Unravelling the relationship between role overload and organizational citizenship behaviour: A test of mediating and moderating effects
Employee voluntary altruistic or helpful acts enhancing the context of job performance, commonly called organizational citizenship behaviors, are recognized by scholars and practitioners as a key resource for organizational effectiveness. However, today’s employees are increasingly exposed to an excessive amount of role demands while having few resources available to meet them. Such an intensification of employees’ overload has been recognized has a critical detriment to employee psychological health, yet its effects on organizational citizenship behaviors remain unclear.
These premises point to relevance of take a closer look at this relationship by adopting an integrative approach that helps clarify how the potentially undermining effects of role overload are transmitted to organizational citizenship behaviors and under what conditions such negative effects can be attenuated.
Addressing this issue, the article published in the European Management Journal by Prof. Francesco Montani and Prof. Dagenais-Desmarais, combines the conservation of resources theory with self-determination theory to unravel the “how” and “when” of the role overload–organizational citizenship behaviors relationship. More precisely, using data from 144 workers affiliated to various Canadian organizations, the authors hypothesized and found that role overload increased employees’ emotional exhaustion, that is the feeling of being emotionally overextended and drained by their work, which in turn reduced employee engagement in organizational citizenship behaviors. However, these detrimental consequences were significantly attenuated when supervisors provided extensive autonomy support to overloaded employees, that is when they provided such employees with choice and opportunities for self-direction, and emphasized the meaningfulness of their behaviors. This protective function is explained by the fact that supervisor, by enacting autonomy-supportive, enable employees to enact a broad range of active coping strategies (e.g., problem solving, seeking advice and social support, and taking direct actions) that enhance their capacity to handle role overload effectively. Moreover, they boost employees’ willingness to invest their individual resources to meet demanding aspects of one’s job. This way, supervisors can interrupt the process of energy depletion caused by role overload, thereby protecting employees against exhaustion and subsequent withdraw from citizenship behaviors.
Considering that role overload is one of the most frequently experienced work stressors, the results from this study have important practical implications that would help organizations implement improved stress management strategies to offset the harmful consequences of overload to employee effective functioning. First, our findings suggest that, to diminish role overload, supervisors should take actions to minimize threatening job demands that drain employees’ energy. Second, our results highlight that in order to decrease the risk of employee exhaustion and mobilize a workforce willing to engage in the organization’s success, managers should integrate autonomy-supportive behaviors in daily actions. Such managerial behaviors should entail understanding and acknowledging subordinates’ point of view, offering opportunities for choice and discretion, providing meaningful information, and fostering self-initiation.
Francesco Montani, Véronique Dagenais-Desmarais
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European Management Journal , March 2018, CNRS rank 3, FNEGE rank 3