Sunday, December 28, 2008

Organizational Commitment

In the fields of Organizational Behavior and Industrial/Organizational Psychology, organizational commitment is, in a general sense, the employee's psychological attachment to the organization. It can be contrasted with other work-related attitudes, such as Job Satisfaction, defined as an employee's feelings about their job, and Organizational Identification, defined as the degree to which an employee experiences a 'sense of oneness' with their organization.

Beyond this general sense, Organizational scientists have developed many nuanced definitions of organizational commitment, and numerous scales to measure them. Exemplary of this work is Meyer & Allen's model of commitment, which was developed to integrate numerous definitions of commitment that had proliferated in the literature. According to Meyer and Allen's (1991) three-component model of commitment, prior research indicated that there are three "mind sets" which can characterize an employee's commitment to the organization:

* Affective Commitment: AC is defined as the employee's positive emotional attachment to the organization. An employee who is affectively committed strongly identifies with the goals of the organization and desires to remain a part of the organization. This employee commits to the organization because he/she "wants to". In developing this concept, Meyer and Allen drew largely on Mowday, Porter, and Steers's (1982) concept of commitment, which in turn drew on earlier work by Kanter (1968).

* Continuance Commitment: The individual commits to the organization because he/she perceives high costs of losing organizational membership (cf. Becker's 1960 "side bet theory"), including economic costs (such as pension accruals) and social costs (friendship ties with co-workers) that would be incurred. The employee remains a member of the organization because he/she "has to".

* Normative Commitment: The individual commits to and remains with an organization because of feelings of obligation. These feelings may derive from many sources. For example, the organization may have invested resources in training an employee who then feels a 'moral' obligation to put forth effort on the job and stay with the organization to 'repay the debt.' It may also reflect an internalized norm, developed before the person joins the organization through family or other socialization processes, that one should be loyal to one's organization. The employee stays with the organization because he/she "ought to".

Note that according to Meyer and Allen, these components of commitment are not mutually exclusive: an employee can simultaneously be committed to the organization in an affective, normative, and continuance sense, at varying levels of intensity. This idea led Meyer and Herscovitch (2001) to argue that at any point in time, an employee has a "commitment profile" that reflects high or low levels of all three of these mind-sets, and that different profiles have different effects on workplace behavior such as job performance, absenteeism, and the chance that the organization member will quit.

Meyer and Allen developed the Affective Commitment Scale (ACS), the Normative Commitment Scale (NCS) and the Continuance Commitment Scale (CCS) to measure these components of commitment. Many researchers have used them to determine what impact an employee's level of commitment has on outcomes such as quitting behavior, job performance, and absenteeism. However, some researchers have questioned how well they actually assess an employee's commitment, and efforts to improve the validity of these scales, and similar commitment scales such as Mowday, Porter, and Steers' Organizational Commitment Questionnaire (OCQ), continues.

In addition to methodological investigations of the validity and reliability of these scales, recent research has focused on determining the cross-cultural validity of Meyer and Allen's measures (do employees in other countries/cultures experience commitment the same way as employees in the USA?), and on expanding the three-component model to other work-related foci (such as commitment to one's occupation, department, organization change initiatives, and work team).

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