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How to turn your employees into Ninja Citizens?

Lieke Weterings, Ninja Expert

11 December 2018

All managers want to have a high-performing workforce. But their dream is not about having employees that are motivated to perform well. It’s about having employees that go beyond the tasks they are officially assigned to. A type of employee that won’t complain about working hard, but someone who helps colleagues out. Does such an ideal worker exist? And how could you create such true “Ninja Citizens”?

What is Organizational Citizenship Behavior?

I recently found out that there is a lot of research done concerning this subject. The correct term for this kind of behavior is OCB: Organizational Citizenship Behavior. How to call employees that display OCB? I like to call them Ninja Citizens.

A Ninja Citizen goes above and beyond the level of duty. Such an employee helps colleagues to solve problems, persists in difficult conditions and talks about the organization in a positive manner.

To be a Ninja Citizen, it it important that you behave in this way voluntarily. Not because your boss asked something or because your salary depends on it. If that would be the case, this kind of behavior would likely have a negative effect on the employee’s engagement and health. 

Above and beyond!

A company of Ninja Citizens by Ninjafy

The effects of having Ninja Citizens in your team

Studies show that having Ninja Citizens in your team is related to various outcomes that are beneficial for your organization.

In a company consisting of Ninja Citizens, there is usually a higher customer satisfaction and overall effectiveness of the organization. Employees are also more willing to help each other. This leads to better teamwork and closer connections between the different team members. Ninja Citizens are also less likely to leave a company compared to employees that don’t display this kind of behavior.

For the employee, being a Ninja Citizen is also beneficial. It turns out that these employees are much more engaged, get greater overall evaluations and in turn receive higher salaries.

“Ninja Citizenship leads to higher customer satisfaction and overall effectiveness of the organization.”

How to boost your employees to become Ninja Citizens?

If you want to stimulate your employees to become Ninja Citizens, it’s important that the leaders in your company inspire this behavior. 

Of course, there are multiple things that contribute to this. Think about the various subjects we discussed in previous Insights: providing employees with autonomy to make their own decisions, allowing employees to learn and keep improving themselves, increasing engagement by letting employees feel they have a very important role in the development process.  

These are all ways to make people feel fully responsible for their own tasks. If employees perceive their tasks as personal goals, in which their own performance determines whether they will reach these goals, they are willing to work much harder to achieve these goals. Because they deeply care about their job.

Why would you be a positive, hard worker when it comes to your job? Because you like it! Creating Ninja Citizens is not about a leader expecting more and more from his or her workers. It’s about employees just working hard, because they want to. Because the more they work, the more fun they have. 

The Ninja Citizen: 1) feels responsible, 2) helps others and acts ethically, 3) understands company goals. 

Photograph by Sasint via Pixabay

As a leader, it is also very important to create an organizational climate characterized by ethical behaviour. Building trust relationships between employees and their manager is extremely important for this. How to do this? First, make sure you consistently reward appropriate and give constructive feedback on inappropriate behavior. Second, make sure that you communicate the expected behavior effectively. Especially the latter is a common problem in many organizations.

Next time when your employee went above and beyond to reach the team goal, openly thank her for sacrificing her extra hours. When on the other hand someone acts in a way that only benefits himself, take the time to talk in a 1:1 about how to align this behavior better with the company goals.  If you do that, you should make sure the employees are aware of these rules and perceive them as fair. Not sure they agree with the rules? Why don’t you try to discuss those rules with them?

In the same way, explaining your organizational goals can contribute to an ethical climate. Research shows that managers’ behavior has an influence on employee’s decision making. That’s why you have to  discuss your organizational goals together. If you explain why you act in a certain way, employees are more likely to understand the reason for your behavior and perceive this as fair.

“To create Ninja Citizens, leaders will need to focus on increasing ownership, trust, and understanding.”

What should we get from this?

A lot of people are Ninja Citizens. To stimulate this kind of behavior, multiple aspects are important. 

As a leader, you have an extremely important role in this. If there is a small distance between employees and their leader, the Ninja behavior of the leader has a direct effect on employees becoming Ninja Citizens.

So what should you do as a leader? You should not only create a climate characterized by ethical behavior and trust and make employees feel fully responsible for their tasks, but also be an honest role model. In that way, you can get the best out of your people!

Lieke is Ninja Expert at Ninjafy with a deep passion for human behaviour and helping others to make people love their work. Connect with her on LinkedIn

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