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Post #18 (BeShalach): Jumping in–Going the extra mile

“There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.” – Roger Staubach

“As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites caught sight of the Egyptians advancing upon them. Greatly frightened, the Israelites cried out to God” Exodus 14:10.

“Then God said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to Me? Speak to the Israelites; have them move forward. And you lift up your rod and hold out your arm over the sea and split it, so that the Israelites may march into the sea on dry ground’” Exodus 14:15–16.

Picture this: The Israelite nation was standing on the banks of the Red Sea with the Egyptian chariot-driven army in full pursuit. They were fearful, probably panicking, crying to the Lord for salvation.[1] Moses sought to calm the people by assuring them that the Lord was actively protecting them. In an arresting exchange, the Lord's response to Moses was unexpected: "‘Why are you crying out to Me? Speak to the Israelites; have them move forward.‘"[2]

Rabbinic commentators viewed this directive as a response to a paralyzing impasse: There is certainly a time and place for prayer, but this was a time for action, and none of the tribes seemed to have enough faith or confidence to make the first move and proceed through the still unparted sea. Rabbinic sages were struck with this predicament, speculating in a midrash[3] that a man named Nachshon, the son of Aminadav from the tribe of Judah, took in the stalemate and then performed his heroic initiative: He jumped into the Red Sea, triggering its parting and enabling all to cross to dry land. Nachshon had received no instruction to do so, not even from his own tribe, but he saw that he could be instrumental in resolving this impasse for the nation to complete the Exodus. In modern times, Nachshon’s name has been equated with making the first move to resolve an impasse. [4]


Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB)

Is your job description all that binds you to your work? Workplace behavior can be distinguished by in-role behaviors (your formal job requirements) and extra-role behaviors (primarily discretionary actions outside your job description). Extra-role behaviors typically benefit your colleagues and the organization and are performed without direct compensation. Many examples of extra-role behavior come to mind: offering to help a stressed colleague complete a project, being a good sport after having been skipped over for a promotion, going beyond your work commitment to ensure that your team has accomplished a critical task, or taking over on short notice for a colleague who needed to attend to personal business.

Organizational citizenship behavior (OCB), a widely studied concept in organizational behavior, highlights that going the extra mile carries benefits for the individual performing the behavior as well.. OCB is likely to occur more frequently if the organizational culture supports it and if it is not limited to a small cadre of "do-gooders." OCB carries with it benefits such as reducing stress at work, infusing work with meaning, invigorating performance, and enhancing interpersonal relationships.

Studies in employee selection have found that the personality dimension of conscientiousness is linked to optimal performance levels for both in-role as well as extra-role behaviors. Conscientious individuals are more likely to complete assignments, have self-discipline, and relate well to coworkers.

Points to Ponder:

  • Perhaps not surprisingly, some work settings or colleagues may not be so impressed by extra-role behavior. They prefer a serious commitment to one's contractual job description responsibilities rather than be taken in by "distractions." In these settings, your efforts to help others through stressful times may cause you to be seen by some as, paradoxically, a sucker or a patsy. However, studies have shown substantial personal benefits accruing to the individual performing pro-social behavior beyond the benefits to the organization.

  • Leaders aware of the benefits of OCB can take the matter into their own hands by modeling behaviors they would like to see in their staff. Modeling behaviors, such as being considerate and patient with others, jumping in to help in stressful situations, not standing on ceremony, and even pitching in on projects outside work hours, could work wonders in promoting OCB.

  • Try this: Clients rarely complain about receiving more than they bargained on, whether it’s quicker delivery, aesthetic packaging, patiently explaining a complicated warranty, or even contacting the client for a follow-up after supplying the merchandise or service; these actions often lead to what has been called customer delight. However, never let these extras substitute for the promised service.

[1] Exodus 14:10. [2] Exodus 14:15. [3] Midrash is a form of rabbinic literature that interprets and elaborates upon biblical texts, mostly legends compiled from the 5th century CE through the medieval period

[4] In another event where an Israelite stepped in when the nation was at an impasse: The Israelites were sinning with the daughters of Midian and worshiped the Midianites' idol Peor, bringing on a plague that spread among the people. Aaron's grandson, Pinchas, made the first move, impaling the sinning Israelite, Zimri, a Simeonite prince, and a Midianite princess in front of Moses and the people, thus stopping the plague. Numbers 25:1-8.


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