Altruism, reciprocity, and cynicism: a new model to conceptualize the attitudes which support prosocial behaviors.

Author:Hatfield, Robert D.
Position:Essay
 
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INTRODUCTION

Managers and researchers alike have a strong desire to understand what enables and predicts behaviors that provide the necessary mortar between employees that improves both the work and the workplace. There have been attempts to develop a taxonomy of behaviors which can be considered a parsimonious description of the elements comprising the construct of "prosocial" within an organization (see Smith, Organ and Near, 1983; Organ, 1988; George and Brief, 1992). A metaanalysis of the construct of prosocial behaviors called Organizational Citizenship Behaviors (OCBs) shows that the five elements of altruism, conscientiousness, civic virtue, courtesy, and good sport ("sportsmanship") have stimulated a considerable amount of attention and research (Organ and Ryan, 1995). A prosocial construct that is based less upon behaviors and more upon attitudes needs to be identified. The thoughts that precede prosocial behaviors and predispositions which might predict such social behaviors also needs clarification. This paper presents a construct based upon attitude called the ARC Model of Prosocial Attitudes.

Management academics, consultants, and practitioners maintain a strong interest in prosocial cooperative behaviors from employees. However, research, and practical experience show that many employees respond to many management and Human Resource programs with cynicism. This cynicism can result in a refusal by employees to buy into the program. (Kanter & Mirvis, 1989, Fleming 2005). Researchers have often examined the role of reciprocity in OCB's (Korsgard, Meglino, Lesser & Jeong, 2010) and cooperation in organizations (Koster & Sanders, 2006). Others have explored the role of cynicism in how employees relate to others in the organization (Rego, Ribeiro, & Cunha, 2010). Still others view cynicism as a possible human trait (Hochwarter, James, Johnson & Ferris, 2004). Cynicism and reciprocity also have face value in helping to explain employee participation, perceptions, and behaviors.

A good deal of research has explored the role of social attitudes at work (Coyle-Shapiro, 2002) since Organ's articulation of OCBs as a social construct. One view of attitudes defines them as the general affective, cognitive and intentional responses toward objects, other people, themselves or social issues (Petty and Cacioppo, 1981). This definition includes the commonly cited "ABC" components of an attitude: affect, behavioral intentions, and cognition (Rosenberg and Hovland, 1960). Whereas the OCB conceptualization is focused upon behaviors, the three prosocial attitudes explored in this paper focus more broadly upon the affect, behavioral intentions, and cognitions which specifically support prosocial workplace activity. We argue that there are three fundamental attitudes that exist which facilitate social organization and organizations: Altruism, Reciprocity, and Cynicism (ARC).

The ARC Model of Prosocial Attitudes

Altruism has been defined as where one seeks to maximize the outcomes of another without regard for one's own outcomes (Ballinger and Rockmann, 2010). Altruism is a prosocial attitude thought of as a predisposition to unselfishly help and focus upon others, associated with the affect of compassion, and resulting in acts of cooperation, caring, giving assistance, and other selfless acts. Reciprocity is an attitude thought of as sensitivity to the behaviors and attitudes of others combined with the belief that there should be a return, balance, or social exchange of behaviors. Reciprocity is an attitude about equity. Reciprocity may result in our being friendly in return for friendliness we received from someone else. We are courteous in return for courteousness from others. We often behave with anger when we receive anger. Cynicism is a distrusting dimension characterized by a predisposition to question the motives of others, skepticism, and wariness. In a sense, this is the only attitude in this scheme that is cast as...

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