How Do You Encourage Employees to Go the Extra Mile?

Have you ever escorted a guest through your office rather than letting them find their way themselves? Or maybe you’ve spoken up to avert a potential disaster, or “gone the extra mile” on a project even when you knew you wouldn’t get a bonus. If so, congratulations—you’ve engaged in an Organizational Citizenship Behavior.

Organizational Citizenship Behaviors (OCBs) are behaviors that have three characteristics:

  • They’re optional. They’re not a part of formal job requirements.
  • They’re not formally rewarded. If you give an incentive for doing something or punish people for not doing it, it’s not an OCB.
  • They boost organizational performance. OCBs are responsible for up to 20% better overall quantity and quality of work, up to 25% better financial efficiency, and up to 40% better customer service performance.

In practice, they can take many forms, but at their core, they are behaviors done for the benefit of others. You’ll know you or one of your team members are engaging in good organizational citizenship if they’re being respectful and empathetic, and conscientious about their work, knowing that their actions will impact others. Furthermore, OCBs truly are a team sport—the impact comes from lots of people doing them, rather than one superhero taking on the brunt of the work.

If you want to encourage more organizational citizenship behaviors at your office, you could try legislating it—but that would be defeating the purpose! Instead:

  • Make work meaningful. When people feel like their tasks have a feedback loop, and are varied, fun, and engaging, you’re more likely to get OCBs. Use your 1:1s to ensure that people’s work is aligned with their interests, and that they understand how their work contributes to the company’s larger purpose.  
  • Adopt a team-first attitude as a leader. Transformational leaders who focus on developing their team tend to get more OCBs, while leaders who display anger get fewer. Use tools like a Roles Venn Diagram or a Skills Inventory to track who wants to learn what skills.
  • Create a positive culture. If individuals feel that they’re receiving support from leaders, and that the organization is committed to fairness, people are more likely to step up. Hold a team retro to uncover what’s working well and what needs to change within your culture. Just beginning the conversation serves as a positive indication that the organization appreciates transparency and conscientiousness.
Published June 23, 2019