Effects of Leaders’ Prosocial Orientation on Employees | PRBM



Organizational citizenship behavior (OCB), as an extrarole behavior that has a positive effect on organizational performance (OP) and growth, has always been the focus in the field of organizational behavior. Today, organizational operating environments are volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambivalent, especially those against the background of rapidly growing economies.1 With the aim of adapting to the dynamic business environment and gain competitive advantages, organizations should pay attention to the soft power created by “good employees” in addition to hard power, eg, effective management systems, efficient operational processes, and advanced technology.2 Specifically, soft power refers not only to the human resource benefits demonstrated in employees’ work but also to the innovative and challenging behaviors that employees demonstrate outside of work. Therefore, OCB has become an important source of power for organizations to achieve competitive advantages in complex and uncertain environments.3 Many studies focus on OCB to help organizations become more adaptive and competitive.

Previous studies have mainly investigated employees’ OCB in terms of influencing factors and outcome variables. A review of the literature4–10 shows in the OCB research, limited attention has been given to the following two aspects. On the one hand, many studies focus only on the general forms of OCBs with a concentration on self-voluntary and prosocial behaviors. More recent studies suggest that there are two complementary types of citizenship, namely, affiliation-oriented OCB and challenge-oriented OCB.11 The former behavior is a type of organizational citizenship behavior that centers on consolidating interpersonal relationships and maintains the organization’s current status and social relationships. The development of existing organizational tasks can be prompted by this behavior.12 The latter behavior refers to the transformational efforts related to work styles, policies, and procedures proposed or implemented by individuals. Such behavior challenges the current status of an organization and aims to improve organizational performance.13 From a contingency perspective, Li et al14 noted that affiliative behaviors exert a positive influence in relatively stable organizational situations, whereas challenging behaviors are more helpful for organizations in complex and unpredictable environments. As organizations’ business environments can shift over time between stable and unstable states, the affiliation-oriented and challenge-oriented OCBs are helpful to organizations’ survival and success. Therefore, it is necessary to discuss the above two OCBs. On the other hand, previous studies have focused on investigating the influencing factors of OCBs from the perspective of individual employees and the external environments. For example, individual employee psychological factors include job satisfaction,5,15 organizational commitment,8,16 self-efficacy9,17 and insider identity perceptions,18,19 and external environmental factors include transformational leadership,2 servant leadership behaviors20 and authoritative leadership.21 Currently, the exploration of external environmental influences focuses on the “leader”. As a key situational driver, leadership’s impact on employees’ OCB has received much attention in recent years. However, most studies have explored the influence of leadership on OCB from a behavioral perspective, and few studies have explored it from a trait perspective. As stated by Derue et al,22 in addition to the behavior perspective, the trait perspective is another important perspective to study the mechanisms of how leaders affect employees’ behavior. A leader’s personality traits are a more stable predictor of organizational behavior in organizational situations. This deep-seated factor is an important perspective for predicting employee behavior because it does not easily change with the influence of other organizational situational factors. At present, few studies have explored organizational behavior from the perspective of leader traits, which needs to be further studied.

With the aim of exploring the influencing mechanisms of leaders’ prosocial tendencies on OCBs, the personality trait of prosocial tendencies is selected as the antecedent variable in this study from the leadership trait perspective. In the situation of Chinese organizational management, leaders are affected by traditional Chinese culture and tend to pay attention to aspects of Confucianism such as “benevolence”, “people-oriented”, and the ethos of “cultivating oneself and others”. Leaders with a “people-oriented” philosophy understand that employees are an organization’s greatest source of capital and power. Therefore, such leaders engage with employees as the organization’s core and pay attention to employees’ interests. Moreover, the philosophy of “cultivating oneself and others” emphasizes that leaders should set good examples and pay attention to the cultivation of morality. Based on the “benevolence” philosophy, leaders realize that they should care for, look after and treat employees like family at work to build a harmonious working environment. Therefore, the leadership personality trait of “prosocial tendencies” is widespread in Chinese organizations. In this study, enterprises located in Shandong, Liaoning and Hebei provinces of China are selected to investigate the relationship between leaders’ prosocial tendencies and OCBs. These locations were selected as they are situated near the birthplace of Confucius (the founder of the Confucian school). Due to the geographical advantage, the selected three provinces are deeply influenced by Confucianism. In organizations, leaders with a high level of prosocial orientation are willing to provide humanitarian help and pay attention to employees’ interests.18 Therefore, based on the reciprocity principle, employees under such leadership may have a strong sense of giving back to the organization.15 Such employees might be motivated to implement OCBs that are beneficial to the organization. It is necessary to study the relationship between the leader’s prosocial orientation and employees’ OCBs and reveal the underlying mechanisms.

In this study, affective commitment is selected as the mediating variable to study the influencing mechanisms of leaders’ prosocial tendencies on affiliation-oriented and challenge-oriented OCBs. According to social identity theory, the psychological factors of individual perception, such as employees’ affective commitment, can act as important mediating variables in the path of leadership influence on employees’ behaviors. Furthermore, many studies23,24 point out that affective commitment acts as a mediating variable between leadership and employee behavior. Zhou et al23 demonstrated that affective commitment mediates the relationship between humble leadership and employee constructive behavior. Phomane et al24 showed that affective commitment has a mediating effect between transformational leadership and employees’ innovation behavior. Thus, affective commitment is selected as the mediating variable in this study. As a key situational factor in organizations, leadership style significantly affects employees’ cognition and emotion, which ultimately has an impact on their behaviors. Specifically, leaders with a high level of prosocial orientation are more attentive to employees’ emotional changes and show more care, support and encouragement.5 As a result, employees will develop a high sense of belonging and identification with the organization, which will further increase the level of affective commitment. Moreover, Bizri et al25 showed that affective commitment has a direct impact on employees’ OCBs. Therefore, affective commitment can be treated as a key psychological path through which the leader’s prosocial orientation affects the implementation of employees’ OCBs. In addition, the boundary conditions between leaders’ prosocial tendencies and employees’ OCBs are explored in this study. Based on social cognitive theory, as an external environmental factor, workplace ostracism can affect employees’ psychological states.26 In summary, we posit that workplace ostracism plays an important moderating role between leaders’ prosocial tendencies and affective commitment. Specifically,…


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