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Business faculty win award for paper about volunteering

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College of Business Administration

College of Business Administration

KINGSVILLE (November 28, 2023) —  Volunteering can make a person feel good about themselves, help people less fortunate than yourself and provide free work to those who cannot afford to pay. But, did you know if people are forced to volunteer or do community service, that it can cause vigilante behaviors, counterproductive work behaviors and other negative repercussions.

Drs. Xiaochuan Song and Zhuofan Zhang, both assistant professors in the management, marketing and information systems department in the College of Business Administration at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, won Best Paper in the Management Track at the 2023 Academy of Business Research Conference for their offering, “Investigating unintended consequences of employee volunteering activities.”


Lead author Song said, “Volunteerism is widely acknowledged as an effective way to create positive societal impacts for all stakeholders and contribute to the betterment of our society. Many corporations have embraced volunteerism by encouraging or even requiring their employees to participate in various volunteering activities and making volunteerism become part of their job list.


“However, there is limited research addressing the potential unintended consequences of mandatory volunteering programs, and the underlying mechanisms leading to these negative outcomes remain unexamined. In our study, we have delved into the unanticipated repercussions of mandatory volunteering activities.”


Song proposes that organizations should consider implementing human resource management policies that not only acknowledge and reward employees’ voluntary contributions, but also allow employees the freedom to choose their volunteering engagements.


Some of the negative repercussions from mandatory volunteering includes monitoring, investigating and reporting the behaviors of people around them, workplace gossip, intentionally slowing down work efficiency or feeling emboldened to criticize other people, Song added.


However, when volunteering activities are truly voluntary, it benefits both the employees and the organization. “For employees, it will increase their feeling of meaningfulness, organizational identification and sense of belonging and motivation. For an organization, it will enhance their image, reputation and customer preference,” he said.


“I feel excited that the business research community is recognizing the importance and value of my research like volunteering and aligning with global efforts such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and the Business Roundtable initiatives,” Song said.


“It also is essential to acknowledge that every endeavor has its pros and cons. In the context of these pro-social initiatives, it is crucial not to overlook the potential negative consequences that can arise,” he added. “My research is dedicated to shedding light on these unintended effects, serving as a wake-up call for businesses to be mindful of such issues.”


“The most significant contribution of this research is the fact that we have taken a very different approach, a more nuanced perspective, but we have theoretically explored a psychological entitlement effect at work, because this is an area of morality and altruistic behavior that is understudied,” said co-author Zhang.


“As someone who has always been interested in ethical and moral behavior within the workplace, the chance to win this award gives me the feeling that our peers have taken notice of this topic, which motivates me to pursue further research in the field,” she added.


Song sees two possible options for companies.

  • A mandatory volunteering program that moves to extrinsic motivation like recognition or rewards to employees so there is a balance between employees’ input and return.


  • A truly volunteering program that moves towards intrinsic motivation with a program, where employees are not forced into participating.



Category: Business Admin , General Univ

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