Millennials and organizational citizenship behavior: The role of job crafting and career anchor on service

Baiyun Gong (Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA)
Regina A. Greenwood (Department of Management, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA)
David Hoyte (Department of Decision Sciences, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA)
Arlene Ramkissoon (Department of Business, Ohio Dominican University, Columbus, Ohio, USA)
Xin He (University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida, USA)

Management Research Review

ISSN: 2040-8269

Publication date: 16 July 2018



Growing up in the technology era and heavily invested in longer full-time education, the millennial workforce holds unique characteristics that may influence important job outcomes. Building on the recent research on workforce generations, this paper aims to investigate not only the overall effect of the millennial generation on organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) but also the nuanced effect of how workforce generations may interact with two factors in career development (i.e. job crafting and career anchor) in predicting OCB.


An online survey was conducted among full-time workers in the USA, 321 (64 per cent) of whom were millennials. Hierarchical regression was used to test the hypotheses.


Results indicated that millennials appeared to be less interested in OCB compared to earlier generations in the workforce. Nevertheless, some dimensions of OCB increased when millennials conducted resource-related job crafting or when they held a career anchor on service. In addition, both of these career development factors were positively correlated with OCB.

Research limitations/implications

This study offers important implications to researchers as well as practitioners and highlights the significance of career development factors in motivating millennials toward desired job outcomes.


This research is among the initial attempts to assess the impact of job design and career factors on OCB among millennial workers. The findings highlight millennials’ unique perspectives toward OCB and how job crafting and career anchor may play influencing roles on OCB. With millennials becoming the largest generation in the workforce, such knowledge is critical.



Gong, B., Greenwood, R., Hoyte, D., Ramkissoon, A. and He, X. (2018), "Millennials and organizational citizenship behavior", Management Research Review, Vol. 41 No. 7, pp. 774-788.

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Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited


Organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) refers to individual behaviors that benefit the organization but not formally specified or rewarded by the organization (Organ et al., 2006). The significance of OCB in enhancing organizational effectiveness in an ever-changing context is evident in numerous investigations (Ehigie and Otukoya, 2005; Farh et al., 2004; Williams and Anderson, 1991). As the business environment increasingly evolves due to globalization and technology development, job descriptions quickly become outdated and formal reward systems are less accurate in identifying key factors that encourage performance. Organizations depend on extra-role behaviors to fill the gaps between role behaviors based on job descriptions and those demanded by the changing environment. As OCB is disconnected from the formal reward system, it is crucial to explore the key characteristics of the workforce so that organizations can motivate employees to conduct such beneficial behaviors.

Although the literature provides significant information identifying antecedents of OCB and helps practitioners develop mechanisms to promote OCB, a predictable and fundamental trend in the labor market has not been fully addressed. Millennials (i.e. those born between 1980 and 2000) are growing steadily in number in the workforce and becoming major contributors to the organizations. How will millennials approach the idea of unrewarded behaviors such as OCB? What can we do to motivate them to act in ways that promote organizational benefit without formal indications of what should be done? These questions remain unanswered for this unique generation.

To begin answering these questions, this paper examines millennials’ career concerns and their relationship with OCB. Specifically, the paper studies the effect of job crafting and career anchor on OCB to understand if millennials who are seeking more job resources, or have a career anchor on service, may engage in more OCB than non-millennials. The research is applicable to academics and the practitioners in the exploration of innovative practices that motivate young workforces toward desirable behaviors and, thus, organizational success.

Literature review and theory development

In this section, the paper briefly reviews the existing literature of OCB and provides an overview of the ongoing research about millennials. Following this foundation, the paper establishes hypotheses about how millennials would respond to OCB compared to other generations. Previous research suggests that millennials are ego-centric and entitled (Twenge, 2006), which indicates limited interest in OCB behaviors. On the other hand, millennials are socially conscious and politically engaged (Milkman, 2016), which may promote OCB when millennials believe that the organization is a socially responsible entity. These different predictions call for further investigation to advance knowledge about millennials. Building on the recent research on workforce generations (Anderson et al., 2016; Lyons and Kuron, 2014), the authors investigate not only the overall effect of the millennial generation on OCB but also the nuanced effect of how workforce generations may interact with two factors in career development (i.e. job crafting and career anchor) in predicting OCB.

Organizational citizenship behavior

The concept of OCB emphasizes constructive work behaviors not recognized by formal reward systems; this implies internal motivation for such behaviors. Research that has been conducted views OCB as a multidimensional construct. Whereas earlier research suggests that OCB is mainly extra-role helping behaviors (Organ, 1988), more recent investigations identify a much broader range of behaviors that are grouped under the concept of OCB. Podsakoff et al. (2000) reviewed the literature and concluded that OCB includes five dimensions. Altruism includes prosocial behaviors aimed at helping other people to get work done. Altruistic OCB indicates an employee’s willingness to improve the work environment (Norris-Watts and Levy, 2004). Conscientiousness reflects the efforts made by employees to go beyond the minimal requirements of their job. Conscientious behaviors can result from the internalization of social norms in the organization, as well as distinguish a “good employee” from normal employees (Wang et al., 2013). Courtesy behaviors are those that maintain effective communication with fellow workers so that people are respected and informed of issues such as unexpected changes and potential resources. Although courtesy is often not a necessary part of an individual’s task, it prevents dysfunctional conflicts, supports group work and maintains social order (Wang et al., 2013). Civic virtue represents active participation in corporate governance activities. Such type of behavior is driven by the belief that individuals are responsible for, and can make a difference in, organizational decisions (Podsakoff et al., 2000; Wang et al., 2013). Sportsmanship represents “a willingness to tolerate the inevitable inconveniences and impositions of work without complaining” (Organ, 1990, p. 96). Unlike other dimensions of OCB, sportsmanship involves the active avoidance of unhelpful behaviors. It represents an effort to endure difficult situations by sacrificing individual comfort (Wang et al., 2013).

OCB is a significant indicator of organizational performance (Podsakoff and Mackenzie, 1997). Previous studies found that OCB predicts organizational outcomes such as turnover rate, customer satisfaction and profitability, as well as improved process measures (MacKenzie et al., 1998; Koys, 2001; Podsakoff et al., 2014; Sun et al., 2007). In an effort to promote OCB, researchers have identified important antecedents such as psychological contract fulfillment (Robinson and Morrison, 1995), job satisfaction (Organ, 1977; MacKenzie et al., 1998), perceived fairness (Netemeyer et al., 1997) and organizational commitment (Brief and Motowildo, 1986; MacKenzie et al., 1998). Although the extant literature is informative, most findings consider an employee as a unit of the organization and limit the scope of antecedents to employment-related factors. With baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) entering retirement, organizations no longer provide lifetime employment to workers. Meanwhile, few millennial workers would constrain their career plans to a certain organization. Management needs to look beyond the temporary employment relationship for motivators of OCB from a workforce that is less dependent on its organizations than the previous generations. Specifically, millennials tend to care more about career advancement than any other generations in the workforce (Lunsford, 2009). Although millennials envision the experience in an organization as a building block of their individual career, their career development concerns are likely to influence OCB.


Millennials are, generally, children of baby boomers. Whereas baby boomers raised their children with great hope and endowed them with more generous resources than what they had as children themselves, their view of these young colleagues in the workplace is mixed. Indeed, recent research provides much evidence of their appreciation and concern for this young generational cohort. By May 2015, millennials had outnumbered any other generation in the US workforce (Fry, 2015). According to a paper published by the White House, millennials are well educated, start working later (after rather than during their education), are technology-savvy and value community and family (The Council of Economic Advisers, 2014). In terms of non-economic factors, it is well recognized across academic and popular publications that millennials are characterized with entitlement (i.e. a consistent self-serving belief that they deserve favorable feedback and rewards) (Anderson et al., 2016; Harvey and Dasborough, 2015; Krahn and Galambos, 2014; Twenge, 2006).

Distinguished from other types of entitlement (e.g. economic entitlement and equity entitlement), psychological entitlement refers to “a stable tendency toward highly favorable self-perceptions and a tendency to feel deserving of high levels of praise and reward, regardless of actual performance levels” (Harvey and Harris, 2010, p. 1640). Psychological entitlement may discourage OCB because those who are high in psychological entitlement are less likely to engage in activities that are decoupled from immediate positive outcomes. If one generally expects high rewards and recognition despite the level of performance, such expectations are impractical in the organizational environment, where decision-makers are performance-oriented. Not being able to generate the expected responses from the organization could be seen by millennials as a breach of psychological contract (Robinson and Rousseau, 1994). At the same time, disappointment in the working context may lead to a series of unfavorable psychological states, including decreased job satisfaction and lower organizational commitment (Robinson and Morrison, 1995), all of which are likely to result in less OCB. As conventional wisdom suggests that millennials are the entitlement generation, it is plausible to predict that millennials are less interested in OCB than are other generations.

Besides entitlement, there are more reasons to assume that millennials are less willing to demonstrate OCB. For example, many millennials entered the job market during the economic downturn. These young people studied hard and received their education on loans (The Council of Economic Advisers, 2014). However, when they started to work, they were paid less than preceding generations and many struggled to earn sufficient income to cover their debts. In a sense, it is not just entitlement but also circumstances that could foster the perception of distributive injustice so as to jeopardize organizational commitment and suppress OCB.

Moreover, many millennials observed their parents suffering layoffs despite the parents’ hard work. As a result, many millennials have developed a “work to live” philosophy (Johnson and Johnson, 2010). This point of view toward work leads millennials to be psychologically detached from their jobs and prevents them from dedicating too much to the workplace at the cost of their own quality of life. OCB is typically not specified in job descriptions and can be perceived as optional and nonessential among millennials. As such, OCB tends to rank low on millennials’ priority list, as it may induce undue stress to their individual lives.

It is possible that due to their social consciousness, millennials may be more identified with organizations that are good corporate citizens and conduct more OCB as their employees. This potentially contradicts to the proposed main effect. The paper maintains that two reasons may hinder the manifestation of this effect. First, the worldview may not always link to daily work behaviors. Classic motivating theories suggest that work fulfills multiple levels of needs (Herzberg, 1966; Maslow, 1970). Whereas being socially responsible satisfies higher-level needs, economic difficulties may activate the lower-level needs and mute the higher-level ones. Young millennials are in the process of understanding the challenges of making the ends meet, and their desire to serve the world may be temporarily subdued by immediate material needs. Once they are experienced and firmly establish their value system, their social awareness may become salient to their thought process and thus play a more significant role in determining their behaviors. The paper addresses the effect of the career anchor of service or dedication to a cause in a later session of theory development.

The other factor that may reduce the effect of millennials’ social consciousness on OCB is the variance of organizations in terms of their social engagement. Not all organizations list social responsibility among their main priorities. Especially during economic recession, when the oldest millennials were still in their 20s, many organizations facing survival issues focused more on the bottom line than corporate citizenship. Their strategies also retreated from investment in human resource development and focused more on cost reduction. These practices might have been necessary under previous circumstances but likely restricted employees from having the resources and willingness to conduct OCB.

In summary, millennials’ high degree of psychological entitlement, their work experience in the economic downturn and their emphasis on quality of life are likely to hinder their organizational commitment, which in turn reduces OCB.


Compared to older generations, millennials are less likely to demonstrate OCB.

Although the preceding discussion addressed the overall relationship between millennials and OCB, specific aspects of career development are also important to address. This paper focuses on two constructs that may reflect the career concerns of the millennials: job crafting and career anchor. Job crafting refers to a job incumbent’s behavior that changes the meaning, content or process of the job (Wrzesniewski and Dutton, 2001). Career anchor reflects the individual’s most valued aspect of a career (Schein, 1985). Next, the paper discusses the impact of these two factors on OCB, respectively.

Job crafting

An important career concern is the content and meaning of one’s current job. It is understood that people are altering the nature of their jobs to increase performance and fit individual career preferences (Wrzesniewski and Dutton, 2001). One stream of job crafting research adopts the job demands-resources theory and suggests that people can use job crafting strategies to reach a balance between the demands and resources associated with the job.(Bakker and Demerouti, 2007; Tims et al., 2012, 2015). Based on social exchange theory, which suggests OCB is a result of receiving support from the organization (Eisenberger et al., 1986), the authors are particularly interested in the two types of job crafting aimed at increasing structural and social job resources.

The paper proposes that crafting more job resources is positively related to OCB. According to social exchange theory (Blau, 1964), proactively seeking additional job resources requires the individual to offer something in exchange. Considering that information and authority may be necessary to locate and reallocate needed resources, the job crafter may have already become the beneficiary of OCB from other organizational members. Therefore, job crafters may feel obliged to provide help to those people around them, either reciprocally or with the expectation of reciprocal support. Further, those who are successful in gathering job resources are likely to appreciate the supportive working environment and have enhanced engagement (Tims et al., 2015). As engagement is found to be predictive of OCB, it is likely that job crafting toward increasing job resources is positively related to OCB.

Increasing job resources entails communication with co-workers, whether it be supervisors or colleagues. These social exchanges due to interpersonal interactions create a psychological contract in the employment relationship. This also holds true for employees who are provided with enough structural resources such as ample training opportunities, mentoring and the freedom to learn things outside their formal job scope. Employees who feel that their professional development is structurally and socially supported by their supervisors and their organizations would be more willing to display their appreciation by engaging in acts of OCB. Notably, Lin et al. (2017) reported that job crafting positively correlated with OCB among underemployed (i.e. overqualified) Chinese school teachers. This paper supports their findings but offers social exchange theory as the underlining mechanism of the effect. Moreover, Lin et al. (2017) argue that increasing challenging demands are in fact OCB behaviors. On the contrary, the authors of this paper believe that job crafting and OCB are distinctive constructs and only resource-seeking behaviors are likely to initiate the process of social exchange.


Job crafting for increasing structural and social resources is positively related to OCB.

Given that millennials are self-centered and well-networked (Lyons and Kuron, 2014), they can crave more resource-seeking behavior. Conventional wisdom suggests that millennials do not respect authority (Hansen and Leuty, 2012). In the organization, however, millennials may have to work under authority. There has been such a significant influx of millennials in the workforce in the past decade that their large numbers have afforded them the power to transform the rules of the game in their work environment (Smola and Sutton, 2002; Twenge and Campbell, 2008). The practice of job crafting can be used as a method of modifying the rules of the game because job crafting boosts a sense of empowerment (Wrzesniewski and Dutton, 2001). As such, millennials who are active job crafters may feel more satisfied with their jobs than their older colleagues who are equally active in job crafting. In addition, being able to obtain needed resources also indicates a fulfillment of the psychological contract in the workplace where millennials have an unspoken understanding of quid pro quo. With higher ambitions and expectations of career development than their older colleagues, millennial crafters may find it more rewarding to receive additional resources as a signal of organizational support. According to social exchange theory, the higher level of perceived organizational support results in more OCB (Eisenberger et al., 1986). These factors, together, may facilitate millennial job crafters to engage in OCB more often than crafters of other generations.


There is an interaction effect between generation and job crafting for increasing structural and social resources. Millennials who craft their jobs for increasing structural and social resources are more likely to demonstrate OCB.

Career anchor

A career anchor is a person’s self-concept, consisting of self-perceived talents and abilities, basic values and, most important, the evolved sense of motives and needs as they pertain to the career (Schein, 1996, p. 80).

Among the eight career anchors identified by Schein (1985, 1996), service or dedication to a cause is of particular interest in this paper. This is because Millennials, equipped with technology-powered social networks, are especially aware of issues of social responsibility. Schein (1996) notes that an increasing number of young people tend to look beyond the monetary reward for their job and demand a meaningful job that serves the greater good of the world. To attract and retain millennials workers, many organizations are attempting to develop their image as socially responsible entities.

Holding a career anchor on service requires an individual to pay less attention to immediate gain or loss at the job, and care more about the meaningfulness of the work and how one’s work contributes to a better world. In a study by Rawlins et al. (2008), support was found for millennials placing more importance on the meaningfulness of work over pay. Millennials look for organizations that are socially responsible and offer jobs that are personally fulfilling (Rawlins et al., 2008). Further support is provided by Dries, Pepermans and De Kerpel (2008), who state that not only do millennials expect meaningful and challenging jobs, but they also expect jobs with learning opportunities that aid in their career advancement. Personal fulfillment due to meaningful and challenging jobs with ample learning opportunities is a source of intrinsic motivation that reduces the relevance of short-term concerns such as unsatisfactory payment, enhances the willingness to contribute to a larger context and promotes OCB.


A career anchor on service promotes OCB.

Millennials have close ties to their parents and value community and family (Pew Research Center, 2010) Having a career anchor on service can be especially appealing to them in that their work is part of a long-term mission that benefits the larger community, so what they do is supportive of what they value. A single organization, as the immediate community at work, is a good place to practice service. Millennials value an unconventional psychological contract with their organization that emphasizes work–life balance and high social involvement (Cennamo and Gardner, 2008). Service to the organization through the practice of OCB can take on a form of social involvement. Millennials are prone to perform service for their organizations, as their score on affiliation is higher than that of any other generational cohort and they are highly motivated in a cooperative work environment (Wong et al., 2008). Knowing that they contributed to organizational success by doing extra work (i.e. OCB) brings intrinsic rewards for millennials anchoring on service.

Lyons and Kuron (2014) reviewed the generation literature and found evidence that social career interest aimed at helping others is on the rise in successive generations (Bubany and Hansen, 2011) and with this generation cohort. This may generate additional willingness to help others and serve the organizational community as a demonstration of service-orientation in one’s career interest.

Note that in the earlier discussion, it was hypothesized that millennials are likely to engage in less OCB than other generations (H1). This is not necessarily contradictory to the interaction effect proposed here. Unlike value systems, which form at an early age, career anchors do not exist until individuals accumulate a certain amount of work experience. To form a career anchor, young people have to enter the job market, have their value systems and worldviews tested, make sense of the work/life boundary and crystallize their career goals. Moreover, they have to encounter difficult career decisions where they are forced to prioritize what they value most in their career, to firmly adhere to a career anchor (Schein, 1985, 1996). Given the relative young age of many millennials, they may still be in the process of identifying their career anchors. Although the generation is distinctively socially conscious, individuals may not have decided to dedicate their careers to a cause, such as social responsibility. Therefore, it is premature to assume that millennials overwhelmingly anchor their career on service; rather, the authors of this research suggest that this generation varies in its emphasis on service anchor. Of note, those who strongly care about working for a cause would conduct more OCB than their counterparts in other generations.


There is an interaction effect between generation and a career anchor on service. Millennials who hold stronger career anchors on service are more likely to demonstrate OCB.

In summary, this paper proposes a set of hypotheses that tap into the relationship between the millennial generation and OCB. Although this work predicts that millennials are overall less likely to engage in OCB, the relationship may be moderated by job crafting and a career anchor. This hypothesis is empirically tested in the next section.


An online survey was designed to collect data from individuals of different generations in the workforce. The participants were recruited from a crowdsourcing internet marketplace. They approached the survey through a link on the marketplace website and were rewarded with a nominal amount of incentive upon completion of the survey. A total of 500 (299 males and 201 females) full-time workers in the USA provided their responses. Participants in our sample were highly educated, experienced workers. In all, 334 (66.8 per cent) participants had completed college or graduate education, 388 (77.6 per cent) had work experience of more than five years and 197 (39.4 per cent) worked in managerial positions.


Organizational citizenship behavior. The survey adapted Podsakoff et al.’s (1990) instrument of the five dimensions of OCB. There were four items for civic virtue (e.g. “I keep abreast of changes in the organization”; α = 0.789) and five items for each of the other four dimensions. Sample questions of these dimensions are “I help others who have heavy workloads” for altruism (α = 0.892), “I believe in giving an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay” for conscientiousness (α = 0.784), “I try to avoid creating problems for coworkers” for courtesy (α = 0.834) and “I am the classic ‘squeaky wheel’ that always needs greasing” (reversely coded) for sportsmanship (α = 0.824)). Participants responded to all OCB items by rating on a seven-point Likert scale.

Job crafting. The survey adopted the instrument developed by Tims et al. (2012) to measure job crafting. In the four dimensions of job crafting identified in their questionnaire, increasing structural resources (e.g. “I try to develop my capabilities”; α = 0.963) and increasing social resources (e.g. “When an interesting project comes along, I offer myself proactively as project co-worker”; α = 0.870) were resource-related job crafting behaviors. There were five items on a five-point Likert scale measuring each of the two dimensions.

Career anchor on service. Schein (1985) developed the original measure for the eight career anchors. Igbaria and Baroudi (1993) later conducted two survey studies among IT workers and validated a short-form questionnaire on career anchors. The survey adopted the three items on a five-point Likert scale that remained in the short form to measure the career anchor on service (Igbaria and Baroudi, 1993, p. 138). A sample item requested the participants to rate the importance of “being able to use my skills and talents in the service of an important cause” (α = 0.671). The reliability of this measure was relatively low. The item measuring the importance of “using my skills to make the world a better place to live and work in” was removed so the Cronbach’s alpha increased to 0.744, which is above the recommended threshold of 0.7 (Peterson, 1994). In the Data Analysis section, the paper reports results based on the two-item instrument. Further analysis showed that using the original three items did not change the general results.

Millennials. The millennials were identified as those who were born between 1980 and 1997, inclusive, following the operationalization of Greenwood et al. (2012). The study required that the participants be working adults. Therefore, those who were born after 1997 were too young to take part in the study. In addition, for the purpose of this study, the paper groups the Xers and the boomers together as non-millennials (born in or before 1979). Millennials were coded as 1, whereas non-millennials were coded as 0. In our sample, 321 were millennials, accounting for 64 per cent of the total participants.


Descriptive analysis, correlation, ANOVA, linear regression analysis and hierarchical regression models were used to test the hypotheses. According to the correlation table (Table I), being a millennial was negatively correlated to four dimensions of OCB, whereas no significant correlation was found between being millennials and OCB on civic virtue. Table I also shows that, contrary to the general belief that millennials are more interested in service to the world, those in our sample did not differ from older generations on this inclination for their career anchor. Neither were they more apt to craft their jobs for more structural or social resources.

H1 indicates that millennials tend to demonstrate less OCB than older generations. Linear regression analysis shows that being a millennial appears to be negatively related to OCB. The negative relationship between being a millennial and OCB was significant (p < 0.01) for altruism (β = −0.15), conscientiousness (β = −0.21), courtesy (β = −0.16) and sportsmanship (β = −0.14) and marginally significant (p < 0.1) for civic virtue. In addition, one-way between-subjects ANOVAs were conducted to compare the effect of millennials on each of the five dimensions of OCB, and non-millennials. Consistent with the regression analysis, significant differences were found for the four OCB dimensions between millennials and non-millennials, whereas marginally significant difference was found for civic virtue. Thus, H1 was partially supported.

To test H2 and H3, hierarchical regression analysis was performed on each of the five OCB dimensions. H2 predicts that job crafting on increasing resources enhances OCB. In Model 1 of Table II, the two resource-seeking job crafting strategies were entered. The results indicated that the following:

  • The effect of job crafting on increasing structural resources promotes all five dimensions of OCB (β = 0.53 for altruism, β = 0.51 for conscientiousness, β = 0.54 for courtesy, β = 0.47 for civic virtue and β = 0.35 for sportsmanship).

  • The effect of job crafting on increasing social resources promotes two of the five dimensions of OCB, namely, altruism (β = 0.15) and civic virtue (β = 0.21). Thus, H2 was partially supported.

H3 suggests that there is an interactive effect between generation and job crafting so that millennials tend to demonstrate more OCB once they are engaged in crafting.

In the hierarchical regression Model 3 of Table II, the interaction terms between the two job crafting dimensions and being a millennial were entered. The results of slope analysis suggest that the interaction between job crafting on increasing structural resources and being a millennial has a significant positive impact on three of the five dimensions of OCB, namely, altruism (β = 0.42), courtesy (β = 0.72) and civic virtue (β = 0.49). Slope analysis of these interaction effects suggests that being a millennial reinforces the positive relationships between resource-seeking job crafting and OCB (Aiken and West, 1991). This provides partial support to H3. On the other hand, the interaction effect had a negative impact on sportsmanship, which is opposite to the prediction of H3.

Further, a series of ANOVAs were performed on each dimension of OCB to detect the differences between the slopes of job crafting among millennials versus non-millennials. For the OCB dimensions of altruism, courtesy and civic virtue, the slope of job crafting on increasing structural resources was positive and significantly steeper for millennials (0.82, 0.76 and 0.82) than non-millennials (0.58, 0.42 and 0.53). These results are consistent with those of the hierarchical regression. Therefore, H3 was partially supported.

To test H4 and H5, hierarchical regression analysis was performed on each of the five OCB dimensions. H4 indicates that there is a positive main effect of a career anchor on service on OCB. In Model 1 of Table III, the career anchor on service was entered. The results indicate that anchoring on service promotes four of the five dimensions of OCB, namely, altruism (β = 0.47), conscientiousness (β = 0.38), courtesy (β = 0.31) and civic virtue (β = 0.42). Thus, H4 was partially supported.

H5 suggests that the relationship between career anchor on service and OCB is moderated by being a millennial. In Model 3 of Table II, the interaction terms between career anchor on service and being a millennial were entered. The results show that the interaction between anchoring on service and millennials has a significant positive impact on three of the five dimensions of OCB, namely, altruism (β = 0.73), conscientiousness (β = 0.50) and courtesy (β = 0.56). Slope analysis of these interaction effects suggests that being a millennial reinforces the positive relationship between a service career anchor and OCB (Aiken and West, 1991). This is consistent with H3.

Meanwhile, a series of ANOVAs were performed on each dimension of OCB to detect the differences between the slopes of career anchor on service among millennials versus non-millennials. For the OCB dimensions of altruism, conscientiousness and courtesy, the slope of career anchor on service was positive and significantly steeper for millennials (0.72, 0.51 and 0.42) than non-millennials (0.31, 0.25 and 0.15). Thus, H5 was partially supported[1].


The findings from the online survey study among US full-time workers are informative to the literature of generation and career research. First, generally as predicted, millennials in our sample appeared to be less interested in OCB, compared to other generational cohorts. Although this effect might result from millennials’ infamous characteristics of entitlement, it indicates the need to intensify the dialogues with this generation to understand their perspective toward jobs and organizations.

Our findings also suggest that job crafting for increasing structural and social resources promotes certain dimensions of OCB. It appears that increasing structural resources had a more extensive and consistent impact on OCB than increasing social resources. It makes sense that increasing structural resources would be important to millennials, as they are constantly seeking to remain marketable in their field of work. As previously mentioned, millennials do not have high expectations of job stability as some of the older generations have. Thus, they are more intrinsically motivated to continuously seek opportunities that facilitate their continued learning and professional development. Although the directions of the significant effects were generally consistent with our prediction, the fact that increasing structural resources was more significant suggests that social exchange theory, which is based on interactions among relationships, is not the only mechanism that explains the effect. Further investigation is needed to explain the process through which job crafters are encouraged to engage in OCB.

It is worth noting that increasing social resources was negatively related to sportsmanship. This suggests that those who actively seek support from supervisors and colleagues are more likely to be vocal about negative organizational issues. The unfulfilled expectations of employer inducements might trigger this form of response from millennial employees. Vocalizing unmet needs or expectations can be one way of soliciting more resources or bringing issues to light in the workplace.

Consistent with our prediction, the career anchor on service was generally positively correlated with OCB. This finding reconnects individual careers to the interest of the organization after a period of withdrawal of organizational effort in advancing individual careers (Capelli, 2008). Millennials gravitate toward sustainable organizations that provide opportunities for involvement in personally fulfilling projects (De Hauw and De Vos, 2010). This research corroborates the notion that millennials value service to their organization. The results suggest that further investigations into the relationship between career anchors and job outcomes be conducted to clarify the relations between these variables.

It is particularly interesting to put the effect of career in the context of generational differences in the workforce. It was found that, despite their reluctance to conduct OCB, millennials could be more active in OCB when their career concerns are taken into account. Both job crafting in increasing structural resources and anchoring on service made millennials more prone to conduct OCB. The results may have implications for remedying the millennials’ disinclination for OCB.

The limitations of this study also shed light on future research. First, the survey participants were recruited from an online crowdsourcing marketplace. This is by no means a random sample. Therefore, one should be cautious when generalizing the results to the workplace. Meanwhile, as a study on workforce generations, the sample size was designed to be fairly big to enhance representativeness. This, however, also boosted the power to detect very small effects. Future research may use smaller random samples to validate the effects reported in this study.


Career concerns become salient issues among millennials as people increasingly view their jobs as part of a life-long career or a means to answer a calling, as individual careers flow across organizations and as these concerns reshape the way jobs are designed in organizations. With the development of research on job and career, there is a gap in the literature with regard to the impact of job design and career factors on job outcomes such as OCB (Grant et al., 2010). This research is among the initial attempts to assess such impacts. Our findings not only partially establish the link between millennials, job crafting, career anchor and OCB, but also highlight the interaction effects between millennials and job crafting and between millennials and career anchors, which reinforce the importance of examining these issues with generational factors. The partially significant results present opportunities for future research in examining the underlying mechanisms that lead to the effects on OCB. It also encourages more studies on the effects of these career- and generation-related factors on other job outcomes that are important to organizations.

Our findings have significant implications for practitioners as well. To increase OCB among millennials, management should implement practices that facilitate job crafting or align job content with millennials’ career interests. For example, organizations may establish upward communication channels and encourage millennial employees to express their concern and needs on the job. Organizations may also enhance flexibility and autonomy in jobs to promote innovations in task processing. With such organizational support, millennials would be motivated to excel at their work and behave as a citizen of the organization. In addition, managers should design jobs that are attractive to millennials by providing career opportunities rich in social impact, which will be especially meaningful for those who value a service orientation in their career. Further, organizations could seek to shape their identities as responsible corporate or world citizens by taking a leadership role in sustainable business practices and demonstrate to the millennials that OCB is an effective way to fulfill their need for service. The millennial employees would appreciate such practices, which would encourage them to take over additional responsibilities by helping other colleagues. These efforts would be essential to build an effective workforce in the twenty-first century.

Means, standard deviations and correlations of the study variables, N = 500

Mean SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1 Millennials
2 OCB: Altruism (1-7) 5.43 1.08 −0.15**
3 OCB: Conscientiousness (1-7) 5.42 0.99 −0.21** 0.63**
4 OCB: Courtesy (1-7) 5.69 0.91 −0.16** 0.70** 0.67**
5 OCB: Civic virtue (1-7) 4.97 1.16 −0.08 0.62** 0.53** 0.52**
6 OCB: Sportsmanship (1-7) 5.29 1.23 −0.14** 0.25** 0.34** 0.42** 0.17**
7 Job Crafting: Structure (1-5) 3.86 0.74 −0.08 0.59** 0.52** 0.51** 0.56** 0.21**
8 Job Crafting: Social (1-5) 3.00 0.94 0.04 0.38** 0.25** 0.16** 0.41** −0.17** 0.43**
9 Career anchor: Service (1-5) 3.75 0.87 −0.03 0.47** 0.38** 0.31** 0.42** 0.04 0.55** 0.41**

p < 0.05;


p < 0.01; *** p < 0.10

Regression of the five OCB dimensions – job crafting, millennials

Model OCB: Altruism OCB: Conscientiousness OCB: Courtesy OCB: Civic virtue OCB: Sportsmanship
1 Job crafting: Structural 0.53** 0.51** 0.54** 0.47** 0.35**
Job crafting: Social 0.15** 0.04 −0.07 0.21** −0.32**
2 Job crafting: Structural 0.51** 0.48** 0.52** 0.46** 0.34**
Job crafting: Social 0.16** 0.05 −0.06 0.22** −0.31**
Millennials −0.12** −0.17** −0.11** −0.05*** −0.10*
3 Job crafting: Structural 0.40** 0.42** 0.35* 0.34** 0.30**
Job crafting: Social 0.12*** 0.05 −0.01 0.22** −0.19*
Millennials −0.60** −0.39*** −0.66** −0.50* −0.02
Job crafting: Structural × Millennials 0.42* 0.24 0.72** 0.49* 0.19
Job crafting: Social × Millennials 0.09 −0.02 −0.18 −0.03 −0.34*

p < 0.05;


p < 0.01;


p < 0.10

Regression of the five OCB dimensions – career anchor on service, millennials

Model OCB: Altruism OCB: Conscientiousness OCB: Courtesy OCB: Civic virtue OCB: Sportsmanship
1 Career anchor: Service 0.47** 0.38** 0.31** 0.42** 0.04
2 Career anchor: Service 0.46** 0.37** 0.31** 0.42** 0.04
Millennials −0.14** −0.20** −0.15** −0.07*** −0.14**
3 Career anchor: Service 0.25** 0.22** 0.15* 0.34** 0.05
Millennials −0.82** −0.67** −0.68** −0.33*** −0.09
Career anchor: Service × Millennials 0.73** 0.50** 0.56** 0.28 −0.05

p < 0.05;


p < 0.01;


p < 0.10



Further details of ANOVA results and figures of slope analysis are available upon request.


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Supplementary materials

MRR_41_7.pdf (11 MB)

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Baiyun Gong can be contacted at: