Equity and relationship quality influences on organizational citizenship behaviors. The mediating role of trust in the supervisor and empowerment

AuthorDennis Wat, Margaret A. Shaffer
Publication Date01 Aug 2005
Equity and relationship quality
influences on organizational
citizenship behaviors
The mediating role of trust in the supervisor
and empowerment
Dennis Wat
HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) SA, Singapore, and
Margaret A. Shaffer
Department of Management, Hong Kong Baptist University,
Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong SAR
Purpose – To develop and test an expanded social exchange model of organizational citizenship
behavior (OCB) that includes characteristics of the social context (i.e. perceived fairness and
leader-member exchange (LMX)) as well as the capacity (i.e. trust in the supervisor and psychological
empowerment) to engage in citizenship behaviors.
Design/methodology/approach – Data were collected from a matched sample of 183 Hong Kong
investment-banking personnel and their supervisors. Multiple regression was used to test direct and
mediating effects.
Findings – Analyses provide strong support for the direct effects of trust in the supervisor and
psychological empowerment on all dimensions of OCBs. Trust in the supervisor played an important
mediating role in all relationships. Only one dimension of empowerment (i.e. impact) acted as a
Originality/value – This study extends the social exchange conceptualization of OCB to include
both equity and interpersonal relationship influences. The influence of empowerment on OCBs
highlights the importance of providing employees with the motivation to engage in these behaviors.
Keywords Empowerment,Personnel psychology, Trust, Employeerelations, Banking, Hong Kong
Paper type Research paper
A strong body of evidence supports the influence of organizational citizenship
behaviors (OCBs) on workgroup and organizational effectiveness. OCBs are useful for
managing the interdependencies among members of a work unit, thereby increasing
the collective outcomes achieved (e.g. Netemeyer et al., 1997). Good organizational
citizens enable an organization to allocate scarce resources efficiently by simplifying
maintenance functions and freeing up resources for productivity (e.g. Borman and
Motowidlo, 1993; Organ, 1988); they improve the ability of coworkers and managers to
perform their jobs through more efficient planning, scheduling, and problem solving
(e.g. MacKenzie et al., 1991; Organ, 1988); and, they contribute to service quality (Hui
et al., 2001). Organizations that foster good citizenship behaviors are more attractive
places to work and are able to hire and retain the best people (e.g. George and
The Emerald Research Register for this journal is available at The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
www.emeraldinsight.com/researchregister www.emeraldinsight.com/0048-3486.htm
Received September 2003
Accepted April 2004
Personnel Review
Vol. 34 No. 4, 2005
pp. 406-422
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/00483480510599752
Bettenhausen, 1990). Given these important contributions to organizational success, it
is critical for organizations to understand how and why employees engage in OCBs.
During the last two decades, researchers have studied OCBs extensively (for a
review, see Podsakoff et al., 2000). A number of predictors of OCBs have been
identified, including: job attitudes (e.g. Organ, 1988; Shore and Wayne, 1993),
interpersonal trust/trust in/loyalty to the leader (e.g. Podsakoff et al., 1990),
transformational leadership behavior (e.g. Eisenberger et al., 1986; Greenberg, 1988),
task scope/task characteristics (e.g. Farh et al., 1990), organizational justice (e.g.
Moorman, 1991), cultural influences (e.g. Farh et al., 1997), civic citizenship and
covenantal relationship (e.g. Dyne et al., 1994; Graham, 1991), dispositional influences
(e.g. Dyne et al., 1994; Moorman and Blakely, 1995), and contextual influences (e.g.
Netemeyer et al., 1997).
The dominant theoretical basis for most OCB investigations has been social
exchange theory (e.g. Dyne et al., 1994; Eisenberger et al., 1986, Shore and Wayne,
1993). Social exchange theory is an economic model of human behavior; employees’
desires to maximize rewards and minimize losses support the interactions between
them and the organization or its representatives (i.e. their supervisors). This model is
premised upon the belief that the social context of organiz ations, including
relationships based on mutual trust and attraction, entail unspecified obligations
(Blau, 1964; Gouldner, 1960). These obligations may be enacted in the form of OCBs
behaviors that are discretionary and that contribute to the organization’s success
(Organ, 1988). Various OCBs have been identified, but most researchers have adopted
the five dimensions of conscientiousness, sportsmanship, civic virtue, courtesy, and
altruism (Organ, 1988). Employees engage in these behaviors to sustain a mutually
beneficial relationship with the organization. Over time, a pattern of reciprocity
evolves, resulting in a perceived balance in the exchange relationship (Blau, 1964;
Rousseau, 1989).
The purpose of this study is to develop and test an expanded social exchange model
of OCBs. Tests of OCB from a social exchange perspective have generally focused on
equity, which is just one element of social exchange (e.g. Farh et al., 1990; Moorman,
1991). According to equity theory (Adam, 1965), employees are most satisfied when the
ratio between the benefits received and the contributions made is comparable to the
perceived ratio of their co-workers. Perceived fairness and reciprocity are central to this
theory (Messick and Cook, 1983). That is, if employees perceive that they are being
treated fairly by their supervisors, they will be more likely to reciprocate by holding
positive attitudes about their work, their work outcomes, and their supervisors. Organ
(1988) suggested that OCB might be “an input to one’s equity ratio” and that employees
respond to inequity by increasing or decreasing their levels of OCB. It is possible that
decreasing OCBs in reaction to inequity is safer than not performing the prescribed
formal role requirements.
Another social context characteristic, which we contend is also relevant to
understanding OCBs, is that of interpersonal relationships. According to
leader-member exchange (LMX) theory (Graen and Scandura, 1987), supervisors
treat their subordinates differentially, leading to the development of relatively stabl e
dyads that range from lower- to higher-quality exchanges. LMX theory suggests that
an interpersonal relationship evolves between supervisors and subordinates against
the background of a formal organization (Graen and Cashman, 1975). Lower-quality

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