Organizational Development

Commitment, Fairness, and Behavior in Organizations: Target Specificity Counts

Organizational citizenship behaviors, or OCBs, play a significant role in the success of many organizations. OCBs are those behaviors which go beyond what is required of employees. Because of this, OCBs are sometimes called extra-role behaviors. Employees are not formally rewarded for such behaviors, but are generally motivated to perform for the sake of therecipient. There are two broad directions toward which OCBs are targeted: OCB toward the organization (OCB-O) and OCB toward individuals (OCB-I). Examples of OCB-O include:
  • Promoting one’s organization to outside individuals and organizations
  • Avoiding unnecessary absences from work
  • Participating in voluntary meetings
Examples of OCB-I include:
  • Bringing treats to work to share with coworkers
  • Voluntarily helping a coworker with an assignment
  • Avoiding conflict with others
Because OCBs are important to work climate and functioning, it is important to understand what factors influence them. Two such factors are  procedural justice and commitment.

Procedural Justice

Procedural justice involves the extent to which decisions are perceived to be made in a fair and consistent manner. Perceptions of procedural justice are often important in managing employee relations, especially when making difficult decisions such as layoffs.


Procedural justice can enhance or hinder employee commitment, either to an organization or to a specific individual or group. Commitment is an important antecedent to OCBs, as being committed to an organization or person(s) often motivates an employee to engage in extra-role behavior.

OCB – Target Similarity

Target similarity refers to examining procedural justice, commitment, and OCBs that are either organization-focused or individual(s)-focused. That is, it is most effective to understand OCB-Os by examining how procedural justice conducted by the organization affects employee commitment to their organization, and OCB-Is by examining how procedural justice conducted by individuals influence employee commitment to those individuals. When these distinctions are made, research has shown that organizations perceived to be fair when dealing with layoffs had more employee commitment, which resulted in greater OCB-O. To predict OCB-Is in the context of teamwork, though, fairness in decisions made by teams resulted in greater commitment to one’s teammates, which lead to greater OCB-I.

Implications for Practice

Based on these findings, we at the DeGarmo Group offer the following recommendations.
  • Raise or maintain perceptions of procedural justice in your organization. This includes perceptions of the organization as well as perceptions regarding supervisors/ coworkers. Implement policies and procedures that establish ground rules for behavior and expectations and ensure employees at all levels of the organization are aware of them.
  • Take special care to insure policies are perceived as fair when dealing with sensitive issues such as layoffs.
  • Monitor feedback from employees to discover whether they feel procedures are fair and consistently followed. Employee surveys, focus groups, or even anonymous suggestion boxes can be used to gauge employee perceptions.
  • Investigate perceptions of procedural injustice to determine their root causes. Are such perceptions based on rumors, ignorance of company policy, or actual transgressions by the organization or employees? Consider education, discipline, or procedural revisions as ways to improve justice perceptions.
  • Incorporate OCB-O and OCB-I in evaluations of performance when such behaviors are important to the functioning of the workplace, such as not being chronically absent or tardy and cooperating with coworkers on team-based assignments.
  • Take steps to monitor and improve employee commitment to organizations and coworkers, supervisors, and subordinates.

Donnie Johnson


This was a summary of the research and practice implications from: Lavelle, J. J., Brockner, J., Konovsky, M. A., Price, K. H., Henley, A. B., Taneja, A., & Vinekar, V. (2009). Commitment, procedural fairness, and organizational citizenship behavior: A multifoci analysis. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 30, 337-357.