Influence of Fair and Supportive Leadership Behavior on Commitment and Organizational Citizenship Behavior

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Advocates of the instrumental view of the stakeholder the-ory argue that organizations that behave in a considerate and socially responsible manner towards their customers, employees, shareholders, suppliers, etc., will be more suc-cessful in the longer term (Donaldson & Preston, 1995). The current study focuses on the stakeholder group of em-ployees. The goal is to provide an example that demon-strates why organizations that offer their employees favor-able working conditions are rewarded with success.

In modern business practice, strict, hierarchical work structures are often being replaced by autonomous, team-based structures. As supervisors are losing some of their possibilities to exert influence and control, organizations are becoming increasingly reliant on the employees’ initia-tive, conscientiousness, and readiness to cooperate. There-fore, research and practice are becoming increasingly in-terested in organizational citizenship behavior (OCB).

Organ (1997, p. 91) defined OCB as “contributions to the maintenance and enhancement of the social and psy-chological context that supports task performance.” Ac-cording to Organ (1988a), OCB comprises five dimensions: altruism, conscientiousness, sportsmanship, courtesy, and civic virtue. The five-factor model has been confirmed in

various studies (e.g., Moorman, 1991; Podsakoff, MacKen-zie, Moorman, & Fetter, 1990). By contrast, in a meta-analy-sis, LePine, Erez, and Johnson (2002) showed that the sub-dimensions correlate highly and show the same links to the causal factors and consequences. Accordingly, in many pa-pers, a total score for OCB is used. OCB correlates posi-tively with profit (Avila, Fern, & Mann, 1988), performance (Podsakoff & MacKenzie, 1997), and customer satisfaction (Hui, Lam, & Schaubroeck, 2001) and brings with it low-er fluctuation (Chen, Hui, & Sego, 1998).

Owing to these positive findings, the question arises as to the conditions under which, in everyday working life, employees are willing to show OCB. Podsakoff, MacKen-zie, Paine, and Bachrach (2000) stress that through their be-havior, supervisors make a decisive contribution to the em-ployees’ OCB. Meta-analyses have revealed that the perceived fairness and support on the part of the leadership plays a key role (Organ & Ryan, 1995; Podsakoff et al., 2000). The current study seeks to provide an explanation as to why these two aspects of leadership behavior increase the tendency to engage in OCB.

The relationship between employer and employee is a typical exchange relationship in which the parties involved

Original Communication

Influence of Fair and Supportive

Leadership Behavior on Commitment

and Organizational Citizenship


Diana Meierhans, Brigitte Rietmann, and Klaus Jonas

University of Zurich, Switzerland

This study examines the influence of fair and supportive leadership behavior on employees’ self-reported organizational citizenship behavior (OCB). The model tested assumes that the impact of fair and supportive leadership on OCB is mediated by employees’ commitment to the or-ganization as well as their commitment to their supervisor. A total of 260 bank employees completed a questionnaire in which they rated their supervisor’s behavior, the two commitment foci (organization and supervisor) and the degree to which they engaged in OCB. As a whole, re-sults of structural equation modelling provide support for the hypotheses and indicate that fostering fair and supportive leadership can be worth-while for organizations.


trust in the fact that the other party will sooner or later pay them back for performance shown (Blau, 1964). According to the norm of reciprocity (Gouldner, 1960), people should help others who have helped them. Organ (1988a) believes that the very construct of OCB has its roots in social ex-change (and not economic exex-change), as organizations gen-erally do not reward employees directly for engaging in OCB.

Perceived fairness was considered a predictor of OCB early on in the research (Organ, 1988b). According to eq-uity theory (Adams, 1965), perceived unfairness leads to aversive tension, which individuals attempt to reduce, for example, by decreasing their own contribution. For sever-al reasons, it is plausible to assume that this decrease en-sues through the reduction of OCB. Firstly, OCB is rarely explicitly called for in the work processes defined, so em-ployees are not breaking any rules if they fail to display it. Secondly, a lack of OCB, even if it was explicitly demand-ed, is difficult to verify and sanction. Therefore, withhold-ing discretionary gestures (i.e., OCB) is a flexible means of responding to perceived unfairness (Organ, 1988b).

Three dimensions of organizational justice are routine-ly cited:

1. Distributive justice focuses on the fairness of a distribu-tion (Adams, 1965; Deutsch, 1975; Homans, 1961; Lev-enthal, 1976). In organizations, this concerns, for exam-ple, the salary, but also the distribution of interesting tasks among the employees. Distributive fairness is fos-tered if the outcomes correspond to implicit distributive norms (e.g., equity or equality).

2. Procedural justice focuses on the fairness of formal pro-cedures (Leventhal, 1980; Leventhal, Karuza, & Fry, 1980; Thibaut & Walker, 1975). It is particularly bene-fited through structural elements such as process control and the right to have a say (Thibaut & Walker). 3. Interactional justice focuses on the fairness that people

experience in their interpersonal relationships when cer-tain procedures are implemented (Bies & Moag, 1986). This concerns aspects such as dignity, respect, honesty, considerateness, and friendliness. Some authors consid-er intconsid-eractional fairness to be a subcategory of procedural fairness (e.g., Moorman, 1991; Tyler & Bies, 1990). Previous research findings show that procedural and inter-actional fairness in particular are important predictors of OCB (e.g., Lee, 1995; Niehoff & Moorman, 1993). Partic-ularly worthy of mention is Skarlicki and Latham’s (1996) quasi-experiment in which labor union members were found to show more OCB after labor union leaders had par-ticipated in a fairness training program. Based on the re-search findings described above, procedural and interac-tional fairness are combined here and considered as an aspect of leadership behavior. In addition to fair leadership behavior, supportive leadership behavior also appears to be influential in relation to OCB.

As that of fair leadership behavior, the effect of sup-portive leadership behavior on OCB can also be explained

using the norm of reciprocity. Support may influence OCB because it is likely to be perceived by employees as help-ing behavior on the part of the leader that the employees feel obligated to reciprocate (Schnake, Dumler, & Cochran, 1993). According to House and Dessler (1974), a supervi-sor is experienced as supportive if he or she (a) guides the employees in achieving objectives, (b) treats them fairly, and (c) appreciates their work performance.

Based on the construct of perceived organizational sup-port (POS), Kottke and Sharafinski (1988) created the con-cept of perceived supervisory support (PSS), which cap-tures the support on the part of the supervisor. PSS is the employees’ perception of the extent to which the supervi-sor values their contributions and cares about their well-be-ing. In addition to PSS, other approaches have been chosen to examine the influence of supportive leadership behavior on OCB. There are significant positive correlations, for ex-ample, between OCB and leader supportiveness (Smith, Or-gan, & Near, 1983), initiating structure and consideration (Schnake, Cochran, & Dumler, 1995; Schnake et al., 1993), leader support (Netemeyer & Boles, 1997), and leader-member exchange (Settoon, Bennett, & Liden, 1996).

In several meta-analyses, significant links are reported between supportive leadership behavior and OCB (LePine et al., 2002; Organ & Ryan, 1995; Podsakoff et al., 2000). One of the few studies to have examined the influence of PSS on OCB shows that PSS acts as a mediator between participation in decision making and OCB (Van Yperen, van den Berg, & Willering, 1999). PSS was also found to cor-relate significantly with OCB by Cheng, Jiang, and Riley (2003). In the current study, it is assumed that the supervi-sor’s behavior has an indirect effect on the engagement in OCB through the commitment of the employees.

Mowday, Steers, and Porter (1979, p. 226) define orga-nizational commitment as “the relative strength of an indi-vidual’s identification with and involvement in a particular organization.” The three-component model of organiza-tional commitment originates from Meyer and Allen (1991). According to this model, commitment consists of an affec-tive component (emotional attachment to and identification with the organization), a continuance component (cost-ben-efit calculation), and a normative component (feeling of obligation). Reichers (1985) was one of the first to point out that commitment can be directed at different entities, so-called commitment foci (organization, supervisor, work group or team, job or form of employment). The current study is interested in two foci: organization and supervisor. Affective organizational commitment (AOC) and nor-mative organizational commitment (NOC) are influential predictors of OCB (Meyer, Stanley, Herscovitch, & Topol-nytsky, 2002; Organ & Ryan, 1995; Podsakoff et al., 2000). Accordingly, the current study is limited to these two di-mensions of organizational commitment, but is also inter-ested in affective commitment to the supervisor, which is described in the following as affective supervisory com-mitment (ASC). From a theoretical point of view, it is plau-sible that commitment is not only an additional predictor of


OCB, but that it has a mediating role in the context of fair and supportive leadership behavior.

In the context of the present paper, the mediator effect of commitment can be explained as follows: First, em-ployees who experience fair and supportive leadership be-havior can develop a positive attitude towards their super-visor (ASC) and towards the organization (AOC). Second, in the sense of a subjective norm (NOC), they may feel obliged to do something in return. Both foster their will-ingness to show OCB.

Various findings indicate that commitment has a medi-ating function in the relationship between leadership be-havior and OCB. For instance, Coyle-Shapiro, Kessler, and Purcell (2004) showed that the influence of procedural and interactional fairness on OCB is completely mediated by mutual commitment. Felfe, Schmook, Six, and Wieland (2005) also reported a mediation effect of AOC in the rela-tionship between transformational leadership and OCB. Moreover, in various studies it has been shown that the in-fluence of POS on OCB is mediated by commitment (Bish-op, Scott, & Burroughs, 2000; Cardona, Lawrence, & Bentler, 2004). For instance, Cardona et al. showed that NOC mediates the influence of POS on OCB. Due to the close affinity of PSS and POS, it can be assumed that PSS affects the willingness to engage in OCB in a similar way.

As yet, no study appears to have examined whether ASC has a mediating function in the relationship between fair-ness/support and OCB. However, there are empirical findings that confirm that ASC has a relationship with extra-role behavior (e.g., Bentein, Stinglhamber, & Vanden-berghe, 2002; Gregersen, 1993). In addition, it has been shown that loyalty to the supervisor is strongly related to extra-role behavior (e.g., Chen, Tsui, & Farh, 2002), where-by it is plausible to assume that loyalty represents the same construct as ASC.

In summary, the following hypotheses emerge:

1a) AOC mediates the influence of fairness and support to the extent to which employees engage in OCB. 1b)NOC mediates the influence of fairness and support to

the extent to which employees engage in OCB. 1c) ASC mediates the influence of fairness and support to

the extent to which employees engage in OCB. 2) ASC mediates the influence of fairness and support on


The second hypothesis focuses on the link between affec-tive commitment to the supervisor and affecaffec-tive commit-ment to the organization. Several authors have stressed that employees perceive their direct superiors as proximal rep-resentatives of the organization (e.g., Eisenberger, Hunt-ington, Hutchison, & Sowa, 1986; Gregersen, 1993). Fur-thermore, according to Hunt and Morgan’s (1994) results, commitment to the supervisor contributes to global organi-zational commitment. This suggests that employees trans-fer part of their attitude towards the supervisor to the orga-nization. Taken together, the complete model postulated by the two hypotheses can be illustrated as in Figure 1.


Data Collection and Sample

Approximately 400 employees of a Swiss bank had the op-portunity to take part in the online survey during their work-ing hours. The employees worked in five different locations in Switzerland. Their job consisted of maintaining a hotline service, answering telephone inquiries of various customer groups, and relieving customer consultants from standard tasks and supporting them with respect to sales. With a re-sponse rate of 65%, the ratings of 260 employees were in-cluded in the analyses. Individuals were exin-cluded who (a) had been working at the company for less than one year or (b) had a part-time position with a monthly workload of less than 20% of a full-time position. The respondents came from the German-, French-, and Italian-speaking parts of Switzerland. The proportion of women was 52%, the aver-age aver-age was 35.0 years (SD = 11.3 years), the mean dura-tion of employment was 10.9 years (SD = 9.2 years), the average workload amounted to 90.0% (SD = 17.8%), and 19.6% of the respondents had a leadership position.

Measurement Instruments

All items are listed in Table 1. The content was translated by qualified specialists into German, French, and Italian. Based on their mother tongue, the respondents received one of the three versions of the questionnaire. A 6-point re-sponse scale from 1 (not at all true) to 6 (completely true) was used to measure the variables. This was chosen because the company’s intranet-based survey tool, with which

em-Figure 1: Complete model postulated by Hypotheses 1 and 2. Note. Solid lines indicate predicted significant relationships,

dashed lines indicate expected non-significant paths. Lead. = fair and supportive leadership behavior, AOC = affective organiza-tional commitment, NOC = normative organizaorganiza-tional commit-ment, ASC = affective supervisory commitcommit-ment, OCB = self-re-ported engagement in organizational citizenship behavior.





ployees were already familiar, was used, and this also con-tains a 6-point response format.

significant and in the predicted direction. In addition to the

χ2statistic, the following fit indicators served to evaluate

the models: Normed Fit Index (NFI), Tucker-Lewis Index (TLI), Incremental Fit Index (IFI), Comparative Fit Index (CFI), and the Root Mean Square Error of Approximation (RMSEA). The statistical significance of an improvement in model fit can be evaluated with a significance test on the basis of the chi-square difference between the two models.


Confirmatory Factor Analysis

In order to check the discriminant validity of the variables, the fit of different nested models was compared. The chi-square difference test revealed that model fit improved with an increasing number of factors. Only for the five-factor model (perceived leadership behavior [fairness/PSS], AOC, NOC, ASC, and OCB) did the fit values fall into an ac-ceptable area (χ2= 735.38, df = 485, χ2/df = 1.5, NFI = 0.82,

TLI = 0.92, IFI = 0.93, CFI = 0.93, RMSEA = 0.045). The additional separation of the variables fairness and PSS (six-factor model) only resulted in marginal improvement in fit, and the high correlation (r = .94) of the two constructs in-dicated that separation was not appropriate. We thus adopt-ed the five-factor model in which the two variables were combined under the umbrella term perceived fair and sup-portive leadership behavior. In the following, perceived leadership behavior will therefore refer to employees’ per-ception of aspects of fairness and support. The standardized factor loadings were all significant (Table 1).

The mean values, standard deviations, correlations, and reliabilities for the five-factor model are shown in Table 2. Particularly high correlations were found between the three types of commitment and between all types of commitment and the dependent variable OCB. In addition, particularly the age of the respondents was associated with all types of commitment and with OCB. The alpha coefficients were acceptable for all scales.


To measure procedural and interactional fairness, we used four items each from Niehoff and Moorman’s (1993) scale, with which respondents assessed their supervisor’s behav-ior. As high correlations were apparent between the sub-scales (procedural and interactional fairness), a total score was calculated.

Perceived supervisory support

In order to measure PSS, four items from Eisenberger et al.’s (1986) survey of perceived organizational support were selected. However, following Kottke and Sharafinski (1988) as well as Rhoades, Eisenberger, and Armeli (2001), the fo-cus of the items was changed by replacing “organization” with “supervisor”.

Mediator variables

To measure AOC and NOC, items from Felfe, Six, Schmook, and Knorz’ (2002) German-language question-naire were used. AOC was measured with five items and NOC with four items. To measure ASC, three items from Cheng et al. (2003) were translated.


The dependent variable OCB, composed of five factors, was measured with a 9-item self-rating scale. The items were taken from Staufenbiel and Hartz’(2000) German-language questionnaire and from Podsakoff et al. (1990) and select-ed on the basis of banking experts’ evaluation of their rele-vance to the respondents’ field of work. For some of the items selected, minor context-related adaptations were nec-essary. Following LePine et al.’s (2002) meta-analysis, a to-tal score for OCB was calculated from the nine items.

Analytical Procedure

As the hypotheses postulate links between latent (i.e., not directly measurable) variables, they were tested with struc-tural equation models (SEM). Prior to this, the postulated model structure was tested with a confirmatory factor analy-sis (CFA). CFA and SEM were calculated with the AMOS 6 software (Arbuckle, 2005) using the maximum-likeli-hood-estimation model. As a basis for the estimation of the model parameters, the covariance matrix was used.

A model is described as good if the path coefficients are

Structural Equation Analysis

Indicators of the latent variables in the SEM were scale means (for perceived leadership behavior and OCB) and in-dividual items (for all forms of commitment). There are dif-ferent strategies for tests of mediation using SEM (James, Mulaik, & Brett, 2006). The postulated mediation effects were examined using the procedure described by Holmbeck (1997). According to this procedure, a model consisting of a latent predictor variable (A), a latent mediator (B), and a latent criterion variable (C) must fulfil three basic require-ments: (a) path A →C is significant in the postulated di-rection and achieves a good fit, (b) paths A →B and B → C are significant in the postulated direction, and (c)


com-plete model A→B →C achieves a good fit. If these re-quirements are fulfilled, the model fit (A →B →C) is com-pared under two conditions: (a) when the path A →C is set to zero and (b) when the path A →C is not set to zero, but is free. If the second model shows significantly better fit than the first, a complete mediation effect cannot be as-sumed. In this case, it is necessary to examine whether there is a partial mediation effect. The hypotheses were exam-ined using this procedure. The three basic requirements list-ed in Holmbeck were fulfilllist-ed in all cases.

Hypotheses 1a–1c: The three types of commitment as mediators of the relationship between perceived leadership behavior and self-reported engagement in OCB

The coefficient of the direct path from leadership behavior to OCB (path A → C according to Holmbeck, 1997) amounts to β= .35, p < 0.01. Figure 2 shows the charac-teristics of the path coefficients in the postulated mediation models of Hypotheses 1a–1c.

Table 1

Standardized Factor Loadings in the CFA

Factors and items Loading

Fair and supportive leadership behavior

To make job decisions, my supervisor collects accurate and complete information. F2 .79 Help is available from my supervisor when I have a problem. PSS2 .76 In everyday working life, my supervisor deals with me in a truthful manner. F6 .75

My supervisor really cares about my well-being. PSS1 .74

My supervisor offers adequate justification for decisions made about my job. F8 .74 My supervisor makes sure that all employee concerns are heard before job decisions are made. F1 .73 My supervisor applies job decisions consistently across all affected employees. F4 .73 My supervisor clarifies decisions and provides additional information when requested by employees. F3 .72 Concerning decisions made about my job, my supervisor discusses the implications with me in good time. F7 .69 In everyday working life, my supervisor treats me with respect and dignity. F5 .68 My supervisor takes pride in my accomplishments at work. PSS3 .62 Even if I did the best job possible, my supervisor would fail to notice. PSS4* .56

Affective organizational commitment

I sense a strong feeling of belonging to my organization. AOC4 .79 I would be very happy to be able to continue spending my working life in this organization. AOC1 .74

I am proud to belong to this organization. AOC3 .73

I think that my ideals match those of the organization. AOC5 .65 I don’t feel any special emotional attachment to this organization. AOC2* .55

Normative organizational commitment

Even if it were advantageous for me, I wouldn’t find it right to leave this organization. NOC2 .82 I would somehow feel guilty if I left this company now. NOC3 .78 Lots of people who are important to me wouldn’t understand or would be disappointed

if I left this organization. NOC1 .65

I would not leave the organization now, as I feel obligated to some of the people in it. NOC4 .64

Affective supervisory commitment

My supervisor’s successes are my successes. ASC2 .75

When someone praises my supervisor, it feels like a personal compliment. ASC1 .74 Since starting this job, my personal values and those of my supervisor have become more similar. ASC3 .74

Organizational citizenship behavior (OCB)

I keep myself informed about new developments in the organization. O4 .71

I play an active part in meetings. O1 .60

I constantly take part in vocational training to enable me to do my work better. O6 .59

I try to avoid creating problems for my colleagues. O7 .53

I obey company rules and regulations with the greatest care. O8 .51 I take into account the effects of my actions on the work of my colleagues. O5 .47 If differences of opinion occur, I have a balancing effect on my colleagues. O2 .46

I let people know in good time if I can’t come to work. O3 .40

I very rarely find fault with my colleagues. O9 .25

Note. N = 260. *Recoded items. All loadings are significant at p < 0.01. PSS = perceived supervisory support, F = fairness, AOC =


Table 3 shows how the fit of the three models changes when path A →C is free and when it is set to zero, respec-tively. The results of the chi-square difference test indicate that both AOC and ASC mediate the link between perceived leadership behavior and OCB completely. In both of these models, setting the path A →C to zero does not lead to a significant deterioration of the model fit. The case is dif-ferent with NOC, as can also be seen in Figure 2. Whereas the coefficient of the path A →C loses its significance un-der the effect of AOC and ASC, respectively, it remains sig-nificant under the effect of NOC.

behavior, NOC, OCB” (Figure 2) seems to support Hy-pothesis 1b, the hyHy-pothesis has to be rejected when con-sidering the estimation of the complete model (below). To summarize, the results support Hypotheses 1a and 1c. AOC and ASC mediate the effect of fair and supportive leader-ship behavior on employees’ self-reported engagement in OCB. Whereas AOC and ASC prove to be complete medi-ators, NOC seems to be a partial mediator.

Hypothesis 2: ASC as a mediator of the relationship between perceived leadership behavior and AOC The relationship between these three variables can be visu-alized in the complete model (Figure 3).

Table 2

Mean Values, Standard Deviations, and Correlations of all Variables (N = 260)

M SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 1. Gender 1.5 0.5 – 2. Function 1.2 0.4 –0.34 – 3. Age 35.0 11.3 0.18 0.20 – 4. Yrs. serv. 10.9 9.2 0.05 0.29 0.72 – 5. Wkload 90.9 17.8 –0.25 0.23 –0.16 –0.02 – 6. Lead. 5.1 0.6 –0.03 0.13 0.02 0.04 –0.07 (0.92) 7. AOC 4.8 0.8 0.05 0.17 0.20 0.17 0.11 0.31 (0.82) 8. NOC 3.5 1.2 0.05 0.17 0.18 0.13 –0.01 0.20 0.49 (0.81) 9. ASC 4.5 0.9 –0.07 0.21 0.26 0.22 –0.02 0.54 0.51 0.49 (0.79) 10. OCB 5.1 0.4 0.02 0.17 0.20 0.11 0.08 0.30 0.42 0.34 0.43 (0.76)

Note. Correlations > 0.16 are significant at p < 0.01. Correlations > 0.12 are significant at p < 0.05. Alpha coefficients are indicated in

the diagonal. Gender (1 = male / 2 = female), Function (1 = without leadership function / 2 = with leadership function), Yrs. serv. = number of years of service in the organization, Wkload = workload in %, Lead. = fair and supportive leadership behavior, AOC = af-fective organizational commitment, NOC = normative organizational commitment, ASC = afaf-fective supervisory commitment, OCB = organizational citizenship behavior.

Figure 2: Structural equation models

with the standardized path coeffi-cients between perceived leadership behavior, respective type of commit-ment, and self-reported engagement in OCB.

Note. N = 260. The standardized

path coefficients are presented. **p < 0.01. Lead. = fair and supportive leadership behavior, AOC = affective organizational commit-ment, NOC = normative organiza-tional commitment, ASC = affective supervisory commitment, OCB = self-reported engagement in organizational citizenship behavior.

Lead. OCB AOC .40** .60** .11 Lead. OCB NOC .24** .40** .27** Lead. OCB ASC .56** .59** .01

Nevertheless, it is apparent that NOC does have a cer-tain mediation effect, as its inclusion in the model is able to slightly reduce the coefficient of the A →C path (from

β= .35 to β= .27). Using the Sobel test (modified version following Baron & Kenny, 1986), we examined whether this reduction effect has statistical significance. The result confirms a partial mediation (z = 2.04, p < 0.05). Even though the estimation in the model “perceived leadership

The fit values of this hypothesized model fall into an ac-ceptable area (χ2= 279.15, df = 111, χ2/df = 2.5, NFI = 0.86,

TLI = 0.89, IFI = 0.91, CFI = 0.91, RMSEA = 0.076), but can be improved if two pairs of error covariances are


al-lowed to be estimated (Table 4). The coefficient of the di-rect path from perceived leadership behavior to AOC (path A →C following Holmbeck, 1997) amounts to β= .40, p < 0.01. As shown in Figure 3, when ASC is included, this direct link is reduced to non-significance (β= –.15).

Table 5 shows how the model fit changes when the direct path from leadership behavior to AOC (path A →C follow-ing Holmbeck, 1997) is free and when it is set to zero, re-spectively. The non-significant result of the chi-square differ-ence test reveals that ASC mediates the link between perceived leadership behavior and AOC completely. Here, setting the path A →C to zero does not lead to a significant deteriora-tion of the model fit. This result supports Hypothesis 2.

Figure 3: Structural equation model with the standardized path

coefficients between perceived leadership behavior, respective type of commitment, and self-reported engagement in OCB.

Note. N = 260. The standardized path coefficients are presented.

**p < 0.01, *p < 0.05. Lead. = fair and supportive leadership be-havior, AOC = affective organizational commitment, NOC = nor-mative organizational commitment, ASC = affective supervisory commitment, OCB = self-reported engagement in organizational citizenship behavior.

Table 3

Comparison of the Model Fit Indicators Including and Excluding the Direct Path Between Perceived Leadership Behavior and Self-Re-ported Engagement in OCB in the Three Mediation Models

Model χ2 df χ2/df NFI TLI IFI CFI RMSEA ∆χ2 Mediator: AOC Path A →C free 36.24 29 1.25 0.96 0.99 0.99 0.99 0.031 Path A →C zero 38.02 30 1.27 0.96 0.99 0.99 0.99 0.032 1.77 Mediator: NOC Path A →C free 34.82 24 1.45 0.96 0.98 0.99 0.99 0.042 Path A →C zero 46.88 25 1.88 0.94 0.96 0.97 0.97 0.058 12.06* Mediator: ASC Path A →C free 21.22 15 1.41 0.97 0.98 0.99 0.99 0.040 Path A →C zero 21.22 16 1.33 0.97 0.99 0.99 0.99 0.035 0.00

Note. N = 260. *p < 0.05. df = degrees of freedom, NFI = Normed Fit Index, TLI = Tucker-Lewis Index, IFI = Incremental Fit Index,

CFI = Comparative Fit Index, RMSEA = Root Mean Square Error of Approximation, AOC = affective organizational commitment, NOC = normative organizational commitment, ASC = affective supervisory commitment.

Lead. ASC AOC OCB NOC .66** .76** .39** .36* .24** -.15 -.01 -.01

As the complete model reveals, there is a strong rela-tionship between ASC and AOC (β= .76, p < 0.01), and both ASC and AOC are significantly linked to OCB (β= .36, β= .39). As mentioned above, the results are somewhat surprising for NOC. As can be seen in the complete mod-el, the path between NOC and OCB is no longer significant (β= –.01).


Most of our hypotheses were confirmed: As predicted, the results revealed that the commitment foci examined (orga-nization and supervisor) play a key role in mediating the impact of fair and supportive leadership on OCB. As pos-tulated, fair and supportive leadership behavior affects the degree to which the employees engage in OCB primarily mediated by commitment. Whereas AOC proved to be a complete mediator, contrary to our expectation, NOC does not have a significant role as a mediator within the com-plete model.

Table 4

Modification of the Hypothesized Complete Model. Two Error Covariances Were Allowed to be Estimated

Error Covariance r χ2 df ∆χ2

Error ASC <--> Error NOC .73 194.11 1 85.05*

Error NOC <--> Error AOC .30 181.38 1 12.73*

Note. N = 260. *p < 0.05. df = degrees of freedom, χ2of the unmodified model = 279.15, ASC = affective supervisory commitment, NOC = normative organizational commitment, AOC = affective organizational commitment.


As the results imply, if a supervisor behaves in a fair and supportive manner, this has an indirect effect on which at-titude the employees develop towards the organization. Of course, the significant mediational chain from perceived leadership behavior to OCB via ASC and AOC is merely consistent with the assumption of a causal relationship be-tween fair and supportive leadership and OCB, but does not prove it. Nevertheless, it is possible to derive a preliminary recommendation that organizations that are interested in in-creasing their employees’ OCB should strongly encourage their leaders to practise fair and supportive leadership. We assume that employees who feel that they are treated fair-ly and in a supportive manner sense a feeling of obligation towards the organization, which they wish to respond to by enacting OCB.

As the present findings suggest, the relationship between leadership and OCB has more to do with the person of the supervisor than with merely a more abstract normative com-mitment to the organization: Although the path leading from fair and supportive leadership to NOC was significant, the path between NOC and OCB was not. Thus, affective com-mitment to the supervisor seems to play an important role in the context of fair and supportive leadership.

With regard to commitment towards the suppervisor, only the affective component was measured in the current study. Meyer and Allen (1997) assumed that the three-com-ponent model (affective, normative, continuance commit-ment) is valid not only for the attachment to the organiza-tion as a whole, but can also be transferred to other commitment foci as a universal attachment model. Ac-cordingly, future research should examine whether norma-tive commitment to the supervisor adds to the prediction from leadership to AOC.

In the present study, we combined measures of perceived supervisory support with measures of perceived leadership into a single measure called perceived fair and supportive leadership behavior. This may be regarded as somewhat un-usual because research on leadership, on the one hand, and fairness, on the other hand, belong to slightly different tra-ditions (e.g., cf. Greenberg & Colquitt, 2005; Yukl, 2005). However, we see both a theoretical and an empirical justi-fication for this approach: As pointed out in the introduc-tion, from the perspective of the norm of reciprocity (Gould-ner, 1960), both types of behavior, supportive and fair behavior, are apt to evoke OCB on the part of the recipients

(see also House & Dessler, 1974, who argue that there is a commonality between supportive and fair leadership be-havior). In addition, a clear empirical justification for com-bining perceived fairness and PSS is their high intercorre-lation (r > .9). In our opinion, this high correintercorre-lation means that it would have been inappropriate or indeed even misleading to confine the analysis and report of our results either to perceived fairness or to PSS.

Finally, several limitations of the current study as well as implications for practice have to be discussed. We should emphasize that the methods of analysis used do not satisfy strict confirmatory requirements. In the CFA, a high inter-correlation was apparent between the variables of fairness and PSS. For this reason, the concept of fair and support-ive leadership behavior encompassing both constructs was defined and subsequently analyzed. In this respect, the study has an explorative character, which limits its validity to this specific data set.

The fact that the two constructs of PSS and fairness can-not be separated as different concepts is both surprising and understandable. It is surprising because, in several studies, researchers succeeded in separating related constructs such as leader-member exchange or servant leadership from fair-ness (Ehrhart, 2004; Wat & Shaffer, 2005). If, by contrast, one compares the two constructs of PSS and fairness on the level of the items, a high correlation is not surprising. Ac-cording to modern understanding, support by the supervi-sor is a component of the leadership task. Once a culture of support has established itself in an organization, a lack of supportive behavior by the supervisor could be seen as de-ficient or even unfair.

As all data were collected using the same method (ques-tionnaire) and originate from one source (employees), there is a danger that correlations could be distorted through com-mon method variance or response tendencies (Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Lee, & Podsakoff, 2003). Consistent with the assumption of a response tendency, in the current study, both leadership behavior and OCB received noticeably high ratings. In further studies, the use of OCB measures from different sources seems desirable. However, we still defend our present use of self-report measures of fairness and sup-portive leadership as we believe that it is the subjectively perceived fairness or support that predicts reciprocal orga-nizational citizenship behavior, rather than an abstract or “objective” condition of fairness.

Table 5

Comparison of the Model Fit Indicators Including and Excluding the Direct Path Between Perceived Leadership Behavior and AOC in the Mediation Model

Model χ2 df χ2/df NFI TLI IFI CFI RMSEA ∆χ2

Lead. → ASC → AOC

Path A → C free 181.38 109 1.66 0.91 0.95 0.96 0.96 0.051

Path A → C zero 183.92 110 1.67 0.91 0.95 0.96 0.96 0.051 2.54

Note. N = 260. *p < 0.05. df = degrees of freedom, NFI = Normed Fit Index, TLI = Tucker-Lewis Index, IFI = Incremental Fit Index,

CFI = Comparative Fit Index, RMSEA = Root Mean Square Error of Approximation, AOC = affective organizational commitment, ASC = affective supervisory commitment.


A further limitation with regard to the generalizability of our results concerns our selection of OCB items: We de-liberately selected OCB items that corresponded with our respondents’ field of work. This selection was dictated by practical reasons because the complete questionnaire had to be reasonably short to allow it to be answered during working hours. However, the selection was undertaken by experts according to the relevance of the items to the re-spondents’ field of work and we ensured that items from all five dimensions were retained.

Because, among other things, OCB is directed towards different beneficiaries (McNeely & Meglino, 1994), it of-ten remains unnoticed and is difficult to discern (Schnake, 1991). For research purposes, this gives rise to the question whether self-ratings or ratings by others provide more valid results. In the majority of studies, ratings by the supervisor are used (Allen, Barnard, Rush, & Russell, 2000). This is justified by the fact that OCB self-ratings are susceptible to the effects of social desirability (Schnake, 1991).

In spite of this, self-ratings are not uncommon in research (cf., Khalid & Ali, 2005). The assumption underlying the use of self-reports is that OCB is generally not carried out in front of the supervisor and is therefore better known to the actor himself. Furthermore, supervisor ratings can be distorted by the halo effect or by false and selective mem-ory (Schnake, 1991).

Only a small number of studies of OCB have systemat-ically compared self-ratings and ratings by supervisors. Khalid and Ali (2005) found that the mean self-ratings were significantly higher than the mean superior ratings. Never-theless, these authors reported a moderate but significant correlation between the data from the two sources. This find-ing is in accordance with earlier results presented by Beck-er and Vance (1993). Allen et al. (2000), by contrast, found no significant correlation between self-ratings and ratings by supervisors. An ideal measurement of OCB would cer-tainly take the ratings of several sources into account.

To summarize, the following recommendation for orga-nizational practice can be derived from the findings report-ed in the present paper: Organizations should endeavour to create a culture of fairness and support. On the one hand, this can occur through the appropriate selection and train-ing of supervisors and, on the other hand, it is important that supervisors possess the necessary scope for action. Em-ployees who feel that they are treated in a fair and support-ive manner will develop a positsupport-ive attitude towards their su-pervisor and the organization, which will increase their willingness to engage in OCB. As previous research shows, OCB has a positive effect on the success of an organization. The current study supports the instrumental view of the stakeholder theory by showing, using the example of the stakeholder group of employees, that it is worthwhile in the long term to invest in a culture of fairness and support. Fair-ness and support suppress a purely economic relationship between employer and employee and foster instead a social exchange relationship. This induces performance that sur-passes expectations.

Author Note

Diana Meierhans, Department of Psychology, University of Zurich, Switzerland; Brigitte Rietmann, Department of Psy-chology, University of Zurich, Switzerland; Klaus Jonas, Department of Psychology, University of Zurich, Switzer-land.


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Klaus Jonas

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