Organizational Commitment

Organizational Commitment: Breaking It Down

Organizational commitment describes an individual’s psychological bond to the organization, including a sense of job involvement, loyalty, and a belief in the values of the organization.— O’Reilly (1989: 17)
  • Organizational Commitment is a state in which an employee identifies with a particular organization and its goals and wishes to maintain membership in the organization.

Individuals seek out organizations that fulfill their specific needs and desires and that allow for maximum utilization of their skills and abilities.

Organizational commitment specificallyrepresents a unique type of bond which emphasizes a stance of dedication and responsibility to the organization. It is regarded as an attitudeOpens in new window as it refers to the relatively stable mindsets of individuals towards their organization (Allen & Meyer, 1990).

The more favorable people’s attitudes toward the organization are, the greater people’s acceptance of the goals of the organization, as well as their willingness to exert more effort on behalf of the organization (Gbadamosi, 2003).

Definition of Commitment

Within the literatures in social psychology,Opens in new window commitment is often defined as a force that binds a person to a course of action that is relevant to a particular target.

The definition of commitment used in this literature closely follows a combined approach established by Mowday, Porter, and Steers.

  • Organizational Commitment is defined as the relative strength of an individual’s identification with and involvement in a particular organization.
  • Organizational commitment, therefore is built when individuals develop three sets of closely related attitudes toward their organizations:
  1. a belief in and acceptance of the organization’s goals and values,
  2. a strong desire to maintain membership in the organization, and
  3. a willingness to exert considerable effort on behalf of the organization.
Traditionally, organizational commitment has been defined through either a behavioral or an attitudinal approach.

The behavioral approach views commitment as the state of being bound to the organization by personal investment.

In contrast, the attitudinal approach refers to commitment as both a state in which an employee identifies with a particular organization and its goals and as the degree to which the employee wishes to maintain membership in the organization in order to assist in achieving these goals.

Research results have proven that commitment is a powerful source of motivation, and it can lead to persistence in a course of action, even in the face of opposing forces (Meyer, Becker, & Vandenberghe, 2004).

In contrast to the concept of motivation,Opens in new window which can have short-term implications for behavior, the binding nature of commitment has relatively long-term implications for an employee. Hence, commitment to the organization is a key variable in the high-performance cycle, because it can affect a person’s willingness to remain in the organization and to continue to set and commit to high organizationally relevant goals (Meyer & Herscovitch, 2001).

Strong culture organizations do much to develop this commitment and sense of ownership in their members. On the other hand, “in typical corporations, members comply with directions but may have little involvement with the firm beyond self-interest; that is, there is no commitment to the firm beyond that of a fair exchange of effort for money and, perhaps, status” (O’Reilly 1989: 18).

The Meeting Point Between Organizational Commitment & Occupational Commitment

Organizational commitment has also been related to occupational commitment. Because commitment is a manifestation of the individual’s self and reflects basic values, the nature of an individual’s involvement in an occupation is quite different depending on which form of commitment is predominant.

Allen and Meyer (1990) distinguished three forms of organizational commitment: affective, continuance, and normative.

  1. Affective commitment

    Affective commitment reflects a preference aroused out of a sense of emotional attachment to stay with the organization.

    Affective commitment develops when involvement in an occupation proved to be a satisfying experience (for example, it provided the opportunity to do satisfying work or the opportunity to develop valued skills).

  2. Continuance commitment

    In continuance commitment, preference to remain with the present organization is rooted in a sense of economic necessity (the employee recognizes high costs associated with leaving the occupation).

    Continuance commitment develops when the individual made investments (such as the time and effort in acquiring occupation-specific skills) that would be lost or reduced in value if he/she were to change occupations.

  3. Normative commitment

    In normative commitment, preference to stay with the present organization arises out of a sense of moral obligation to remain. The, normative commitment develops as the result of the internalization of normative pressures to pursue a course of action, and the receipt of benefits that created a sense of obligation to reciprocate.

    For example, a family history of involvement in a particular occupation, or receiving financial support to pursue a career could both contribute to the development of normative commitment (Meyer et al, 1993).

A person who is affectively committed (that is has as strong desire to remain in the occupation) is more likely than someone who is not so attached to keep up with developments in the occupation and to remain within the organization. The same is true of people who have a strong normative commitment (that is, a sense of obligation to remain).

In contrast, people who have a strong continuance commitment (that is, those who recognize the high costs associated with leaving the occupation) are generally less inclined than those who remain for other reasons to involve themselves in occupational activities besides those required to continue membership (Meyer, Allen & Smith, 1993).

The presence of organizational commitment is a stabilizing force indicating that the individual’s purposes are to a great extent aligned with those of the organization. Where objectives of the organization are in conformity with those of employee, it follows that the employees will act as organizational citizens in devoting efforts to organizational purposes much beyond what they can expect to be rewarded for.

Organizational behavior models predict that committed employees will be willing to make personal sacrifices and even perform organizational citizenship behaviorsOpens in new window for the organization and do not depend primarily on external rewards or punishments (Williams and Anderson 1991: 604; Wiener 1982: 421, 426).