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Work Commitment

 "Individual commitment to a group effort -- that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work." --Vince Lombard

Commitment is complex and a multi-faceted construct, and can take different forms. Work commitment has been defined as the relative importance between work and one’s self (Loscoco, 1989). Work commitment is seen as a person's adherence to work ethic, commitment to a career/profession, job involvement, and organizational commitment (Morrow, 1993).  Individuals can feel committed to an organization, top management, supervisors, or a particular work group. Commitment has been examined with regard to "career, union and profession" (Darolia, Darolia, & Kumari, 2010). Studies showing instances of high work commitment have also proven to highly relate to organizational performance.  It is the second most commonly studied job attitude in I/O psychology for this reason (PSUWC, 2013). It affects all organizations at some level and enables companies to evaluate issues like turnover during times of varying economic stability. All of these attitudes interact to shape the conceptual framework of each individual's work commitment. The following information analyzes these attitudes as well as other organizational concepts, research, and real world applications. 

Importance of Work Commitment

The success or failure of an organization is closely related to the effort and motivation of its employees. The motivation of employees is often the product of their commitment towards their job or career. Work commitment is an extremely important topic for organizations to understand. The level to which an employee engages in his or her work (job involvement), commits to and believes in the organization's goals and purpose (organizational commitment), desires to work (work ethic), and commits to a specific career or profession can all have an impact on an organization. In today's economy, where organizations are expected to do more with less resources (i.e., people and money), it is extremely important for organizations to retain their highly productive employees. "Employees who are engaged in their work and committed to their organizations give companies crucial competitive advantages - including higher productivity and lower employee turnover" (Vance, 2006, p.1).

Communication is one of the best ways to keep employees engaged. It is important that employees are listened to, valued, and encouraged to provide feedback. In turn employers must respect employee’s opinions and follow-up on commitments and responsibilities they have promised employees. By keeping channels of communication open, employers and employees can benefit from mutual trust and respect. In addition it is imperative that communication be across all levels of the organization, from top management down as well as internally and externally (Stirling J. 2008).

In short, the importance of work commitment is dependent upon the organization itself. If the organization wants to become competitive and grow, as in the example above, it will place a great deal of importance on the level to which employees are engaged in their jobs and how committed the employees are to the organization. On the other hand, if the organization is content with high turnover, low-producing employees, and high absenteeism, they should not be concerned with work commitment. However, the leaders of that organization must realize that, at some point in its organizational life cycle, the organization will undoubtedly have to compete with an organization that does place importance on work commitment, which could end up being detrimental to the continued existence of the organization.



The Four Components of Work Commitment

Work Ethic Overview

The concept of work ethic was first defined in 1904 by a German sociologist by the name of Max Weber. Work ethic has been described as a person’s desire to work and has been commonly considered a personality trait. While it may be a common idea that every person possesses a certain level of need to work, this trait has differing levels ranging from individuals with very high levels, to individuals with very low levels, and to others that fall in between (PSUWC, 2011). Social Cognitive Theory states that part of a person's actions are created by his or her personal characteristics (PSUWC, 2013). The notion of work ethic is a person's desire to work (Pinder, 2008), has been found to be an individual differences variable, and often considered a personality trait (PSUWC, 2013).

Originally labeled Protestant Work Ethic, Weber "argued that the Protestant characterization of work values supported the spirit of capitalism by emphasizing the importance of continuous, hard work and by providing a moral justification for the accumulation of wealth" (Atieh, Brief, & Vollrath, 1987, p.577).  He traced the beginnings of modern work ethic back to the 16th century Puritan belief that “diligence in the performance of work was seen as perhaps the highest form of Christian obedience” (Mudrack, 1997, p.217). 

Through his work Weber sought to explain "the fact that people pursue wealth and material gain (the achievement of profit) for its own sake, not because of necessity" and felt that the Puritan "concept of calling for the individual to fulfill his or her duty in this (rather than the other) world" explained their behavior (Furnham, 1990). Thus, he believed Puritans sought salvation "through economic activity" (Furnham, 1990).

Today, however, work ethic has little, if anything, to do with "being Protestant or even religious" (Mudrack, 1997, p. 217). A more modern definition of work ethic places more emphasis on "dedication to hard work, deferment of immediate rewards, conservation of resources...and the avoidance of idleness and waste in any form" (Christopher & Jones, 2004, p.281). Miller, Woehr and Hudspeth (2002) define work ethic as: "a constellation of attitudes and beliefs pertaining to work behavior. Characteristics of the work ethic construct are that it (a) is multidimensional; (b) pertains to work and work-related activity in general, not specific to any particular job (yet may generalize to domains other than work - school, hobbies, etc.); (c) is learned; (d) refers to attitudes and beliefs (not necessarily behavior); (e) is a motivational construct reflected in behavior; and (e) is secular, not necessarily tied to any one set of religious beliefs (p.455)."

Some of the values connected to the concept of work ethic include "hard work, autonomy, fairness, wise and efficient use of time, delay of gratification, and the intrinsic value of work" (Pogson, et al., 2003, p.190). Accordingly, people who possess these values will have a strong work ethic (Pogson et al., 2002). In many circumstances, individuals fail to understand a person’s work ethic when they do not consider external factors such as a person’s ability levels, resources that are available to perform a job, and other extenuating circumstances (Pinder, 2008). Failure to understand the effects of these factors, cause many to believe a person is lazy and has a low level of work ethic.

Recently work ethic is a more widely accepted idea in the American Culture (PSUWC, 2011). In fact, bosses are more likely to blame an employee's work ethic for any work related failures before looking into any other possible explanations, such as lack of abilities or resources to complete certain tasks (PSUWC, 2011).

Work Ethic Strengths and Weaknesses

Strength of this concept is that it has been researched since the beginning of the twentieth century. This research has been very productive, as it has contributed to the aspects of work such as a person’s success at work, leadership, insight, and perception on job performance (Childs & Klimoski, 1986). According to Pinder, individuals have different levels of a need to work. Therefore, working is valued by individual’s distinct perception of the requirements to complete a job. A unique weakness of this concept was that it was only referenced to religion when first developed. Furthermore, societal viewpoints on the work ethics of an individual have played a negative role on the appraisal of work ethics. “In fact, a whole generation was labeled lacking work ethic for the economic downturn of the early 1970s by managers because of this tendency to ascribe job performance to motivation levels among Americans” (Nord, Brief, Atieh & Doherty, 1988). To date, no comprehensive synthesis of work ethic research has been conducted (PSUWC, 2011).

In Entrepreneur there is an article by Jacqueline Whitmore called, "7 Elements of a Strong Work Ethic," which lists examples of positive work ethic. Examples of the elements are as follows: Professionalism, Respectfulness, Dependability, Dedication, Determination, Accountability and Humility. First of all Professionalism, involves aspects from the way you dress to the way that you present yourself. Respectfulness employs poise and diplomacy regardless of the deadline and mounting frustrations causing flaring tempers. Dependability accounts for timeliness and keeping your word in regards to completing assignments and gaining trust from customers and coworkers. Dedication is putting in the extra effort to complete tasks as best as possible even if it means working extra hours. Determination is considered as overcoming obstacles to push forward in achievement of success. Accountability is taking responsibility for your own actions regardless of making mistakes or undesired outcomes that may result. Finally, Humility is ensuring that all involved receive credit for their hard work from management as well as encouragement and appreciation from you. Also, you are willing to learn from others and accept criticism (Whitmore, 2015).

An article by Robert Vaux, Demand Media lists different aspects that show negative work ethic. Lack of productivity, such as, rushing through assignments or waiting until the last minute to complete them often turns in lower quality work, as well as running the risk of missing a deadline. Attendance can reflect negative work ethic if they take full advantage of sick days or arriving late to work. Politics can also be a sign of poor work ethic by fueling the fire of discrepancies among coworkers causing management extra work by trying to return the work attitudes to normal. Finally, Esprit de Corps refers to personal relationships within the workplace and negative work ethic is produced when someone repeatedly refuses to participate in company activities, (Vaux, n.d).

Work Ethic Research

A great deal of research has been done on work ethic, much of which has been done using "the Mirels and Garrett 19-item scale" (Christopher, Zabel & Jones, 2008), which "provides a total score which reflects overall work-ethic endorsement (McHoskey, 1994, p.49). Much of the research suggests a link between work ethic and conservative attitudes (Atieh, et al., 1987) as well as a tendency for those with a strong work ethic to "hold others responsible for their outcomes in achievement-oriented situations" (Christopher, & Jones, 2004, p.281). Some research indicates those with a strong work ethic may tend to have negative attitudes toward the poor and unemployed (Christopher et al., 2008) and that an extremely strong work ethic can lead to becoming overworked and exhausted (Harden, 2008). Other research, however, has supported "positive relationships between work ethic and work-related outcomes" (Meriac, Poling & Woehr, 2009, p.209) and suggests that those with a strong work ethic "work harder, persist longer, and produce more at repetitive, monotonous tasks" than others and are "highly competitive" (Mudrack, 1993, p.261).

Because of these studies and others showing that those with a strong work ethic tend to "be more committed, satisfied, and involved in their jobs" (Hassall, Muller & Hassall, 2005, p.330), work ethic has become "the top-ranked factor when hiring administrative employees" for many American managers (Meriac et al., 2009, p.209).  As a result, "organizations have become interested in identifying employees who are committed to the inherent value of work in general (i.e., work ethic) and by doing so, "aim to build a workforce that will proactively engage and persist in behaviors that promote the effectiveness of the organization over time, tasks, and situations" (Meriac et al., 2009, p.2009). 

Commitment to Career/Professional Overview 

Commitment to career/profession is a relatively new idea and refers to a person's level of commitment to a career path rather than a commitment to one particular organization. We have seen over time a change in the way people’s commitments to their organizations have changed. The average American now has seven careers over their lifetime (PSUWC, 2013). Career commitment is moving with the economic times and focused less on human relationships (PSUWC, 2011). Career and/or professional commitment, compared to organizational commitment, is more focused on the individual and their career path. Whereas organizational commitment is associated with an employee’s desire to stay with an organization or their feeling of a strong bond with a particular company, career/professional commitment is a person’s commitment to a particular profession, such as teacher or accountant (PSUWC, 2011).

Accountants or professional athletes are examples of careers with high associated with career/professional commitment.  If a person enjoys accounting as a profession and has aspirations to become a partner in a large accounting firm, they are probably more likely to move to multiple organizations and take various accounting roles within these different companies during their working life to best position themselves to reach their goals. Similarly, professional athletes normally have a shorter period of time where they are considered to be “in their prime.” To reach their goals and make the most money they can in this short time, athletes move from team to team in an effort to find the best fit for them as well as increase their chances of winning championships. For both of these examples, staying in one organization may limit a person’s ability to reach their career or professional potential because of constraints within the organization – monetary constraints, limited upper level positions for growth, etc.

Commitment to a career/profession is also largely dependent on the career/profession in question. For example, nurses may stay within the medical realm for a longer time period than a marketing company executive. Each career has its limitations on upward mobility, amongst a vast number of other variables. Research on commitment to career/profession has split careers into two separate categories of professional employment: professionals working in professional organizations, and professionals working in non-professional organizations (Rahman & Hanafiah, 2002). Professional employees tend to be more committed to their profession and its values than to their employers or organizations (Howell & Dorfman, 1986).

Commitment to Career/Profession Strengths and Weaknesses

Beginning with childhood, most Americans have developed an idea of the profession they will choose to pursue as a career. During a person’s adulthood that career will evolve and go through several changes. The typical American will change their career seven times during their adult working life (Campus, 2011). One of the strengths of Commitment/Career Strength is the range of time that it covers. This component of the overall organizational commitment theory covers employee’s commitment trends over their entire professional life. Research indicates that a person’s career and professional commitment will vary over time based on employer assurances that their career will expand and grow. An employee’s commitment to every career they pursue provides a rationale for expanding an individual’s knowledge, skills, and ability toward ones profession. On the other hand, the lack of empirical research of career/profession commitment is a weakness within this theory.

Commitment to Career/Profession Research

In research performed by Aranya, Pollack, and Amernic (1981) on Canadian certified public accountants and discussed in a dissertation by Poznanski (1991), which focused on the accounting profession, a correlation between organizational and professional commitment was found. In this research they found that organizational commitment was greatest at higher-level positions (in the reviews of accountants, this would be the partner level) and professional commitment was higher for lower level positions (entry level accounting positions in companies). This makes sense because the higher one is within an organization; the chances are that they are reaching their goals along their career path. With more of their professional goals met, there is now a sense of identifying more with an organization.  In addition, based on a series of studies, Goulet and Singh (2002) concluded that, "if an individual is attached to his job and organization, and he likes what he does in that position, he is more likely to present a high level of career commitment" (Career Commitment, 2011, p.328).  Interestingly, scientists disagree on what type of commitment affects another: "Chang (1999) found that career commitment has a significant influence on organizational commitment; and Goulet and Singh (2002) found that organizational commitment is a significant determinant of career commitment" (Career Commitment, 2011, p.339).

Organizational Commitment Overview

Organizational commitment is defined as the degree of an individual’s relations and experiences as a sense of loyalty toward one’s organization. In addition to loyalty, organizational commitment encompasses an individual's willingness to extend effort in order to further an organizations goals and the degree of alignment the organization has with the goals and values of the individual (Mowday, et al.1979). Organizational commitment refers to the extent to which an employee develops an attachment and feels a sense of allegiance to his or her employer (PSUWC, 2013).  The emotional attachment that one may form with their company would help build a stronger commitment.

In 2013 a study called "Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement" was conducted by SHRM, Society for Human Resource Management, revealing that 40% of employees were very satisfied, and 90% were somewhat satisfied ("SHRM," 2014). This would mean that only 40% of those employees were likely to have a strong emotional commitment towards their company. Allen and Meyer (1996) have defined organizational commitment as a psychological link between an employee and his or her organization that makes it less likely that the employee will voluntarily leave the organization. Organizational commitment is related to job satisfaction in that both deal with the nature of workers' emotional reactions to work.  However, commitment can be applied to the entire organization, whereas satisfaction is applied to the specific job.  Organizational commitment is viewed as more stable than satisfaction.  An individual also relates commitment to job involvement and the level of job involvement.

Within this theory, the concepts applied to the commitment to an organization are the work ethics of individual and the intensity of participation by said individual. These concepts can determine the level of commitment to an organization. However, the application of these concepts can be directed by several variables such as age, culture, emotions, personality traits, desires, and individual differences among other factors and can be present to a certain degree in many situations. These theories are not strict categories of commitment.  Often times there is overlap among them.

Categories of Organizational Commitment

Given that the nature of organizational commitment is layered in terms of one’s possible commitment level, three specific commitment types have been identified: 

Affective Commitment – Refers to one’s feelings of loyalty to a company or organization because he or she believes in the organization. This is the most common type studied and refers to "an employee's emotional attachment to and identification with the organization" (PSUWC, 2013).  Because of this loyalty, one is fully willing to accept the company’s goals and values as his/her own.  Affective commitment can enhance job satisfaction because employees agree with the organization’s objectives and principles, because employees feel they are treated fairly in terms of equity, and because employees receive organizational care, concern, and support (Hawkins, W.D. 1998). Affective commitment involves staying with the organization because you want to (PSUWC, 2013).  This type of commitment is typically the result of a supportive work environment in which individuals are treated fairly and the value of individual contributors is embraced.



Continuance Commitment - Refers to an employee feeling that he/she has to stay with the company because the costs of leaving are too great. This is manifested by an individual who maintains commitment to the organization because he/she is unable to match salary and/or benefits with another employer.  Continuance commitment involves staying with the organization because you have to (PSUWC, 2013).  For example, an employee that has already vested many years in a company building up years of leave, employee benefits (such as pension) and salary.  If the employee were to leave to the company, he/she may lose the time vested, as well as seniority and pension loss.  It would not be beneficial for this employee to leave, so he stays because he has to, not because he wants to stay loyal to the company.  While employees may remain with an organization, they do not necessarily feel compelled to perform at a high level.



Click here for a humorous video on Continuance Commitment                                                                           


Normative Commitment – Of the three types of commitment, normative is the least researched of all of them and refers to the employee that feels that he/she owes it to the employer to stay out of a perceived obligation. These feelings of obligation may come because the employer took a chance on the employee when nobody else would. In turn, the employee feels indebted to the employer. Therefore, by a show of loyalty and duty, it would be difficult to leave. Normative commitment involves staying with the organization because you ought to (PSUWC, 2013).  For example, an employee may feel a sense of obligation to stay with their employer during its time of need even though it is no longer advantageous to do so. They may fear the potential disappointment in their employer or teammates.


Click here for a video on Normative Commitment

Organizational Commitment Strengths and Weaknesses

All three-commitment components have been negatively correlated to turnover within organizations. This entails that the increased level of commitment decreases the possibility of turnover. "Not surprisingly, affective commitment has been more strongly related to job satisfaction than continuance commitment" (Mathieu & Zajac, 1990). Affective commitment can enhance job satisfaction because employees agree with the organizations’ objectives and principles, feel they are treated fairly in terms of equity, support, and the organizational care they receive (Hawkins, W.D. 1998). People who progress in a career with a particular organization usually acquire more organizational commitment than those who join along the way (Africa News, 2008).

The causality of the relationship between job satisfaction and organizational commitment is difficult to determine. Nevertheless, it has been shown that these commitment levels do correlate with job satisfaction. Someone who has a high level of job satisfaction is also likely to have a high level of job involvement and organizational commitment (PSUWC, 2011).

According to Redmond (PSUWC, 2011), employees who have an elevated continuance of commitment possibly will not participate at work as required by the organization. Employees in this category only stay with the organization because they have to, are often not devoted to the organization in a satisfying way, and may leave when another opportunity presents itself. Continuance commitment is usually studied by looking at the amount of time an employee has been with a company (tenure) and the employee's alternatives. Government employees are thought to have a higher continuance commitment than other sectors based on the relative job security they feel they possess (Mowday, et al.1979).

Organizational commitment involves more than just company loyalty; it is the employee intrinsically wanting to defend against criticism both internal and external (Business Daily Review, 2008). From an individual perspective, organizational commitment has been linked to intrinsic motivation and job satisfaction. Likewise, from an organizational perspective, organizational commitment has positively contributed to organizational attachment (Joo & Lim, 2009).

Some scholars have found that a moderate amount of job insecurity leads to improved work performance, while others have found that it can lead to decreased work performances (Africa News, 2008). It is therefore assumed that any organization that is downsizing or laying-off employees will notice a significant decrease of trust between management and employees. As a result, those employees who remain on the job after downsizing and corporate restructure often experience sharp drops in organizational commitment (Africa News, 2008). Therefore in the aggregate, companies should strive to hire and retain employees with high organizational commitment because it can "increase performance, reduce absenteeism, [and] reduce turnover," thus providing positive outcomes for both the individual and the organization (Cohen & Golan, 2007, p. 421).

Dynamics of Relationship of Perceived Support, Motivation, Organizational Commitment and Work Outcome 

Woo, B. (2012, January 1).  

At the foundation of organizational commitment is out motivations and job satisfactions with those. "Motivation is not the only explanation of behavior. It interacts with and acts in conjunction with other cognitive processes. One way of stimulating people is to employ effective motivation, which makes workers more satisfied with and committed to their jobs. Specific employee attitudes relating to job satisfaction and organizational commitment are of major interest to the field of organizational behavior and the practice of human resources management. Attitude has direct impact on job satisfaction. Organizational commitment on the other hand, focuses on their attitudes towards the entire organization. Although a strong relationship between satisfaction and commitment has been found, more recent research gives more support to the idea that "commitment causes satisfaction" (Tella, Ayeni, & Popoola, 2007). It is our individual motivations that shape our job satisfaction. Job satisfaction then positively affects commitment and finally, turnover. If you can recall from the commentary, work ethic "is a constellation of attitudes and beliefs pertaining to work behavior. Characteristics of the work ethic construct are that it (a) is multidimensional; (b) pertains to work and work-related activity in general, not specific to any particular job (yet may generalize to domains other than work---school, hobbies, etc.); (c) is learned; (d) refers to attitudes and beliefs (not necessarily behavior); (e) is a motivational construct reflected in behavior; and (e) is secular, not necessarily tied to any one set of religious beliefs (p. 455)" (PSUWC, 2014). Commitment behavior is reflected in the way we perform at our jobs. High job satisfaction equals higher performance, this then supports the perspective of motivation as a mediator.  For example, some people work hard to make sure the organizations goal is accomplished not solely because of career commitment and organizational values but more so because of professional commitment and the fact of whether their personal values coincide with organizational values.

A Profile in Organizational Commitment

When Robert Pio Hajjar was born with Down syndrome in 1977, his parents were told to “put him away and forget about him” (Robert Pio Hajjar, n.d.).  Robert has proven the doctors wrong - in a big way.  In 2006, Robert used his life savings of $62.05 to co-found Ideal Way with his aunt, Addie Daabous.  "Ideal Way is a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring and motivating people with intellectual disability, and others, to reach their potential” (Ideal-Way, n.d.).  The organization's vision is to ensure that everyone feels Included, Deserving, Equal, Appreciated, and Loved (Ideal-Way, n.d.).

 Robert is an exceptional example of a person who demonstrates affective commitment to an organization.  He does not just identify with Ideal Way; he is the face and the voice of Ideal Way.  Robert is emotionally attached to the organization as well as to its goals and values (PSUWC, 2014).  Those values include caring, integrity, courage, and progressive (Ideal-Way, n.d.).  Robert’s philosophy is, “The cards that were dealt to me in life are not as important as how I play them” (Robert Pio Hajjar, n.d.).

Robert’s strong work ethic and intense job involvement are apparent.  As an international motivational speaker, he works tirelessly to spread the organization’s message.  As an organizational leader, he believes in creating a collaborative environment in which diversity is valued, and in which staff and volunteers are empowered to take the bold steps needed to effect change.  As a peer, he inspires passion, spirit, determination, and courage (Ideal-Way, n.d.).  Robert clearly stays with Ideal Way because he wants to; because he truly loves the organization.  Work ethic, job satisfaction, motivation, and organizational commitment are highly related, and these attitudes interact to paint an “overall picture of how people perceive work” (PSUWC, 2014). 

Click here to see Organizational Commitment in action

Gender and Organizational Commitment

Some recent research has focused on how men and women perceive work commitment differently. While both genders must find a work/life balance, this can be particularly tricky for women who are generally considered to be the primary caregivers of children as well as the person most responsible for maintaining the household. One study that analyzed this concept within the teaching profession concluded that career commitment for women was focused more on "giving, learning, and helping" (Fisher, 2007, p. v) while men focused more on academic research, which was more likely to further their careers. Fisher goes on to argue that measures of work commitment are largely male-biased and ineffective in determining to what extent women are committed to the organization. 

Generation Y and Organizational Commitment

A recent study highlighted in Journal of Property Management indicates that Generation Y individuals (born 1980-2000) are likely to spend only a little over two years in their first job and change jobs multiple times in their career. It also indicates that only 7% of Gen Y work for fortune 500 companies due to the increased interest within this demographic for start-up companies. The article indicates that if large corporations want to remain competitive, they must aggressively recruit this age group. The Gen Y'ers are credited with actively shaping corporate culture and expectations and will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025 (JPM May-June 2012).

                                                                                                                                                              Graph Link

Managing Generation Y employees requires a better understanding of what motivates and attracts these individuals to remain committed to an organization. In the United States, four generations of workers, Traditionalists (75 million born before 1945; 10% of the workforce), Baby Boomers (80 million born 1945-1964, 45% of the workforce), Generation X (46 million born 1965-1980, 30% of the workforce), and Generation Y (76 million born after 1980; 15% of the workforce), find themselves employed together for the first time (Eisner 2005). Workforce commitment among Generation Y employees differs from those in older generations, but not for lack of work ethic. Members of Generation Y value different workplace attributes compared to older generations and understanding these differences can improve workplace commitment from Generation Y employees. Younger generations value status more so than Baby Boomers and Generation X employees (Cennamo and Gardner, 2008). Generation Y employees may feel increasing status will allow them to speed up job progression, whereas older generations have already established their careers. Generation Y employees were also found to value freedom-related items more than their older peers (Cennamo and Gardner, 2008). Younger workers prefer more flexibility in terms of work hours and supervision compared to older employees who prefer a more traditional job model including visibility in the office during certain hours. Older generations may be more prone to working certain hours because they feel this is a sign of hard work ethic, compared to younger workers whose productivity is driven by task completion (Bloomberg 2008).

Additional research supports the idea that employers should consider meeting Generation Y expectations by moving towards a Skill Based Pay model. This looks to increase pay based on skill-sets, knowledge and breadth of experience, rather than performing a key set of responsibilities. Employees paid in this manner are encouraged to expand their knowledge so as to add further benefit to their company. Generation Y employees find this model appealing as it encourages growth over time in service, or years with a company. As many within the workforce see themselves working for multiple employers in their life, this structure suits their desire to grow and learn and makes employers who offer this more attractive (Haeberle, n.d.).


Job Involvement Overview

In general terms, job involvement is the level at which an employee is engaged in his or her daily work. The level of job involvement or engagement can be determined by a person's needs, values, work ethic (personal characteristics), organizational setting (environment), and the characteristics of the job. Employees with low job involvement can feel alienated by feeling their job does not have a purpose, that they are not important in the organization, or they cannot see the connection between their work and who they believe themselves to be in "life" (Hafer & Martin, 2006, p. 3). This definition implies that a job-involved person sees his or her job “as an important part of his/her self-concept” (Lawler & Hall, 1970, p. 311).

Workaholism Overview

Workaholism is an employee’s excessive work involvement, a very high drive to work, and a lack of work enjoyment (Aziz & Zickar, 2006). Since workaholics tend to put their work before anything else in their lives, they typically have a poor work-life balance and low life-satisfaction. Employees that work long hours or work hard are not necessarily considered workaholics; they just might have a high work ethic. A workaholic is simply somebody who resolves their entire life around work even when they are not working. They typically do not enjoy activities outside of work. For example, a workaholic may be at his/her child's sporting event and be more preoccupied with planning their next work event (PSUWC, 2013).  Being a workaholic is an addiction, akin to all other types of addictions (PSUWC, 2013).  Workaholics have a psychological need to work that is detrimental to themselves and others. 
Workaholism and job involvement, at times, appear to have overlapping characteristics, such as controlled by personal characteristics, absorption of work, and are defined by personal needs. Workaholics also posses a few unique characteristics, which are outlined in the chart below:

Job Involvement Strengths and Weaknesses

The strength in job involvement comes from the inspiration, commitment, and demands that an employee faces within the job. Individual’s involvement within the job is at there own accord. Therefore, job satisfaction can be enhanced when employees are involved within the job. Strength of job involvement also decreases absenteeism and turnover. “Research shows that job involvement is related to job satisfaction” (Cheloha & Farr, 1980; Gorn & Kanugo, 1980) “and that job involved individuals are less absent from work” (Cheloha & Farr, 1980). A weakness of job involvement is the extreme of this concept. Workaholism is excessive work involvement, a high drive to work, and lack of work enjoyment (Aziz & Zickar, 2006). According to Aziz & Zickar (2006), workaholics are extremely involved within the job and the individuals are deficient in pleasure of the work. This phenomenon affects the employee’s life in every aspect. Although they may realize their behaviors could potentially ruin their lives, similarly to the way other addictions can affect lives, workaholics may destroy relationships with those around them due to their psychological need to continually work and their inability to stop. Eventually, job satisfaction tends to decline, thus possibly leading to less commitment to the job.

Job Involvement Research

Research has shown that there is a relationship between job involvement and job satisfaction (PSUWC, 2010). Therefore, individuals who hold a negative attitude towards their work may also experience lower job satisfaction. The combined effect of negative attitude toward one's work and low job satisfaction can result in increased absenteeism and turnover, as those who are not fully engaged in their jobs are more likely to be absent from work or to leave the organization. Keeping employees engaged is one of the biggest challenges for managers. Happy people are normally productive people, and research suggests relationships are the biggest single determinant of productivity within a group (Stirling, 2008). The goal is to get employees to identify with and care about their jobs. The greater the success at this, the more the job becomes important to each employee's self-image, or work identity, which reflects the basic definition of job involvement (Hafer & Martin, 1995).

Relationship to Other Theories

Job Involvement is strongly related to many other theories of work motivation.  Some of those relationships are detailed below.

Expectancy Theory

Expectancy theory states that motivation is based on expected outcome of potential actions. Where job involvement is concerned, if expectations are lower than the inducement offered by the employer, job involvement increases.  When expectations are lower than the inducement, however, job involvement decreases.

(Akhtar, 2010)

Integrated Theory Model

According to the integrated theory model, job involvement is determined by the disposition held by the individual, meaning individual personality characteristics; personal attitude towards a particular job, including things like leadership style and ability to be part of the decision-making process; and the interaction between these two factors. All components equally influence job involvement.

 The Job Involvement Theory Model of Rabinowitz and Hall (1977). (Akhtar, 2010)

Multi-Dimensional Model of Job Involvement

Yoshimura (1996) suggests that job involvement is composed of three components: emotional involvement, cognitive involvement, and behavioral involvement. Emotional job involvement is dictated by interest and attachment to the job. Cognitive involvement is dictated by how important the job is in the individual's life or how much they want to participate in the job decision-making process. Behavioral involvement indicates how often the individual engages in work-related activities or thinking outside of the workplace.


Emotional job involvement


Cognitive job involvement

Psychological state
Active participation

Behavioral job involvement

Behavioral intention
Extra-role behavior
Voluntary learning



Union of Municipalities of Marmara Case Study

A 2010 article summarizes the case study conducted on the Union of Municipalities of Marmara County to ascertain the Union workers' organizational commitment.  Based on the findings of the case study, it was recommended that changes in policy procedures be made to improve organizational commitment.  Subordinate workers were found to display continuance commitment to the union as opposed to their superiors due to the significant difference in pay.  It was suggested that the wage system be explained in greater detail to the subordinates or change the wage regime altogether in order to correct this problem (Bozlagan, et. al. 2010).

In addition, it was noted that male workers tended to exhibit affective commitment and continuance commitment, while female workers were described as having normative commitment.  One way to improve organizational commitment amongst the male workers is to create friendships, cooperation, and solidarity among the male coworkers.  To increase organizational commitment amongst the female workers, the Union should be more effective in expressing female workers' value and importance to the company (Bozlagen, et. al. 2010).

Lastly, the study confirmed the fact that the continuance commitment corresponds with the working period.  Those workers who were employed for a longer period of time tended to show continuance commitment compared to their cohorts who expressed normative commitment.  One way to improve the organizational commitment is by offering additional trainings, giving more employees additional opportunities to advance in the company (Bozlagen, et. al. 2010).

Research on Work and Organizational Commitment

Work commitment is the second most commonly researched concept in I/O psychology, only second to job satisfaction. Work commitment has been linked to many different aspects of job attitudes through this research. Due to the vast plethora of research conducted on work and organizational commitment, only some of these aspects of job attitudes will be addressed here.

In research conducted by Maurer and Lippstreu (2008) on individual commitment to organizations who provide employee development opportunities, the complexities of commitment are brought to light. In this study, one's orientation to learning was found to be a significant moderator to commitment. If an individual maintains a low learning orientation, the organization who attempts to foster learning/development activities may negatively associate commitment to the individual.

While there are many possible explanations for this, one primary reason is that the individual "…is being expected to exert effort on learning/development beyond what he/she wants" (Maurer & Lippstreu, 2008, p. 339). This effect is also seen among "performance oriented" employees, whereby an individual who perceives that learning will "stretch" them beyond their preferred performance level, may negatively influence their commitment to the organization (Maurer & Lippstreu, 2008, p. 339).

To mitigate the potential for adverse influence on commitment, Maurer and Lippstreu (2008) recommend hiring learning-oriented employees, and fostering learning in employees who are low-learning oriented or perhaps more practically, highlighting the "non-learning-oriented aspects of the organization" to foster commitment in employees with different orientations (p. 339). This requires organizations to assess and respond appropriately to individual differences in order to develop an environment of commitment.

Organizational commitment has been helpful in predicting turnover, absenteeism, and tardiness. Therefore, a lot of attention has been paid to this theory by both researchers and managers (Gattinger, 1992). Many studies have been done to compare organizational commitment across the globe. Most of this research has been conducted by investigating countries of vastly different cultures. Studies conducted to determine the difference in the levels of commitment between the United States and Japan found that there was very little difference between the two countries (Gattinger, 1992). It was determined that the small amount of difference found between the two countries was based in the social cultural differences.

Camp (1993) investigated job satisfaction and organizational commitment to determine which had a greater impact on turnover. The analysis confirmed that higher levels of organizational commitment were associated with lower levels of turnover. It was also determined that job satisfaction showed no significant relationship to levels of turnover (Camp, 1993).

Cooper-Hakim and Viswesvaran (2005) set out to determine inter-correlated aspects of work commitment and the impact of work commitment and sub dimensions of work commitment on outcome variables such as job satisfaction, job performance, turnover intentions, and turnover. Results indicated “there was a substantial overlap between affective and normative organizational commitments” (Cooper-Hakim & Viswesvaran, 2005, p. 252). The results state; however, that the correlation is modest, “…which suggests that concept overlap neither is excessive nor results in redundancy (Cooper-Hakim & Viswesvaran, 2005, p. 252).

Research from the University of Haifa showed that many employees with high levels of emotional intelligence were more dedicated and satisfied at their place of work and with their personal work. The study surveyed over eight-hundred employees and managers in two public sector organizations and also two private companies, examining the influence of emotional intelligence on factors such as organizational politics, work attitudes, formal and informal behavior, feelings of justice, and burnout. The study found that employees with high levels of emotional intelligence would rate the level of justice within their organizations as higher than their peers. The employees also were more satisfied with their jobs and more committed to their specific organizations. Factors such as burnout, intention to leave, or negligent behavior were less prevalent. Employees with higher levels of emotional intelligence also perceived the impact of organizational politics as less severe and demonstrated better coping skills, using less aggressive forms of persuasion to influence supervisors. One of the researchers, Dr. Galit Meisler concluded "this study has shown that employees with a higher level of emotional intelligence are assets to their organization. I believe it will not be long before emotional intelligence is incorporated in employee screening and training processes and in employee assessment and promotion decisions" (Emotional Intelligence and Job Satisfaction, 2010).

Another significant research study was performed in a university setting where quality of work life was evaluated in relation to organizational commitment. Because researchers had found that the higher the education level the lower the organizational commitment, they wanted to evaluate other factors that may raise employees attachments (Sayyadi & Sarvtamin, 2011). Sayyadi and Sarvtamin defined quality of work life with eight concepts: (1) adequate and fair compensation, (2) safe and healthy working conditions, (3) immediate opportunity to use and develop human capacities, (4) opportunity for continued growth and security, (5) social integration in the work organization, (6) constitutionalism in the work organization, (7) work and total life space and (8) social relevance of work life (Sayyadi & Sarvtamin, 2011). The researchers utilized a descriptive method where they analyzed the correlation between quality of work life and commitment. The researchers found that the organization commitment was high at the university and upon evaluating the survey responses of their study also found that the quality of life constructs were high as well. Their conclusion attributed the high commitment towards the high quality of work life constructs (Sayyadi & Sarvtamin, 2011).

Many organizations and companies in the United States run the risk of losing their employees who feel under-valued and demotivated as the economy recovers. This is according to a web survey by Kelton Research for the "learning and talent management solutions provider" Cornerstone OnDemand. This statement shows the increased pressure in workplaces resulting from things like budget and staff cuts. The study shows that loyalty and commitment cannot be bought. The survey shows solutions to improving commitment to be based on improved communication skills and empowering performance. The study surveyed nearly six hundred working Americans of whom 56% agreed that after compensation and benefits, the feeling that they were appreciated in their workplace would encourage them to stay in their current position. More women than men identified this as a significant factor (62% compared to 50%). This compares to 46% of the total who said opportunities for career advancement would motivate them to stay. Just over half (54%) felt that colleagues appreciated them more than supervisors or senior managers (Loyalty and Employee Retention, 2010).

Other significant findings include:

  • 68% said they had received no useful feedback from supervisors in the last six months
  • 82% have not agreed to career goals with their supervisors
  • 53% lack a clear understanding of how their role contributes to company objectives
  • 25% have been given new duties or responsibilities that they feel are beyond their skill set

Adam Miller, president and CEO of Cornerstone OnDemand said, "American workers simply want to be empowered to do a good job and be recognized for their contributions. If companies don't clearly communicate how employees can contribute to organizational goals and provide adequate training and performance feedback, they risk losing their best people as the economy improves. This kind of turnover is costly and can dull a company’s competitive edge" (Loyalty and Employee Retention, 2010).

Job Satisfaction Survey

In 2008, a survey created by The Segal Company, a New York-based compensation, benefits and HR consultancy, showed that state and local public sector workers under age forty tended to focus more on their career (job security, opportunities, higher level training) than their older colleagues, and were also more likely to actively look for work at another company.

Elliot Susseles, the senior vice president of the Segal Company, said, "The study found that the biggest driver of turnover for employees under forty is dissatisfaction with career opportunities and job content. This suggests the importance of establishing and communicating career path opportunities, work development and interesting work assignments to successfully recruit and retain younger employees."

The two age groups had the same concerns about pay and benefits but pay rates remained less important than the benefits for all workers, regardless of age. However, satisfaction levels for pay rate and career were low for both age groups. Segal considered that these findings reflected the challenge of attracting and keeping new talent in state and local public service.

The following table compares under and over forty year olds in the public sector: 


Age under 40

Age 40 plus

Importance of work rewards



Career is important



Pay is important



Benefits are important



Satisfaction with work rewards



Satisfied with career at present



Satisfied with pay



Satisfied with benefits



54% of those under 40 said they would be actively looking for work elsewhere within the next year, compared with 42% of the older group of those 40 plus (Emotional Intelligence and Job Satisfaction, 2010).

Active Engagement of Employees Around the World

Deloitte LLP (2014) surveyed over 2,500 organizations in more than 90 countries and learned companies are struggling to engage today’s workforce.  Additionally, in a 2011-2012 Gallup study of 142 countries and around 180 million employees shows only 13% of employees are engaged at work worldwide.  This means 63% lack motivation and less likely to invest discretionary effort in organizational goals or outcomes (Crabtree, 2013).  Engagement levels among employees vary in different global regions and even in the countries within those regions (Crabtree, 2013). Further, being an economically developed region does not necessarily mean more will be engaged.  For example, across 19 Western European countries only 14% are engaged, whereas 33% are actively engaged in North Africa and 35% in the Middle East (Crabtree, 2013).  Below is a chart comparing the countries and regions in the Gallup study (Crabtree, 2013):

Additionally U.S. companies today are failing to engage their employees.  Studies have shown that disengaged employees can cost organizations approximately $3400 a year. This essentially affects the American economy with a loss up to 350 billion dollars annually (Entrepreneur).  William Kahn explains, “Engaged employees express themselves physically, cognitively and emotionally during role performances (David, 2013).”  An engaged employee works more efficiently, shares the same vision and goals, and possesses a better overall attitude.

Without active engagement from employees, employers risk higher turnover and costs to their companies.  Employers need to understand what motivates and increases active engagement in their employees in order to gain the organizational commitment they want from employees. It is also important to note that those actively disengaged employees can act as poison in the well of a company. These are individuals that are unhappy at work, and are acting on this unhappiness in ways that can negatively impact their coworkers who might otherwise be engaged employees (Sterling, 2008).   

Application of Work Commitment in the Workplace

As we have already discussed in the above sections, placing a great deal of importance on work commitment will not only benefit employees, but will also benefit the organization. In the example in the above section, the organization increased productivity by 70% in one plant and saved $8.8 million per year due to decreased absenteeism, turnover, and overtime. This was the direct result of an effort the company initiated to increase employee engagement and organizational commitment. In addition to the cost savings and productivity increases associated with employee engagement and commitment strategies, organizations can reap other benefits as well. Below is an example from the Molson-Coors organization.


 Source: Vance 2006

The illustration furthers the idea that organizations could stand to benefit from implementing employee engagement and organizational commitment strategies. Organizations that change employee attitudes towards their work and the organization will have employees who are more satisfied. They will be willing to "go the extra mile," be at work when they are supposed to be, get their work done with quality, and stay with the organization. As we have seen in the examples above, this, in turn, will produce tangible results for the organization in the form of increased productivity (and a decrease in overtime needed), decreased turnover and associated recruitment costs to fill the open position, decreased safety incidents and associated costs, and higher sales volumes.

As is the case of importance of work commitment, communication is vital to keeping employees engaged in their work and loyal to the company.  Another key to boosting successful work commitment is including top management in any downsizing or strategic organizational changes (Evans et al. 2009).

Organizational commitment is a very important aspect of an individual's work attitude as has been explained in previous sections. A study done by Porter, Steers and Boulian(1973) found that “ Organizational commitment...proved to be a better predictor of turnover than job satisfaction”(p.18). The feelings someone places on their relationship with a given organization and how they identify with that organization can have a substantial effect on turnover, absenteeism, production, and other areas as well. Organizational commitment has emerged as a principal topic and has been studied in regards to its relationship with absenteeism, turnover, burnout, job satisfaction, and job performance in the workplace. In order for an organization to develop organizational commitment within the workplace, they need to facilitate an employee's belief in the organization's goal's and values, a willingness to exert considerable effort on behalf of the organization, and a definite desire to maintain organizational membership, among other things (Porter et al., 1973).

One way to elicit organizational commitment in employees is to develop empowerment and empowered employees. Empowerment means giving employees the authority, skills, and self-control to perform their tasks (Park & Rainey, 2007). Empowerment has been associated with increased motivation, satisfaction, organizational commitment, and, ultimately, job performance. According to Park and Rainey (2007), “ Empowered employees should have higher levels of motivation, commitment, and other positive job attitudes” (p. 205). There are several ways an employer can empower their employees in the workplace. These include: Assigning tasks that will allow your subordinates to grow and take on additional responsibilities, explaining the reason for the task being given, giving clear and concise directions, allowing and encouraging questions from employees, demonstrating that you trust your employees, soliciting suggestions from your employees as to better ways of completing tasks, and things of this nature that have a direct effect on the work being completed and the job itself (Bowden & Lawler, 1995). In conjunction with empowerment employers also need to focus on creating meaningful, challenging, and interesting work. Each of these conditions were found to be associated with affective and normative commitment (Park and Rainey, 2007). Increasing organizational commitment within employees through affective and normative commitment was shown to have a “significant effect on job satisfaction, perceived performance, and quality of work” (Park and Rainey, 2007, p.219).


All of the information that has been provided above is done so in order to describe work commitment and organizational commitment. Work commitment is "seen as being constructed of a person's adherence to work ethic, commitment to a career/profession, job involvement, and organizational commitment (Morrow, 1993). This means that work commitment is made up of all of these different areas. Due to this, all of these areas of work commitment have also been described, along with how they effect the motivation and job satisfaction of employees. Work ethic was described as a personality trait and is basically just the amount that a person wants to work (PSUWC, 2011). Career/professional commitment is described as the person's commitment to reaching his/her own goals through personal growth. This commitment is more toward a profession than to a specific organization. Job involvement is the amount of time that is spent on work tasks. Job involvement is very important for work commitment.  However, it can very quickly become an obsession. Working too much and becoming absorbed by nothing but work is something called workaholiism and information on what this is and the effects of it are also discussed above. Organizational commitment is the "extent to which an employee develops an attachment and feels a sense of allegiance to his or her employer (PSUWC, 2011). Organizational commitment is made up of three levels of commitment: affective, continuance, and normative. Basically, to sum up all this information, all of these areas are important in order to determine an individual's work commitment since it has been found to be correlated with job satisfaction and motivation.


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