Purpose: Good soldiers are people who engage in citizenship behaviors “to do good” instead of “to look good”. The purpose of this article is to explore the motivations behind and the specific characteristics of behaviours of the good soldiers in the context of work using social exchange theory (SET) as a theoretical framework. Design/methodology/approach: A total of 47 dyadic interviews with 94 individuals from three organisations where good soldiers are most likely to be observed were conducted. Findings: Data analysis revealed that good soldiers are driven by concern for others and generalised reciprocity, but not by expectations of self-benefits. Their actions were further found to be discretionary, reactive and proactive and associated with different levels of self-sacrifice. Practical implications: The findings of this study point human resources (HR) practitioners' attention towards qualitatively unique acts of good soldiers. An assumption is made that awareness of such behaviours can help organisations to stimulate individual self-motivation, so that the quality of helping behaviours could be improved. Originality/value: Arguing for a fundamental rethink of the psychological foundations underpinning helpful behaviours, this paper departs from predominantly individualistic view on work motivation and reinforces the other-oriented, altruistic dimension of SET. In doing so, it addresses the lack of conceptual and theoretical clarity on differently motivated helping and extends the existing limited research evidence in this area. It further addresses a need for a comprehensive understanding of other-oriented behaviours and accounts for vital – yet neglected – features of such acts.