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Organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) refers to an “individual behavior at work that is discretionary, not directly or explicitly recognized by the formal reward system and, in the aggregate, [that] promotes the efficient and effective functioning of the organization” (Organ, 1988, p. 4). Considering the benefits of OCBs on individual- and organizational-level outcomes (Podsakoff et al., 2009), existing research has explored a wide range of antecedents and boundary conditions of OCBs (for a review, see Organ et al., 2006; Organ, 2018). Drawing on social comparison theory (Festinger, 1954), an emerging stream of research has begun to explore how employees’ comparisons with co-workers influenced their OCBs (Vidyarthi et al., 2010). In particular, it was found that favorable social comparisons positively influenced OCBs (Spence et al., 2011), while unfavorable social comparisons negatively influenced them (Wang & Sung, 2016). Mediation mechanisms do intervene, but research has been limited to affective processes, i.e., workplace jealousy (Wang & Sung, 2016) and positive affect (Spence et al., 2011). As social comparisons correspond to the “process of thinking about information concerning one or more other people in relation to the self” (Wood, 1996, p. 520), they also involve cognitive processes. Thus, we propose to study the mediating role of cognitions as the ones involved in the perceptions of a psychological contract breach (PCB) (Morrison & Robinson, 1997). Psychological contract evaluation is a “personal and social construction of reality whereby referents can offer cues and standards” (Ho, 2005, p…


The purpose of this paper is to explore how social comparison influences organizational citizenship behaviors (OCB) directed at individuals (OCB-I) and organizations (OCB-O) through the perceptions of a psychological contract breach. By integrating self-consistency theory and social exchange theory, the research intends to contribute to the analysis of social influences on OCB and psychological contract evaluation. The data, composed of 305 supervisor-subordinate dyads from several Pakistani organizations, is analyzed through a moderated mediation analysis. Results indicate that negative social comparisons decrease OCB through the mediation of psychological contract breach. When the content of a psychological contract is perceived as important, the effects of psychological contract breach on OCB-I are increased. Positive social comparison increases OCB through reduced psychological contract breach. Therefore, to remain consistent with their self-image, employees adjust their OCBs according to the positive or negative self-evaluation resulting from the social comparison process. The perception of a psychological contract breach constitutes a cognitive process which intervenes before the results of a social comparison are transformed into increased or decreased efforts at work. This perception is socially influenced. Managerial implications are hence oriented toward creating an environment that promotes positive social comparisons and discourages negative social comparisons. As the psychological contract evaluation was conceptualized only in terms of breach, the fulfillment or over-fulfillment of the psychological contract represents a research perspective. In addition, future research could investigate how employees’ orientation toward positive or negative social comparisons can be influenced by individual characteristics or contextual factors.

Delphine Lacaze
Delphine LACAZE is Professor of Human Resources Management at Aix-Marseille Graduate School of Management – IAE and member of the CERGAM research center. Her research interests include organizational socialization, psychological contract, emotional and motivational processes at work and the management of R&D personnel.
Imran Hameed
Imran HAMEED is Associate Professor at the Lahore School of Economics, Pakistan.
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