2.1. Organizational Citizenship Behavior
OCB refers to extra-role behavior by employees, including helping others within the organization beyond the call of duty [16
]. OCB is often discretionary, and not recognized by the formal reward systems in an organization, but is important for the effective functioning of the organization. Podsakoff and colleagues [17
] provide an organizational citizenship scale that includes civic virtue, altruism, conscientiousness, sportsmanship and courtesy as subdimensions. In the literature, either one type of OCB, or an aggregate of multiple types of OCB, was investigated. Recently, Klotz, Bolino, Song and Stornelli [18
] suggested studying the profiles of OCB. They identified five profiles of OCB (prosocial citizens, contributors, the disengaged, specialists and moderates) and found that these profiles predicted job performance ratings, workplace status and citizenship fatigue.
OCB may enhance firm functioning in several ways [16
]. Organ [1
] suggests many benefits of OCB that could contribute to organizational performance: Facilitating the coordination of activities between team members and across workgroups, enabling organizations to attract and retain high-quality employees, enhancing worker or managerial productivity and enhancing the organization’s ability to adapt to environmental change. Bolino and colleagues [19
] further suggest that OCB improves organizational performance as it contributes to social capital, which is part of the competitive advantage of the firm. They find that OCB helps people build structural, relational and cognitive social capital. That is, they suggest that OCBs bring people together by increasing the number of ties among employees and by shaping connections and contacts that could later be utilized in work.
As OCB proved to be significant toward organizational effectiveness, many studies were conducted to find the antecedents of OCB. According to Ocampo et al. [20
], early research looked at attitudinal variables, personality traits, task characteristics and workplace-related elements as antecedents, while later research extended to incorporate other important concepts of organizational behavior, including job satisfaction, organizational commitment, work engagement, human resource (HR) practices, self-efficacy, transformational leadership, self-serving motives and culture. For example, HR practices may signal to employees that the organization values them, and this may give rise to a sense of obligation among employees to display OCB [21
]. Sun et al. [4
] found that adoption of high-performance HR practices increased OCB among employees. Moreover, leaders with transformational leadership and empowering leadership may provide followers with self-confidence and personal development that could lead them to perform a range of tasks beyond prescribed technical requirements [17
With the spread of OCB in many different societal contexts, researchers found that the content of citizenship behavior may be different across cultures [21
]. Instead of following the widely accepted OCB scale by Organ [16
], Farh et al. [21
] develop an OCB scale specific to Chinese workers. They asked Chinese students at one MBA program to provide citizenship behaviors that fit a broad definition of OCB and a few representative examples. The students were asked to draw on their work experiences to list 10–20 examples of citizenship behavior. A three-stage sorting procedure identified both etic and emic dimensions of OCB. The five dimensions of OCB obtained from the Chinese students were: (1) identification with company, (2) altruism toward colleagues, (3) conscientiousness, (4) interpersonal harmony and (5) protecting company resources. Three of five dimensions matched items from the original Western OCB scale: identification with company (civic virtue), altruism toward colleagues and conscientiousness. However, the dimensions of sportsmanship and courtesy were not present in the Chinese version of the OCB scale. Instead, interpersonal harmony and protecting company resources were elicited as uniquely Chinese components of OCB.
2.2. Abusive Supervision & OCB
Abusive supervision is one type of aggressive behavior that has many negative consequences within the workplace, including OCB. Tepper [24
] (p. 263) defines abusive supervision as “subordinates’ perceptions of the extent to which their supervisors engage in the sustained display of hostile verbal and nonverbal behaviors, excluding physical contact”. The consequences of abusive supervision are far-reaching within organizations, and include negative work-related attitudes, reduced psychological well-being, intention to quit, as well as subordinates’ deviance, and lower performance [24
]. Those who experience abusive supervision have lower levels of job satisfaction [11
] and organizational commitment [26
], while showing higher intentions to quit [26
]. Moreover, employees experiencing abusive supervision tend to show dysfunctional resistance, such as refusal to perform supervisors’ requests [24
]. In cases where the subordinate has a history of being more aggressive, abusive supervision can lead to supervisor-directed aggression [29
]. Additionally, research shows that those experiencing abusive supervision engage in less OCB [10
]. These studies demonstrate why it is imperative for organizations to solve problems of abusive supervision.
Indeed, the relationship between abusive supervision and OCB is well established and has been tested across multiple studies [13
]. Aryee et al. [32
] suggested that abusive supervision breeds a toxic relationship with the subordinates. Jiang et al. [37
] also showed that abusive supervision lowers employee self-efficacy and creativity. Mackey et al. [38
] meta-analyzed the relationship between abusive supervision and OCB based on 13 studies, and found a consistent negative impact.
Although the justice perspective has dominated abusive supervision literature, the resource perspective has made strides in explaining why abusive supervision may harm both employees and organizations [39
]. The JD-R model [41
] suggests that abusive supervision represents a chronic stressor, which could lead to the depletion of resources required to achieve work goals. For example, if employees are exposed to constant criticism and ridicule, they may exert too much effort to overcome the stressful situation, which may deplete their cognitive and emotional resources [42
]. Hershcovis and Barling [40
] also showed that abusive supervision lowered task and contextual performance through stress.
Recently, Tepper et al. [43
] raised the possibility that abusive supervision might enhance team productivity through heightening subordinates’ attention and encouraging their proactive behavior to avoid further hostility or to prove that the supervisor is wrong. We have yet to find empirical results supporting the speculation. Their argument, however, suggests the need to think carefully of boundary conditions for the negative relationship between abusive supervision and OCB.
It is also worth mentioning that the prevalence of abusive supervision may vary across different national contexts [8
]. For example, Tepper [11
] suggests that abusive supervision may occur more frequently in countries with high power distance. Hofstede [44
] attributes this to a greater acceptance of unequal power distribution among subordinates in these countries.
Mackey et al. [38
] also suggests that the perception of abusive supervisions depend largely on the perceptions of supervisory injustice, which are affected by cultural difference. In a meta-analysis of abusive supervision, they found that mean perceptions of abusive supervision were generally lower in the United States than in collectivistic countries, including China, the Philippines and Taiwan. Furthermore, the relationship between abusive supervision and various subordinate attitudes is weaker in low power distance countries. Yet, as Mackey et al. [38
] noted, studies of abusive supervision in different cultural settings are relatively few, which calls for more international studies.
Given our review of this literature, we believe that abusive supervision will affect employees’ OCB. The relationship between abusive supervision and OCB has been investigated in multiple studies, and yet, we present it as our first hypothesis to set the stage for our main hypothesis regarding networking behavior.
Abusive supervision is negatively related to OCB.
2.3. Abusive Supervision and Networking Behavior
Although the negative consequences of abusive supervision in hindering OCB have been well established, studies on the mechanism that leads to such a relationship remain largely at the individual level. For example, the feelings of injustice or stress and low psychological capital have been identified as mediating mechanisms, which are based on the felt experience of the individual employee. We believe that we need to extend the scope of mechanism to include the social process that affects group and organizational outcomes. This is in line with the Thoroughgood et al. [45
] call for a more holistic approach to destructive leadership. We propose networking behavior as an important job resource that affects contextual performance.
Networking behavior may be defined as individuals’ attempts to develop and maintain relationships with others who have the potential to assist them in their work or careers [46
]. The literature on networking behavior is vast, but this subsection limits its attention to the studies that are of particular relevance to the relationship between abusive supervision and networking. From the literature, we recognize two opposite possibilities: abusive supervision may either negatively or positively affect networking [43
Forret and Dougherty [46
] identified five types of networking behaviors, namely, maintaining contacts, socializing, engaging in professional activities, participating in community and increasing internal visibility, and developed a networking behaviors scale using US data. Their study found that self-esteem is an important antecedent for networking behaviors, among other personal traits. Employees exposed to abusive supervision may suffer ego depletion and form negative self-images [12
], and as a result, become less active in developing relationships. Building on the analysis by Kim [47
] identified several enablers and constraints in different stages of networking. During the initial stage of building networks, the interview-based study found that access opportunities and positive self-perception enabled socializing with the alter, while absence of interest by the alters were pointed out as a constraint of network building. During the maintenance stage, the existence of compatible interests and affect toward the alter worked as an enabler, while cessation of common interests worked as a constraint. Exposition of an employee to public displays of criticism and ridicule may limit access opportunities open to the employee, and reduce her value as a contact in a network in the initial stage of network building and the subsequent maintenance stage. In another channel, abusive supervision may lower organizational identification, which could result in general indifference toward building networks within the organization. Shoss et al. [14
] showed that employees tended to blame organizations for abusive supervision, as they consider the supervisor as the embodiment of their organization. The study suggests that the impact of abusive supervision is not confined to the dyadic relationship between the employee and the supervisor, but rather extends to the general relationship building efforts of the focal employee.
We have to keep in mind, however, the possibility that abusive supervision may increase networking behavior. As noted above, Tepper et al. [43
] suggest that abusive supervision may have a performance enhancing effect, if employees choose to increase their effort levels to prove that the supervisor is wrong, or to avoid further hostility. Increased investment in networking may be a part of the overall enhancement of efforts by the employee.
Given our review of this literature, we present our second hypothesis in a pair of competing alternatives:
Abusive supervision is negatively related to networking behavior.
Abusive supervision is positively related to networking behavior.
For the empirical analysis that follows, we adopt the networking behavior scale developed by Yu and Sun [34
], which is an adaptation for the Chinese context of the scale first developed and utilized by Forret and Dougherty [46
]. Based on the interviews of Chinese MBA students with work experience in various types of firms in China, they found that while three sub-dimensions, i.e., socializing, engaging in professional activities and increasing internal visibility, also feature significantly in the Chinese context, two sub-dimensions of maintaining contact and engaging in church and community were lacking in China, and should be replaced by giving social support and avoiding conflict. The differences are related to the significance of the guanxi relationships in China, and may reflect the influence of the collectivistic culture of the country on the contents of networking behavior [6
2.4. Networking Behavior and OCB
Although networking behavior has been studied mainly in the context of career success, it serves as a valuable resource for achieving organizational effectiveness [48
]. Since most work requires coordination within and across different teams and work units, networking behavior could help achieve organizational effectiveness. Networking behaviors, such as maintaining contacts and socializing, are the first step in transforming formal organizational structures and hierarchies into working relationships where valuable information is shared and exchanged. For example, participating in professional meetings and community activities allows employees to learn about the broader context in which their firms operate. Through these interactions, organizational members can engage in collective problem-solving and prepare for future changes to the environment. The importance of boundary spanning activities has also been emphasized in team effectiveness research. Studying the team effectiveness of sales groups, Ancona [49
] finds that external activities are more important than internal cohesiveness for a team’s success. One can imagine that teams where employees actively engage in networking behavior and fulfill external roles will be more successful.
Some may note that there is a fairly large overlap between OCB and networking behavior. This observation is true, of course, and the overlap may be more significant in the Chinese context, where social support for fellow workers in distress are a particularly important category of networking behavior to build up the famous guanxi relationship. We emphasize however that there are important differences between the two concepts in actual analysis. According to the Chinese OCB scale which we are adopting [21
], OCB in the Chinese context may include identification with company, altruism toward colleagues, conscientiousness, interpersonal harmony and the protection of company resources. Apart from the trait of altruism toward colleagues, there are ample dimensions in OCB that are independent of networking behavior. In addition, OCB is measured focused on intentions or motivations, while networking behavior is measured through actualized behavior.
Networking behaviors as a job resource are related to the formation of social capital within the organization. When engaging in networking behaviors, employees actively learn about other employees’ concerns, and they exchange information that may lead to problem-solving [13
]. Nahapiet and Ghoshal [48
] divide social capital into structural, relational, and cognitive dimensions. The structural dimension refers to the extent to which people in an organization are connected, while the relational dimension refers to the quality and nature of the connections, such as trust, intimacy and so forth. The cognitive dimension refers to a shared understanding that may help collaboration. Networking behavior helps people connect with each other and helps deepen their relationships with one another.
Sustained networking behavior, such as maintaining contacts, socializing and increased internal visibility, could spread knowledge about the challenges that people in the organization are facing, which could encourage collaboration in the future.
As such, networking behavior could play an important role in employee OCB. In order to help each other beyond the call of duty, employees must know what others are working on and the challenges they are facing. Reciprocity does not happen in a void. Rather, reciprocity requires connection between individuals. Thus, when employees reduce their networking behavior as a result of abusive supervision, they may also lose the chance to engage in OCB, even if they are more than willing to help fellow employees, if not their abusive supervisors. Thus, we posit below that networking behavior will mediate the relationship between abusive supervision and OCB.
Networking behavior mediates the relationship between abusive supervision and subordinates’ OCB.