditions were OCB-civic virtue behaviors expected more of men. Additionally, participants were more likely to attribute men's OCB than women's OCB to impression management motives. Implications and future research suggestions are discussed.

Over the past two decades, organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) has become a popular research topic among industrial / organizational psychologists. One line of research has investigated the degree to which OCB impacts performance appraisal ratings (see Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Paine, & Bachrach, 2000 for a review). Other research has begun to explore the relationship between OCB and gender (Allen & Rush, 2001; Ehrhart & Godfrey, 2003; Heilman & Chen, 2005; Kidder, 2002). The goal of the current research was to replicate previous research on the link between OCB and gender using an alternative methodology and to extend that previous research by investigating differences in attributions made by the perceivers of such behavior.

A commonly used definition of OCB was put forth by Organ: "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" (Organ, 1988, p. 4). Accordingly, OCB is typically considered "extra-role" behavior. However, many researchers have acknowledged that employees who engage in OCB are often informally rewarded for such actions in performance appraisals (e.g., Allen & Rush, 1998; Organ, 1997). In addition, recent articles have generated interest in investigating the possibility that subtle discrimination exists such that men and women are differentially rewarded in performance appraisals based on their participation in OCBs (e.g., Allen, 2004; Heilman & Chen, 2005; Kidder & Parks, 2001). This position is grounded in the assumption that women are expected to participate in certain dimensions of OCBs, whereas men are expected to participate in others. In fact, actual research in this particular area has been limited (Allen & Rush, 2001; Podsakoff, McKenzie, Paine, & Bacharach, 2000).

Research on gender differences has focused on two of Organ's (1988) dimensions in particular: helping and civic virtue. The helping dimension includes behaviors that help a specific other person (e.g., assisting others with their workloads). The dimension of civic virtue was first described by Graham (1986, as cited in Organ, 1988) as including behaviors that reflect responsible participation in, involvement with, and concern about the life of the employing organization (e.g., attending non-mandatory meetings).

As Heilman and Chen (2005) point out, "Being a helper is central to female gender stereotype prescriptions, which dictate that women be nurturing and socially oriented (communal)" (p. 431). Civic virtue, on the other hand, can be considered agentic behavior (i.e., involving assertiveness and independence), which is more consistent with prescriptions associated with the male gender stereotype. This logic has led previous researchers to predict that helping behavior is more likely to be expected of women whereas civic virtue behavior is more likely to be expected of men. Although some researchers have looked at the possibility that men and women are differentially rewarded for participation in these dimensions of OCB (Allen, 2004; Heilman & Chen, 2005), others have focused on the more fundamental question of whether OCBs from the helping dimension are more expected from women and those from the civic virtue dimension are more expected from men (Ehrhart & Godfrey, 2003; Heilman & Chen, 2005). …

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