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This study examines the determinants of employee organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs) among low and middle level employees of utility sector organizations in Nigeria. Primarily, this study explored the role of psychological ownership (PO) as a mediator on the relationship between servant leader behaviors (SLBs) including emotional healing, creating value for the community, conceptual skills and helping subordinates grow and succeed, and employee OCBs. Partial Least Squares Method (PLS) algorithm and bootstrap techniques were used to test the study hypotheses. The results provided support for most of the hypothesized relationship for the study. Specifically, emotional healing, conceptual skills, helping subordinates grow and succeed, putting subordinates first, and psychological ownership are significantly and positively related to both organizational citizenship behaviors that benefit the individual (OCB-I), and the organization (OCB-O). However, creating value for the community is significantly and negatively related to both forms of organizational citizenship behaviors. Additionally, emotional healing, helping subordinates grow and succeed, and putting subordinates first were significantly and positively related to psychological ownership, while creating value for the community was significantly and negatively related to psychological ownership. Furthermore, the results of mediation indicated that six of the ten hypotheses are significant. Therefore, significant positive effects of emotional healing, conceptual skills, helping subordinates grow and succeed, and putting subordinates first and psychological ownership suggest that the variables are important in motivating OCBs. As such, employees should be encouraged to exhibit these behaviors for enhanced performance of organizational citizenship behaviors. Enhanced performance of organizational citizenship behaviors can improve the overall effective function of organizations. Contributions, limitations, and implications are discussed.

Keywords: servant leadership, psychological ownership, organizational citizenshipbehaviors



1.1         Background of the Study

One of the most important areas of concern among organizational theorists and practitioners is organizational effectiveness. A good mechanism for achieving it is through employees‟ willingness to perform their duties beyond the formal specifications of job roles, termed extra-role or discretionary behaviors (Organ, 1990). Increasing number of research on employee‟s discretionary work behaviors signifies the importance of this construct for the success of organizations. Multiple conceptualizations of discretionary employee work behaviors exist in the literature (e.g., pro-social organizational behaviour, extra role behaviour, contextual performance, and organizational citizenship behaviour [OCB]). Organ‟s (1988) conceptualization of OCB has received major research attention compared to other conceptualizations of discretionary employee behaviors (Van Dyne, Cummings, & Parks, 1995).

Organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs) are behaviors that are not mandatory on the employees to carry out, but are helpful to the organization‟s effectiveness and goal attainment (Organ, 1988). In his words, Organ (1988, p. 4) defines organizational citizenship behaviour (OCB) as “behaviour that is discretionary, not directly or explicitly recognized by the formal reward system, and in the aggregate promotes the efficient functioning of the organization”. Organizational citizenship behaviors are usually performed by employees to support the interests of the organization even though they may not directly lead to employee


benefits (Moorman & Blakely, 1995). However, Organ (1988) acknowledges that OCB could have a beneficial cumulative effect for an individual employee and that the employee might be considering the long-term benefits.

Employee OCB also benefits organizations directly or indirectly. Direct organizational benefits include volunteerism, assistance between co-workers, and unusual employee attendance to an important meeting, employee‟s punctuality and active participation in organizational affairs (Farh, Podsakoff, & Organ, 1990). Indirect benefits, as Smith, Organ, and Near (1983) stress, include lubricating the social machinery of the organization. Also Katz (1964) considered such discretionary behaviour essential for strong organizational social systems. He posited that the organization gains a measure of systemic resiliency from the small, spontaneous acts of selfless sensitivity, cooperation, and uncompensated contribution.

Employees exhibit OCBs in various situations. They exhibit OCBs when they help fellow workers who have difficulty in performing their work; when they exhibit endurance and perseverance in performing their jobs; when they avoid doing things or saying things that tarnish the image of their organization; when they spend extra time to achieve objectives; when they perform their job beyond requirements; or generally when they show extra concern about success of their organizations (Organ, 1988). From these scenarios it is clear that OCB could contribute to organizational performance in many ways. Podsakoff, Ahearne, and MacKenzie (1997) argue that OCB has potential to enhance organizational performance through lubricating the social machinery of the organization, reducing friction, and increasing efficiency. OCB may also contribute to organizational success by


enhancing co-worker and managerial productivity, promoting better use of scarce resources, improving coordination, strengthening the organization‟s ability to attract and retain better employees, reducing variability of performance, and enabling better adaptation to environmental changes (Podsakoff, Mackenzie, Paine, & Bachrach, 2000). Research demonstrates that OCB can be an important resource to improve organizational performance in complex work environments demanding team oriented work practices (Organ, Podsakoff, & MacKenzie, 2006).

In any part of this globe, economic development and social welfare are the ultimate goals of any credible and legitimate government (Ali, Ali, & Raza, 2011), and therefore, governments are charged with the responsibility of managing the public resources to ensure social welfare, or generate maximum public good through their established institutions (public utilities). Utility entails all basic inputs required for the proper functioning of the economy and enhancing the standard of living of the individuals (Ariyo & Jerome, 2004). Utility services involve a broad range of activities including water, electricity, transportation and telecommunication. Generally, these services impact greatly on a country‟s living standards, and overall economic growth. Specifically, they affect capacities of the local industries to produce quality and affordable products that can compete favourably in the global marketplace. It has been reported that the public utility sectors account for 7.1% to 11% of the GDP (World Bank, 1994), and the impacts of such services on human development and enhanced quality of life are just apparently enormous (Ariyo & Jerome, 2004).

However, the Nigerian public utilities have been performing abysmally largely due to employee performance related problems. The problem of poor


performance among agencies of public utility sector has been a subject of considerable discussion (Jerome, 1999). Despite heavy investment in capital infrastructures, and high recurrent expenditures, efficient and effective provision of electricity, telephone, water, and transport services has remained a heinous task to achieve. The Nigerian public utilities have started to experience decreasing performance since the Nigeria‟s oil boom years of the 1970s (Ariyo & Jerome, 2004). In more recent times, the problems in the public utility sectors have unfortunately reached crisis proportions when the Nigeria‟s electricity power system almost collapsed by increasingly becoming erratic; water taps continuously remaining dry for most of the time; and the performance of telecommunication and postal services continuously remaining to be very unsatisfactory (Ariyo & Jerome, 2004). The experienced problem of the utility sector has led to negative consequences on the Nigerian economy causing extremely high costs of operations within the real sector, and lowering quality of life and well-being of the average Nigerians (Ariyo & Jerome, 2004). The Nigerian public could no longer get services expeditiously from public sector organizations (Orabuchi, 2005).

In a survey of ten public corporations in Nigeria, Echu (2008) identified some striking problems that indirectly affect employee willingness to perform beyond the contractual agreement (OCB) and employee performance generally, and consequently leading to overall performance problems of public corporations including public utilities in Nigeria. These striking problems include massive fraud, misappropriation of resources, embezzlement and poor accountability. Other striking management related problems affecting employee OCB and performance include the nature of human resource practices in virtually all the public corporations. As a


result of some of these problems, employees become highly disenchanted and, therefore, have lost trust and confidence on management of their corporations consequently leading to large scale dissatisfaction among employees. As repercussions, and reflections of the employees‟ dissatisfaction, it has currently become a common practice for employees of Nigeria‟s public organizations to spend most part of their working hours doing things that are not job related and of no value to their jobs (Echu, 2008). Other commonly noticed employee performance related problems include late coming to work, absenteeism, indiscipline, high labour turnover and general lack of commitment, thus, indicating low performance of employees‟ voluntary behaviours (OCB).

The bulk of the performance problems and deficiencies of the Nigerian public sector could more appropriately be attributed to managerial inefficiencies, and inappropriate leadership approaches. Previous studies have found that the current management capabilities to imbibe the culture of commitment, sacrifice, citizenship, discipline, and general motivation among their subordinates are grossly inadequate to solve performance challenges of various Nigerian organizations especially the public utilities (Echu, 2008). Specifically and summarily, there is a general consensus that the managements of Nigeria‟s public corporations are by and large inefficient and ineffective (Adamolekun & Ayeni, 1990; Dogarawa, 2011; Esu

&   Inyang, 2009; Okeola & Salami, 2012). Ability of management of public utility sector to effectively motivate and sustain positive employee performance might be the most difficult challenge and crucial responsibility to put the public utility sector in order. However, success in achieving sustained positive employee performance for effective functioning of Nigerian public utilities is increasingly becoming an


eluding challenge considering the diverse workforce with multi-cultural, religious, ethnic, and sectional backgrounds (Adamolekun & Ayeni, 1990; Echu, 2008).

In 2000, the intractable performance problem faced by public corporations in Nigeria led to government‟s decision to think of initial commercialization, and final privatization of the government owned corporations. Till date, none among the Nigeria‟s public utilities has gone beyond full commercialization. However, official arrangements for execution of partial privatization programme for the electric, and telecommunication sectors have almost been concluded with a view to desired performance, sanity and efficiency. Although process and structural hiccups to performance can be solved by implementing structural process improvements, or business transformation, stimulating employees to perform at their highest level, as well as sustaining performance improvement still remains a fundamental issue. Indeed, several transformation programs may fail to deliver expected results if the basic factors, including inculcating the art of servant leadership within the organization, and development of psychological ownership for the organization among employees, that can trigger employees‟ motivation to perform beyond their normal call of duty (OCB) remain neglected.

Servant leadership is a leadership style where a leader places interests of followers‟ over and above his/her own interests (Joseph & Winston, 2005). Servant leadership is motivating to followers/subordinates because it focuses on followers‟ development, community building, authentic leadership, and shared leadership (Laub, 2003; Sendjaya, Sarros, & Santora, 2008). The best indicator of servant leadership is that followers are more likely to become servants themselves. On the other hand, psychological ownership for the organization is a state of mind in which


an employee develops possessive feelings for the organization (Dirks, Cummings, & Pierce, 1996). Psychological ownership for the organization is found to be significantly related to positive employee outcomes especially organizational citizenship behaviors (Van Dyne & Pierce, 2004; VandeWalle, Van Dyne & Kostova, 1995).

The present study is about exploring the impact of servant leadership on employee OCBs through the mechanism of psychological ownership. Performance of organizational citizenship behaviors by employees can be an important panacea for improving performance and effectiveness in the Nigeria‟s ailing public utility sector organizations. Literature has offered support to the role of OCB in improving effective functioning of organizations (Organ et al., 1988, 2006). Research has also indicated that OCB and counterproductive work behaviors are significantly negatively correlated (Baker, 2005), which means that a person high on OCB scale will not likely exhibit signs of deviant behaviour that can have negative effect on production, service delivery and industrial harmony. The ailing or rather ineffective public utility sector organizations, specifically Power Company (PHCN), Telecommunications Company (NITEL) and Water Board (KSWB) are expected to improve their OCB performance when their organizations practice the concept of servant leadership and motivate development of psychological ownership among their employees.

1.2         Problem Statement

Organizational citizenship behaviour (OCB) as one of the extra-role behaviors has been receiving a great deal of research (Lo & Ramayah, 2009; DiPaola & Mendes


da Costa Neves, 2009; Paillé, 2009; Khan, Afzal, & Zia, 2010), and successful organizations encourage employees to do more than their usual job duties (Ahmadi, 2010).

Leadership style is one of the significant factors found to influence employee OCB. The main leadership styles that have received empirical attention in relation to OCB over the years include transformational leadership (Asgari et al., 2008; Bettencourt, 2004; Schlechter & Engelbrecht, 2006; Vigoda-Gadot, 2007a), transactional leadership (Bettencourt, 2004; Vigoda-Gadot, 2007a) and charismatic leadership (Babcock-Roberson & Strickland, 2010). Only a few studies considered the effect of servant leadership on OCB despite the importance of servant leadership in contemporary business organizations (Ehrhart, 2004; Organ, 2006). Servant leadership is a leadership style that places the followers‟ interests over and above the leader‟s own interest (Joseph & Winston, 2005). Research establishes that servant leadership may be more conducive to organizational citizenship behaviors due to its focus on follower development, community building, authentic leadership, and shared leadership (Laub, 2003; Sendjaya, Sarros, & Santora, 2008). The best indicator of servant leadership is that followers are more likely to become servants themselves. Stone, Russell, & Patterson (2004) argue that the motive of the servant leader„s influence is not to direct others but rather to motivate and facilitate service and stewardship by the followers themselves. Followers‟ service to others and stewardship of organizational resources could be construed as organizational citizenship behaviour.

One of the prominent early studies that attempted to investigate the effect of servant leadership on OCB is Ehrhart (2004). He found that servant leadership


indirectly influenced OCB, specifically helping behaviour, and conscientiousness. Additionally, Walumbwa, Hartnell, and Oke (2010) investigated the mediating effect of commitment to the supervisor, self-efficacy, procedural justice climate, and service climate on the relationship between servant leadership and organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs). Their results revealed partial mediation and recommended for testing other mediators under which OCB will be more significantly enhanced. Another study conducted by Vondey (2010) revealed that servant leadership was significantly but partially correlated with OCB. Since studies on servant leadership and OCB study are still new and limited (Ehrhart, 2004; Vondey, 2010; Walumbwa et al., 2010), more studies are needed to better understand the relationship and to validate further the initial significant relationship between servant leadership and OCB by investigating their relationship in a different context.

Furthermore, literature reveals that the link between servant leadership and OCB was not only direct, but indirect (Ehrhart, 2004; Walumbwa et al., 2010). It was demonstrated that servant leadership was related to OCB through mechanisms including procedural justice climate (Ehrhart, 2004), commitment to the supervisor, self-efficacy, procedural justice climate and service climate (Walumbwa et al., 2010). Following partial mediation of the tested variables, recommendation for future studies to test other mediators under which OCB will be more significantly enhanced were made (Organ, 2006; Walumbwa et al., 2010).

Important to the present study is the attempt to establish a relationship between servant leadership and psychological ownership, which previous studies have not considered. Psychological ownership is a state of mind in which an


employee develops possessive feelings for the target (Van dyne & Pierce, 2004) such as the job (Peters & Austin, 1985), organization (Dirks, Cummings, & Pierce, 1996), the products created (Das, 1993); the practices employed by the organizations (Kostova, 1998); and specific issues in the organizations (Pratt & Dutton, 2000). Servant leadership can be an essential factor for achieving psychological ownership among employees in organizations. Because of certain special features of servant leaders including humility, caring flexibility (Geller, 2009), and egalitarianism (Waterman, 2011), psychological ownership could manifest as a result of servant

leadership. Therefore, psychological ownership could be one of the expectations from workers in return for experiencing servant leadership.

Recent studies demonstrate that psychological ownership for the organization is positively related to job satisfaction, organizational commitment and organizational citizenship behaviour (O‟Driscoll, Pierce & Coghlan, 2006; Van Dyne & Pierce, 2004; VandeWalle, Van Dyne & Kostova, 1995), and financial performance (Wagner et al., 2003). Psychological ownership can be a possible integrative and mediating variable in linking servant leadership and OCB. With respect to employees‟ exchange relationship with the organization (Blau, 1964), as a result of positive servant leader behaviors that make employees feel being cared for by the organization, OCB may be motivated. Thus, the mediating potentiality of psychological ownership on the relationship between servant leadership and OCB is likely. Therefore, servant leadership would be tested as an antecedent factor for motivating psychological ownership and as a mediating variable on the relationship between servant leadership and OCB.


Precisely, this study attempts to fill two main gaps on predicting employee OCB: (1) investigating the mediating effect of psychological ownership on the relationship between servant leadership and OCB; (2) investigating the influence of servant leadership on psychological ownership. Currently, no study was found in the literature regarding the mediation effect of psychological ownership on servant leadership and OCB relationship. Similarly, there was no study on the relationship between servant leadership and psychological ownership.

1.3         Research Questions

Referring to the discussion about the need for this research to be carried out as stated earlier, the following questions are to be addressed:

1.      Do servant leader behaviors relate to employee OCB-I and OCB-O?

2.      Does psychological ownership relate to employee OCB-I and OCB-O?

3.      Do servant leader behaviours influence psychological ownership among employees?

4.      Does psychological ownership mediate the relationship between servant leader behaviours and employee OCB-I and OCB-O?

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