Organizational Commitment


An organization’s prevailing culture affects important outcomes such as commitment and performance. For example, support and innovation culture dimensions lead to high organizational commitment. In addition, cultural values and attitudes and human resources practices influence employees’ work effort and commitment. Furthermore, organizational culture is enforced through organizational practices. 

Early conceptualizations of organizational commitment were based on an attitudinal perspective, embracing identification, involvement, and loyalty, which refers to psychological attachment or affective commitment. Attachment to the organization is characterized by an intention to remain in it. Identification is with the values and goals of the organization, the extent of which links the employee to the organization. Finally, involvement is a willingness to exert effort on behalf of the organization.

The calculative or normative perspective emphasizes weighing the cost-benefits of leaving the organization, resulting in being locked into an organization.

The two-dimensional view distinguished affective commitment, the positive feelings of identification with, attachment to, and involvement in the work organization, and continuance commitment, the extent to which employees feel committed to their organization by virtue of the costs associated with leaving.

A third dimension was added later, namely normative commitment, defined as the employee’s feelings of obligation to remain with the organization.

Organizational commitment is a psychological state that characterizes a member’s relationship with the organization. It has implications for the decision to continue or discontinue membership in the organization. As a psychological bond, it includes a sense of job involvement, loyalty, and belief in the organization’s values. Organizational commitment is characterized by an employee’s acceptance of organizational goals and the willingness to exert effort on behalf of the organization, providing the individual with a binding force to a course of action relevant to organizational targets. Organizational commitment is the relative strength of an individual’s identification with and involvement in an organization. It is an attitude (an evaluative statement or judgment, either favorable or unfavorable, concerning a phenomenon) characterized by favorable positive cognitive and affective components about the organization, binding their actions and beliefs to sustain their activities and involvement. 

The Organizational Commitment Model (Meyer & Allen, 1997)

The model’s three dimensions, affective, continuance, and normative commitments describe how organizational commitment develops and the implications for employees’ behavior.

Affective commitment is (the relative strength of) the employee’s emotional attachment to, identification with, and involvement in the organization. For example, “I want to continue working for the organization because I view my employment relationship as congruent to the goals and values of the organization. Positive feelings towards the organization characterize my attitude. My identity is linked, or attached, to the organization.”

“My needs and expectations about the organization are matched by my actual experience, and there is a value congruence.”

Affective commitment is influenced by factors such as job challenge, role clarity, goal clarity, goal difficulty, receptiveness by management, peer cohesion, equity, personal importance, feedback, participation, and dependability. It develops from identification to internalization.

Continuance commitment is the awareness of the costs associated with leaving the organization. “I stay in the organization because I need to.” This instrumental attachment is based on an assessment of the economic benefits gained. “I am obtaining positive external rewards through an effort-bargain without identifying with the organization’s goals and values. My available alternatives are few and the accrued investments are high.” Accumulated investments include pension plans, seniority, or organization-specific skills. Performance and loyalty are offered in return for material benefits and rewards.

Normative commitment is a feeling of obligation to continue employment and arises through socialization within the community or the organization. It is based on a norm of reciprocity.

Organizational commitment develops in stages, moving from compliance to identification and internalization. In the compliance stage, the employee accepts the influence of others, mainly to benefit from them through remuneration or promotion. Attitudes and behaviors are adopted to gain specific rewards. The compliance stage is associated with the continuance dimension commitment. “I stay because of what I receive.”

In the identification stage, employees accept the influence of others to maintain a satisfying self-defining relationship with the organization. “I feel proud to be part of the organization; the roles I have in the organization are part of my identity.” Identification is based on the normative commitment dimension, “I stay because I should; I am guided by a sense of duty and loyalty towards the organization.”

Internalization occurs when the employee finds the organization’s values intrinsically rewarding and congruent with his or her personal values. The employee develops a sense of belonging based on the affective commitment dimension at this stage. “I stay because I want to stay, and my values are congruent with the group and the organization.”

Factors influencing organizational commitment

Job-related factors such as an ambiguous job role, promotional opportunities, level of responsibility and autonomy connected with a job; 

Employment opportunities in terms of available desirable alternatives;

Personal characteristics such as tenure or seniority; satisfaction with one’s levels of work performance; 

A work environment in terms of ownership; participation in decision-making creating a sense of belonging; work practices related to recruitment and selection, performance appraisal, promotions, and management style; 

Positive relationships such as a fair supervisory relationship in its practices, a social atmosphere and a sense of purpose, and work relationships that reflect mutual respect; 

Organizational structure in terms of bureaucratic barriers versus flexible structures providing employees with direction and influence. 

A management style that encourages involvement; satisfies the employee’s desire for empowerment; provides motivators, matches employee aspirations, and is flexible and participatory improves commitment.

Effects of organizational commitment

Effects of under-commitment include fear of success or failure, procrastination, and underachievement. Effects of over-commitment include over-loyalty, burnout, obsessive-compulsive patterns of work, neurotic compulsion to succeed, and extremely high level of energy. In addition, commitment is positively correlated with productivity and feelings of affiliation, attachment, and citizenship behavior, which tend to improve organizational efficiency and effectiveness. Conversely, commitment is negatively correlated with absenteeism, turnover, reduced effort expenditure, theft, job dissatisfaction, and unwillingness to relocate.

Managing organizational commitment

Organizational commitment is fostered by giving individuals positive experiences. Perceiving an organization as valuing humanity engenders affective commitment. The value of convention is correlated with continuance commitment. Less hierarchy that encourages one on one contact and the coordination of shared goals and communication; job designs with an emphasis on work teams, and employee involvement in decision-making processes positively impact commitment.

Perceived fairness in human resource policies and practices is a big one; to be fair and to be seen as fair. Policies and practices that are perceived to enhance employees’ self-worth lead to affective commitment. The perceived cost of loss in human resource practices gives way to continuance commitment; the perceived need to reciprocate gives rise to normative commitment.

However, not too much should be expected from campaigns to increase organizational commitment. Keep an eye on employees’ need for fulfillment, self-esteem, and social support; engender trust; and treat them like adults to foster a sense of belonging.