CN Citizen Series

OCB – Cultural Implications of Good Soldiers

Good Soldier A03B0023Who wouldn’t want their employees to be “good soldiers?” Military metaphors abound in business, and for good reason. Soldiers become employees. Businesses get military contracts. Military leaders become business leaders. The transfer of military technologies, thinking and culture to businesses is unavoidable, including the metaphors.

“The Good Soldier Syndrome” defined for business organizations by Professor Dennis W. Organ in 1988 never quite captured the imagination of leadership…but it came close. Organ himself later admitted that the concept was too soft & fuzzy for meaningful adoption. A secret ingredient or two seemed to have been either missed or dismissed from the OCB sauce recipe.

Organ’s OCB was comprised of characteristics such as Altruism, Conscientiousness, Courtesy and Civic Virtue, carried out voluntarily, with no expectation of recognition or reward for the good of other individuals and/or for the good of the order. Organ’s working definition of OCB “conceived of it as individual behavior that cannot be enforced, but “in the aggregate aids organizational effectiveness,” whether or not the individual behaviors were even noticed, let alone rewarded.  In the end, Organ himself seemed unsure whether OCBs were inputs, outputs, antecedents, consequences of something else, or all of those things.

In 1969, Alexander Mikalachki made a radically distinctive observation in a landmark study of group cohesiveness. Not widely published at the time, the importance of it seemed not to be widely recognized even into the latter half of the century. But it is still being cited, though not as often as might be expected, given the implications.  What did he find? Cohesion, it turns out, isn’t a singular unitary force. [1] W. N. Widmeyer and L. R. Brawley (2007) picked up on this, saying, “Perhaps Mikalachki (1969) made one of the clearest distinctions when he advocated that cohesiveness be subdivided into task and social components.

Task cohesion exists when the group coheres around the task it was organized to perform while social cohesion exists when the group coheres around the social (nontask) functions. Mikalalchki also suggested that these two components of cohesiveness should be considered separately in terms of their antecedents and consequences.” [2] The implications were far reaching, well beyond cohesiveness itself. Mikalachki’s bifurcation of cohesion clearly suggested stratification of organizational activities and value for those activities operating on either side of the same fault line, as well, social vs. task.

When Borman & Motowidlo (& Schmit) got hold of OCB theory, they immediately took it to task, pun intended, differentiating two spheres of activity mirroring those identified by the presence of Mikalachki’s bifurcation of cohesion.

Though Mikalachki never appears in any of their bibliographies,  Borman & Motowidlo especially seemed to recognize the relationship of OCB to organizational cohesion and the dilemma  of Organ’s purely social-side approach to OCB. They first defined task performance “as the effectiveness with which job incumbents perform activities that contribute to the organization’s technical core, either directly by implementing a part of its technological process, or indirectly by providing it with needed materials or services (Borman & Motowidlo, 1993).

They define contextual performance, on the other hand, as that which “contribute[s] to organizational effectiveness in ways that shape the organizational, social, and psychological context that serves as the catalyst for task activities and processes.”  Borman & Motowidlo narrowed their OCB focus to the utility of psycho-social behaviors that serve as “the catalyst for task[s].”

The OCB discussion momentarily hovers over Brief & Motowidlo  [4] who coined the term Prosocial Organizational Behavior (POB) as behavior performed with the intention of promoting the welfare of targeted individuals or groups, whether related one’s role (job) or not. Organ recognized their work. OCB by definition is limited to behaviors not related to the role/job or directly impacting what they termed the organization’s technical core.

Borman and Motowidlo then present a “Soldier effectiveness model” and a “Taxonomy of Contextual Performance.” Importantly for the application of a citizenship model, Borman, Motowidlo, Rose, & Hanser [5] identify a relevant facet of OCB’ “Good Soldier” critical to the CultureNeutral® framework: “Commitment and socialization merge to define Allegiance…” which is defined very simply as: “loyalty or commitment of a subordinate to a superior or of an individual to a group or cause.”

When considering “group or cause,’ does culture also fit within the rubric of those things to which people, soldiers included, can have an allegiance? Sam P. Huntington argued that the answer was an unequivocal “Yes!” as he saw civilizations realigning in accordance with cultural allegiances, evidencing subjection to diverse cultural sovereignty. Organ’s construct Organizational Citizenship Behaviors manifest as a Good Soldier Syndrome among employees by its nature is more than a metaphorical allusion to allegiance to and sovereignty of organizations.

In his consideration of Prosocial Organizational Behaviors, Organ thoughtfully asserts, “…OCB is hardly a “neutral” concept…,” tacit recognition that soldiers are anything but neutral in their commitment and allegiances. [6] If that’s the case, how can OCB play into a CultureNeutral® Framework?  What are the implications for organizational culture as antecedent and consequence in terms of both cultural conflict and cultural compatibility of employee culture with that of the organization?

CONTINUE with us back to the discussion of:
CultureNeutral® Key Number 4 – Organizational Citizen/ship Behaviors

View or review all the CultureNeutral® Keys:
Key #1 Culture (Top of Page)
Key #2 Conflict
Key #3 Sovereignty
Key #4 Citizenship
Key #5 Neutrality

To read more about OCB:
OCB – Is It Contagious?
OCB – Key #4 


Copyright Robert D. Jones, 2013, All Rights Reserved

[1] Group cohesion reconsidered: A study of blue collar work groups (1969), Mikalachki, A., MB.A., PhD, Professor Emeritus, Richard Ivey School of Business, School of Business Administration, University of Western Ontario (London)

[2] Essential Readings in Sport and Exercise Psychology (2007), Editor-Daniel Smith; Editor-Michael Bar-Eli (Chapter 20: The Development of an Instrument to Assess Cohesion in Sport Teams: The Group Cohesion Environment Questionnaire, A.V. Carron, Univ. of Western Ontario, W. N. Widmeyer and L. R. Brawley, Univ. of Waterloo), Human Kinetics

[3] “A Theory of Individual Differences in Task and Contextual Performance,” (Borman & Motowidlo & Schmit) and “Task Performance and Contextual Performance: The Meaning for Personnel Selection Research,” (Borman & Motowidlo) Human Performance, Ed.: Joyce Hogan, Lawrence Erlbaum Assocates, Volume 10, Number 2, 1997

[4] Brief, A. P., Motowidlo, S. J. (1986). Prosocial organizational behaviors. Academy of Managment Review, 11, 710-725

[5] Borman, W.C., Motowidlo, S.J., Rose, S.R., & Hanser, L.M. (1985). Development of a model of soldier effectiveness (Institute Report #95). Minneapolis, MN: Personnel Decisions Research Institutes.

[6] Organ, Dennis W., Organizational Citizen Behavior, 1988, Lexington Books, D.C. Heath and Company (p. 106)

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