Very little is known about the relationship between experiencing success at work (e.g., reaching goals, finishing working tasks, etc.) and work-related attitudes. Experiencing success is likely to be related to health and positive affect (e.g., Grebner et al. 2010). According to Affective Events Theory (Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996) positive events at work influence affective-based behavior. We therefore assume that goal attainment positively influence organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) and negatively influence counterproductive work behavior (CWB) over time and vice versa.
We used data from a longitudinal study, containing three waves, with a time lag of one month. The sample consisted of 164 Swiss and German employees (42% men) and covers a high variety of jobs, including different employment areas (e.g., health & civil service, education). Subjective success was measured with the SUCCESS-scale (Grebner, Elfering, Achermann, Knecht, & Semmer, 2008). To assess OCB we used the FELA-S questionnaire (Staufenbiel & Hartz, 2000), and CWB was measured with the interpersonal and organizational deviance-scale (Robinson & Bennett, 1995).
Cross-lagged structural equation models (Amos 18) were used to test our hypotheses. Our results are different for OCB and CWB. OCB has a positive cross-lagged effect on subjective success (one month and two months-lag), whereas the reversed path from success to OCB was not significant. However, success did (negatively) predict CWB, and this result held for both time lags. Conversely CWB marginally predicted goal attainment, but only for a time-lag of two months.
Our results suggest an upward spiral: OCB leads to success, and success leads to decreased CWB. Overall, the results emphasize the importance of experiencing success, which should receive more attention in organizational research than it has so far. Further research should replicate these “asymmetric” differential associations with positive (OCB) and negative (CWB) behavior towards the organization.