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How salespeople see organizational citizenship behaviors: an exploratory study using the laddering technique

Paolo Guenzi (Department of Marketing, Università Bocconi, Milan, Italy)
Federico Panzeri (Global Corporate Sales, Alitalia)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 2 March 2015



The purpose of this paper is to more thoroughly investigate the role of organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs) in sales force settings and the reason why salespeople should practice OCBs. In fact, in spite of the huge body of literature on OCBs and their impact on performance, some important knowledge gaps still remain to be filled. Inconsistent and unexpected findings are particularly apparent in the relatively few studies investigating OCBs in sales forces. The authors argue that some specific characteristics of the selling job and related tasks make the analysis of the practice of these behaviors in the sales context particularly interesting.


The authors explore which OCBs salespeople engage in, and analyze the perceived consequences of such behaviors using means-end theory and the laddering technique. They apply means-end theory and the laddering technique to interview a sample of salespersons from three companies operating in different business-to-business settings.


The end result of the empirical analysis is the hierarchical value map showing a set of linkages among OCBs and their perceived consequences. In the perceptions of salespeople, OCBs play a strong utilitarian role in that they facilitate personal goal attainment. In salespeople’s minds, there are no relevant trade-offs between OCBs and task-performance as long as the former can be used to improve the latter. For salespeople, the path from OCBs to performance may vary, depending on whether the performance in question is organizational, individual or customer-focused. Finally, some OCBs apparently contribute to creating customer trust in the salesperson.

Research limitations/implications

The findings add some interesting insights to the discussion regarding some controversies in OCBs literature, especially the interplay of contextual performance and task performance.

Practical implications

Various types of OCBs can be encouraged through different managerial interventions. As an example, altruism can be fostered by appropriate recruiting criteria (e.g. using “attitude toward teamwork” as a key personnel selection factor), and by training initiatives and leadership style. Altruism can also be stimulated by an adequately designed organizational structure (e.g. team-based) as well as by adopting appropriate integration mechanisms that facilitate interpersonal and interfunctional cooperation. Sales managers can foster some OCBs by promoting knowledge sharing and reciprocal learning among members of the sales team, and by emphasizing the positive consequences of OCBs in all communication with salespeople.


Findings from this study challenge some widespread assumptions about OCBs in general. In fact, most of the literature holds that OCBs are an example of prosocial behaviors. Actually, the findings suggest that in the specific case of salespeople, OCBs are ultimately self-directed, for the most part.



Guenzi, P. and Panzeri, F. (2015), "How salespeople see organizational citizenship behaviors: an exploratory study using the laddering technique", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 30 No. 2, pp. 218-232.



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