3) Organizational Citizenship Behavior, Altruism, or Selflessness

Colleen Hoover quote, "Selflessness. It should be the basis of every relationship. If a person truly cares about you, they'll get more pleasure from the way they make you feel, rather than the way you make them feel."

3) Organizational Citizenship Behavior, Altruism, or Selflessness

Purpose statement

GIVENT is the place where givers gather. It fosters the trust between its members that is necessary for growth and prosperity. Understanding altruism and organizational citizenship behavior can strengthen your organization.


We have all met people who go “above and beyond,” experience burnout, and stop engaging in altruism. Popular culture would tell us to only do the minimum, have a self-focus, and not to be other-focused.

By contrast, psychological science has collected substantial evidence that people who are altruistic engage in organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) and less likely to feel burnout. OCB refers to the above and beyond behavior of an individual in the workplace, regardless if the efforts are rewarded.

Research study


In 2005, a group of researchers published in a peer-reviewed psychology journal showing that OCB can affect altruism and burnout. The researchers focused on the three dimensions of burnout: (1) emotional exhaustion, (2) depersonalization, and (3) reduced personal accomplishment.


The researchers’ hypothesis is two-fold. First, that altruism would be positively associated with OCB. Second, that burnout would be negatively related to individual engagement in OCB. In other

words, the more altruistic you are, the more likely you’ll contribute in your job, and the less likely you will experience burnout.


178 participants were involved in this research. Participants were given a battery of questionnaires measuring helping behavior, altruism, interpersonal values, and the three burnout dimensions. Participants consisted of employees who have all had considerable work experience.

The researchers measured all the above components with questions such as “At, work, I volunteer for things that are not required”, “I think it is important to help people who are in need”, I feel emotionally drained by my work”, “I worry that this job is hardening me emotionally”, and “I have accomplished many worthwhile things in my job.” These surveys were asked using established methods to make sure the scales used were reliable.


The results were convincing. People who were more altruistic were found to engage in OCB. What’s more, people who felt a reduced sense of personal accomplishment were found to not engage in OCB. “Reduced personal accomplishment or feelings of inefficacy are prompted by a work situation with chronic, overwhelming demands that erodes one’s sense of effectiveness.”

“Other-oriented empathy, as a dimension of altruism, was associated with prosocial actions: concern for the welfare of others, satisfaction derived from being helpful, and feelings of responsibility for others’ welfare.”

Take home message: find altruistic people and nurture altruism at work.

Reference: Hetty Van Emmerik, IJ., Jawahar, I. M., & Stone, T. H. (2005). Associations among altruism, burnout dimensions, and organizational citizenship behavior. Work & Stress, 19(1), 93-100.


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