The role of personality in organizational citizenship behavior: introducing counterproductive work behavior and integrating impression management as a moderating factor.

Author:Phipps, Simone T.A.


Most of us have heard the adage that "variety is the spice of life." Some of us may dismiss it as an overused cliche, and may even allude to its emptiness as a maxim of any significant meaning. We beg to differ. Variety presents itself in numerous sizes, shapes, and forms, and personality is no exception. All individuals have personalities and none of them is exactly alike. This diversity in disposition and temperament ensures that we do not live in a dull and mundane world, but that is not all. In an organizational context, the variation in personality traits among employees does more than provide a heterogeneous and fascinating workplace. It also plays an important role in how they, among other things, thrive at work, act under certain conditions, react to different circumstances, and relate to others. Therefore, in an organizational context, it plays a role in how employees behave, which affects the organization as a whole. Ones (2002) affirms that some personality traits have shown to have a main effect on work behaviors in particular. This behavior, in turn, shapes organizational performance.

Employee behavior is crucial to the success of any organization, and therefore, it is important to know not just how effort can be increased, or untapped potential found and molded, but how maximum performance can be extracted. This is where organizational citizenship behavior rears its head, describing actions in which employees are willing to go above and beyond their prescribed role requirements and provide performance that is beyond expectations (Min-Huei, 2004). According to Organ (1988), OCBs enhance organizational effectiveness. Min-Huei (2004) also agreed that OCBs are correlated with indicators of organizational effectiveness.

Organizational Citizenship Behavior(s) among employees can be generated through the activation of several possible triggers including high system functionality, effective risk management, superior motivation, appropriate affirmation, grasp of timely opportunities, and the list goes on. Studies have even shown OCBs to be influenced by procedural justice and mood (Sablynski & Wright, 2008). However, this review will focus on personality characterization. Some researchers have advocated the relevance of personality as an antecedent to OCB or contextual performance (Hurtz & Donovan, 2000; Ones, Dilchert, Viswesvaran, & Judge, 2007). Others have indicated that personality by itself is not sufficient to influence an individual to engage in OCBs, and that there is little or no direct relationship between the two constructs. With both opinions in mind, this paper posits that an individual whose personality does not incline him/her to engage in considerable OCB, but who would like to be perceived favorably in his/her workplace, would employ citizenship behavior to make a good impression. Thus, impression management would impact the relationship between personality and OCBs. Studies have already shown a significant relationship between IM and OCB, especially interpersonal OCB (Finkelstein & Penner, 2004). As regards moderation effects, Bolino (1999) argued that the strength of the impact of personality on OCBs would be influenced when strong impression management motives were involved.

The intent of this review is to examine different personality types according to the Big Five and to consider their leverage on employee behavior with respect to OCBs and CWBs. Focus is on the Big Five because it is the most widely accepted and robust taxonomy of personality traits (King, George, & Hebl, 2005). With regard to OCBs, specific, distinct elements will not be isolated for comprehensive discussion. Instead, the general form of OCB will be discussed with selective mention of relevant dimensions. It will also examine impression management as a moderating factor. Social exchange theory and impression management theory will be used to suggest relationships among the constructs. The primary objective is to discover how a person's personality determines his or her citizenship behavior, a significant step in the determination of the final performance outcome, and how impression management affects the relationship between personality and OCB and personality and CWB. New perspectives related to personality and behavioral issues or concerns will be presented, and suggestions for future research will be offered. Consequently, it is hoped that a greater understanding of the significance and complexity of personality and impression management, and the roles they play in the workplace, will be achieved.


Ones, Viswesvaran, and Dilchert (2005) describe personality traits as enduring dispositions and tendencies of individuals to behave in certain ways. They clarify that personality cannot be simplified or relegated to only one solitary construct, but rather, should be acknowledged as a gamut of individual attributes that consistently distinguish people from one another in terms of their basic tendencies to think, feel, and act in these ways. Therefore, a person's personality is a deeply rooted temperament that forms part of a person's identity and inclines others to recognize him or her as more than just a face. Some would say that it is an innate quality, merely a person's nature, rendering them a delight, or on the other end of the spectrum, distress to be around, but available literature suggests that it goes beyond that to influence other important concerns, including their behaviors in an organizational setting.


The well recognized and widely accepted Five Factor Model of Personality (FFM) began with the lexical hypothesis (Mayer, 2003; Ones, Viswesvaran, & Dilchert, 2005), and refers to personality elements that have been discerned through empirical research. Also labeled "The Big Five," the model consists of five dimensions, namely openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion/introversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism/emotional stability (OCEAN). These personality domains involve a cluster of other associated characteristics, facets, and/or preferences (Mayer, 2003; Graziano, Bruce, Sheese, & Tobin, 2007; Chih-Chien & Yann-Jy, 2007), as can be seen in Table 1.

The five factor model of personality is practical because it can be used to predict as well as clarify a number of constructs and phenomena. In fact, Ones, Viswesvaran, and Dilchert (2005) affirmed that the big five variables have sizable operational validities for predicting job performance and other criteria (including behaviors) at work. Over the years, studies have used the Big Five to investigate the relationship between supervisors' personalities and subordinates' attitudes, including satisfaction, commitment, and turnover (Smith & Canger, 2004), to explore the correlation between personality and individual job performance (Barrick & Mount, 2005), and even to examine the connection between personality traits and physical health (Smith & Williams, 1992), which can affect performance. This review will add to the academic collection of articles on persona by focusing on the link between personality characteristics and organizational behavior.


Before delving into the relationship between personality, organizational citizenship behavior (OCB), and impression management (IM), it is important to clarify what is meant by the term. OCB has been defined as organizationally functional employee behavior that is discretionary, beyond the strict description of job requirements, and not directly recognized by a formal reward system (Organ, 1988). This definition implies that the behavior is not obligatory, but rather an individual or personal choice, and thus, individuals cannot be penalized for its exclusion in the workplace.

Organizational Citizenship Behavior can include numerous components. For example, studies have been conducted where OCB focused on loyalty, service delivery, and participation (Bettencourt, Gwinner, & Meuter, 2001), or helping behavior, sportsmanship, and conscientiousness (Todd & Kent, 2006), or interpersonal helping (affiliative OCB) and taking charge (challenging OCB) (McAllister, Kamdar, Morrison, & Turban, 2007). Smith, Organ, and Near (1983) depicted OCBs as having two (2) major dimensions: altruism and generalized compliance. Altruism was likened to helping behavior geared toward specific individuals, and generalized compliance was similar to conscientiousness, encompassing the idea of conformity to rules, norms, and expectations (doing the right thing or doing things right). Years later, Organ (1988) further refined the construct as a taxonomy enveloping five (5) categories: helping, conscientiousness, sportsmanship, courtesy, and civic virtue. His characterizations are provided in the form of a tabular synopsis, seen in Table 2.

Attempts have been made to make amendments to the aforementioned five (5) categories. Farh, Zhong, and Organ (2004) extended the dimensions to include behaviors like self-training, protecting/saving resources, and interpersonal harmony. Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Paine, and Bachrach (2000) included loyalty, initiative, and self-development in the dimensions. Generally, this paper will consider OCB in its totality, and not separate it into its dimensions. LePine, Erez, and Johnson (2002) found that the behavioral dimensions were highly related to one another and that the relationships closely approached or exceeded the typical levels of reliability. A possible exception was the correlation estimate for sportsmanship and civic virtue (r= .40), which was still moderately high. Therefore, for the purpose of this paper, OCBs will be considered as any set of positive, voluntary, unrewarded behaviors that have a constructive effect in the workplace, and that can be regarded as an element of one or more of Organ's five categories. Thus, actions that incorporate...

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