For much of the 20th century in America organizational commitment has been perceived as an after effect of a person’s work ethic, but modern research suggests it is more closely related to job satisfaction and feelings of commitment toward an organization. In 1990 researchers Natalie Allen and John Meyer identified three forms of commitment and examined their link to organizational commitment: affective commitment, continuance commitment, and normative commitment (Allen & Meyer, 1990; cited in PSU Psych. 484 Commentary, Lesson 12, p. 5).
Affective commitment refers to an employee staying with a company because they want to (PSU Psych. 484 Commentary, 2011, Lesson 12, p. 5).
Continuance commitment refers to an employee staying with a company because they have to (PSU Psych. 484 Commentary, 2011, Lesson 12, p. 5).
Normative commitment refers to an employee staying with a company because they feel as though they ought to (PSU Psych. 484 Commentary, 2011, Lesson 12, p. 5).
These varying levels of commitment along with their overlapping and inter-correlating tendencies help to explain employees' perceptions of their work, and reasoning behind their attitude towards their organization (PSU Psych. 484 Commentary, 2011, Lesson 12, p. 8). These components of organizational commitment are further explained later in the case study analysis.
This case study examines these three forms of commitment in four individuals facing reorganization of their company; Mary, Kyle, Carlos, and Larry. We will look at the ways these different forms of commitment affected the employees of XYZ corporation during a time of dramatic change in company operations and management philosophy.
Details of Case Study
In the late 1980’s XYZ Corporation was going through a major change. Not only were they building a new plant several miles across town from their long standing manufacturing site but the culture and philosophies were about to make a dramatic shift. XYZ manufactured electronic components as far back as the 1960’s when they hand assembled tubes and other circuits. Over time the company developed more complex products that were hand assembled by long assembly lines of workers. These products developed rapidly over several years and as a result a new plant was being built with new robotics and automated material delivery systems that would be run by self directed work teams. Management personnel were changing and bringing in a new direction and philosophy that required a more technically educated work force. Human Resources began recruiting engineers from the highest rated colleges and placing them in positions within engineering, material procurement, and shop floor supervision. The leadership stressed that each person would own their career and should expect several changes and jobs in their lifetime. Literature was being distributed describing the lean and efficient automated factory of the future that ideally would include machinery and a dog; the machinery would build the product and the dog would protect the equipment. The message was they were all working themselves out of a job by making the plant as efficient as possible, which posed a problem for those who did not meet the newly defined requirements of the XYZ corp. future. Once this was accomplished, the workforce would move on to develop new products and conquer new territory.
Mary had worked for XYZ for close to twenty years and had seen many changes. She started her career as an assembly line worker and because of her intelligence, ambition, and good interpersonal skills she worked her way into a shop floor supervisory position. Over the years her salary increased greatly and she and her husband became accustomed to a comfortable standard of living. When the new philosophy was rolled out to the workforce, she realized that her strengths and skills were not what the company was looking for in the future. Mary had a high school education and had participated in many of the company’s training classes during her career but she had not pursued further education at a university. Now the job was requiring a college education and the company's first choice would be someone with an engineering degree. She worked out an arrangement with her supervisor who was sympathetic to her situation and she began going to classes in the morning. Mary had several children ranging from toddler age to adult so her time was limited. In order to accommodate the morning classes, she moved to an afternoon shift position. At that time, the company was working six and seven days a week along with ten hour days to meet customer demand. Mary’s life revolved around working til past midnight, getting up at six to help her kids get ready for school and then going to school herself. Even though the classes she was taking was not leading towards a degree, it was way to show that she was willing to pursue further education to try and meet the company's requirements.
Kyle was a new graduate from Penn State’s Industrial Engineering program and had recently started working for the company upon completion of the newly built factory. He graduated with a high GPA and demonstrated a strong extracurricular background to go along with his academic credentials. Kyle represented the new employee XYZ was looking for. He was young and intelligent and didn’t have preconceived ideas about any corporate philosophy. The company could groom him to follow their business plan while readying him for future leadership and management positions. The company had a plan to rotate employees through different organizations every two years. The belief was that giving employees with technical backgrounds a broader background of business would make successful leaders in the company. The company also stressed that each employees' career was their own to guide and direct while at the same time making it clear that creating a bond to the company was not really expected. The days of thirty years and a gold watch for retirement were clearly over. Kyle started his career in the Materials group of the company where he was a buyer for several of the company’s raw materials. During his time in this job, he began to make friends and network within the company. It was common for employees and managers to throw parties and other social events and these times became an opportunity to make lifelong connections. After a few years, Kyle went on to work as a shop floor supervisor and then later as an engineer. During this time, he also returned to school and received a graduate degree in business. With his gained work experience and advanced education he began to utilize his network of friends to eventually find an upper management position with another company several years later.
Carlos had worked for XYZ nearly as long as Mary. Unlike Mary he had a business degree and was a minister within his community. He was concerned about losing his job in this new company culture but knew he had other options to earn a living. He also had lived modestly and didn’t have a major financial burden looming over him and his family. Carlos was African American and lived in the North Philadelphia area where a large portion of the hourly workforce was from as well. He knew many of the people he worked with on a daily basis from his neighborhood and community. For Carlos, working at the manufacturing plant was like an extension of being in his North Philadelphia community. He enjoyed being a shop floor supervisor because of the opportunities to interact with several different people and you could see the pride he had in being a part of working towards daily goals. He would share stories about how his neighborhood looked out for one another and took pride in the fact that people cared about the welfare of others around them. Working at XYZ was not just a job; it was about sharing a daily experience with others that he knew well. Also, because of his standing as a minister, he was treated with a consideration somewhat different than just a supervisor. When someone called in sick or was on bereavement for a loved one, he had a deeper understanding of their personal issues. He shared a common experience with many of the people he worked with and because of this he brought a humanity to the workplace. Carlos cared about being a part of the new direction of the company, but like Mary, realized that the future was not designed for him.
Larry was a first line manager. He had worked for the company for many years and had developed a close knit group of employees who worked for and genuinely liked him. Larry grew up on a farm and had no pretenses about him. At times he seemed like he lacked savvy and insight but one employee described him as being like the character from the old series, Columbo. He seemed befuddled most of the time but when you least expect it he would bring out data that you didn’t expect him to know about or make managerial decisions that seemed brilliant. He and his group were seen more a part of the old guard and didn’t have the ambitions of the newer managers and employees. They were more family oriented and less likely to want to sacrifice a lot of their personal time by working long hours and participating in the networking that existed. They worked hard and had a lot of integrity. The majority had technical degrees but some like Mary and Carlos who worked for him did not. They could be called a working class group of people who had many years of expertise but lacked the upwardly mobile ambitions of some of the other employees. Larry and his group came under fire a lot because of the perception they were not on board with the new plans. The perception was not true. Their group was responsible for the final testing and approval of the product before it was signed off to go out the door. The liability of the company was essentially in the hands of this manager and group. Larry had offers to go to other companies but turned them down. He felt an obligation not only to the company but his people. He served as a safety net for people who may have otherwise been swallowed up by the new company direction. As an example, if Mary and Carlos had worked for a newer more ambitious manager, they may not have been able to keep their job. Larry had known most of his employees for many years and knew them personally and cared about their lives. He realized that many people’s livelihoods depended on him and he took this responsibility very seriously. He also recognized the magnitude of the job function of his team. If faulty product was let out the door and installed in the customer’s final product, there could be severe consequences to the company because of accidents. Other areas of the company could rotate managers in and out because there was a larger margin for error. For Larry’s managerial job, the company needed someone with the right expertise and know how. For this reason, Larry remained with the company because he knew of the potential consequences of turning this position over to a lesser experienced manager.
Case Study Analysis
Organizational Commitment Review
Organizational commitment is important in the eyes of a company. It is important for organizations to keep talented individual who are engaged in their jobs and are productive workers. Organizational commitment involves the loyalty a worker feels towards the company he works for. Organizational commitment involves more then just company loyalty, it entails employee's intrinsically wanting to defend against criticism both internal and external (Business Daily Review, 2008).
Organization commitment is related to job satisfaction in ways such as an employee's emotional reaction to their job. A worker may not be satisfied with his job but may still be satisfied with the company. Therefore, the individuals work commitment may be low but organizational commitment may be high (PSU Psych. 484 Commentary, 2011, Lesson 12, p).
This case study examined the concepts that applied to the individual's commitment to the organization and included their work ethic and level of intensity of participation. By examining these concepts the level of commitment Mary, Kyle, Carlos and Larry will have to the organization can be determined, however many situations have shown that the application of these concepts are affected by several variables such as age, culture, emotions, personality traits, desires, individual differences and other factors which tend to present themselves and on occasion overlap one another ( PSU Psych, 484 commentary, 2011, Lesson 12, p).
Organizational Commitment Components
Organizational commitment is an employee’s psychological attachment and sense of loyalty and allegiance to an organization. In many cases it can be connected to other aspects of the job such as job satisfaction which is a person’s feelings about their job and organizational identification which is when a person feels a sense of closeness to the organization. There are three different components of organizational commitment which Allen and Meyer (1991) identified as Affective (AC), Continuance (CC), and Normative Commitment (NC).
Affective Commitment (AC)
The most commonly studied type of commitment is Affective commitment, an employee’s emotional attachment to and identification with the organization which is commonly seen in response to a supportive organizational climate in which the employee feels a sense of importance and high value to the company. Affective commitment can enhance job satisfaction because employees agree with the organization’s objectives and principles and because employees feel they are treated fairly in terms of equity, and receive organizational care, concern and support (Hawkins, 1998).
Affective organizational commitment is defined as the emotional bond an employee has with the company they work for. The employee chooses to stay with the company because of this bond. When an employee is effectively committed to the organization, they feel a sense of belonging. This feeling of belonging and of identification increases their involvement in the work they do. Studies have shown that absenteeism and turnover are associated with affective commitment. Organizational support theory states that employees form beliefs concerning how much the organization values their contributions and cares about their well being. This perception encourages employees to associate human characteristics to the organization. When the employee feels the organization cares about their well being, the employee tends to want to reciprocate this action by doing quality work that will help the organization to reach its' goals. The perception of organizational support is assumed to contribute to affective commitment. In a study done by Rhoades, Eisenberger, and Armeli (2001) it was found that perception of support by the organization contributes to affective commitment, showing the direction of causation to be from perception of support (Rhoades, et al., 2001). In a meta-analysis conducted by Meyer and Allan (1991), affective commitment was correlated with job satisfaction, job involvement and occupational commitment, with the strongest correlation is between affective commitment and overall job satisfaction (Meyer, & Allan, 1991).
This form of commitment is demonstrated by Larry’s behavior. Larry felt committed to his employees and felt a huge responsibility to them and the organization as the quality manager. In his position, he understood the importance of the tasks that his group was responsible for as well as them as people. The products that left the factory were checked for quality issues by his group, and so he felt committed to that responsibility. The organization also recognized the importance of his job since they kept him on because of his extensive knowledge. It seems as though Larry felt an obligation to those that worked for him to be their 'protector' of sorts (NC). He understood their personal obligations and made changes in work schedules when their lives required it. In turn, his employees felt cared for by Larry as people not just workers. He was one that they could trust and he knew it. He felt that leaving the organization would not only hurt the quality of the companies product but it would also put his employees, and friends, at risk of losing their jobs and just could not do that to them.
Mary also showed affective commitment by her willingness to go back to school regardless of the difficulties doing so presented in her personal life. The organization allowed her to change her schedule in order for her to obtain her education. Not only did Mary feel as though she needed to go to school to continue with the company, she also seemed to feel connected to it in such a way that she wanted the organization to see her willingness to go along with the changes by showing them that she would do what she needed to do to stay with them during those changes.
Kyle identified with the companies goals and made the effort to weave his talents, skills and interests into the fabric of the company. He accomplished this by returning to school to get his graduate degree and networking within the company to provide him with resources and knowledge and support from various areas of the company. His dedication and planning illustrates his affective commitment to the company, and his actions show his dedication and engagement in the future of the company.
Carlos felt that his work was an extension of himself. Coming to work each day was a large part of his social personality, as he cared for the people at his company. His affective commitment is high but he did not feel that the changes that were happening in the company would fit him well even though he is attached to the individuals that make up the company. Since he is not necessarily financially dependent on the company for his living, his commitment is not associated with having to stay (CC), as much as wanting to stay due to his personal satisfaction with his job and commitment to it.
Continuance Commitment (CC)
It is an unfortunate fact that some employees stay with an organization because they feel they have to. Continuance commitment is when an employee feels that they are tied to the company as they weigh the cost of leaving an organization verses staying. It is becoming increasingly difficult to secure good paying jobs in addition to finding jobs with health benefits, retirement plans, etc., so employees must carefully weigh their options before deciding on making any changes to their employment status. Over the last few years as costs are increasing, companies have been cutting back on many of the costly benefits once offered to employees, leaving employees feeling stuck. Employees are subject to a range of all types of circumstances and situations, and benefits and pay are major considerations when accepting or changing positions.
Our case study looks at Mary of the XYZ Company and her situation in regards to her current commitment level. Mary is a good example of staying with the company because she has no other alternatives at this time. Since starting with the company approximately 20 years ago Mary has been an ambitious and loyal employee. The recent change in hierarchy along with the qualifications needed to retain the position has Mary questioning her job stability. Mary has worked herself up the ladder in the company, and has rearranged her life to make herself a valuable asset over the years. She had high levels of job involvement and job satisfaction. The current regime is now requiring degree status for supervisory and management positions and although Mary has taken classes to better herself, she has not obtained a degree. It’s also noteworthy to point out that Mary’s company was willing to accommodate her in order for her to be able to attend classes, which shows that the company did value Mary as an employee. At this point in her career Mary is feeling she is being pushed out of the company. This in turn is affecting Mary’s attitudes and loyalty towards her company. Her job satisfaction is declining and she realizes that the focus of her company is not in line with her expectations. Mary goes to work and does a good job everyday, but she is no longer willing to go the extra mile or put forth additional effort that would benefit the company. This is a classic example of continuance commitment which is one of three types of commitment that have been identified (Allen & Mayer, 1990).
Continuance commitment studies two antecedents: investments and alternatives (Florkowski & Schuster, 1992). These studies often look at investments such as time, money, or effort. Florkowski and Schuster (1992) found a positive relationship between profit sharing and job satisfaction and commitment.
Although it will be difficult, it would be in Mary’s best interest to continue to put forth her best effort and keep a positive upbeat attitude at the XYZ Company. At the same time Mary should start searching for work that would meet her financial and situational needs as her current position is clearly changing and her job stability is faltering.
Normative Commitment (NC)
Finally, the component that has had the least amount of research attention is Normative Commitment (NC) which refers to how individual perceptions of what is morally right can have an affect on the reasoning behind staying with an organization (PSU Psych. 484 Commentary, 2011, Lesson 12, p. 5). Besides staying at a job because one wants to, or has to, an employee with a high NC is apt to stay at a job because they feel they ought to (PSU Psych. 484 Commentary, 2011, Lesson 12, p. 5). Feelings of obligation to an organization or position, and perceptions of what actions are expected of them can cause an employee to stay in a position and with an organization in spite of more secure and lucrative opportunities elsewhere.
The case study presents two employees, Carlos and Larry, who display characteristics of high NC.
The attachment that Carlos had to the organization consisted of his emotional and moral obligation to XYZ, as he identified with and valued his work relationships, position, and ultimately viewed himself as an important part of the organization's community (AC). Feeling a close connection to the people he worked with and to his community Carlos viewed his job at XYZ Corp. as an extension of these relationships. Due to the reverence he received at the company from his clergy affiliation, according to normative commitment characteristics, Carlos might have perceived an exit from the company as a potential disappointment to coworkers, and that they might think badly about him and his actions (PSU, Psych. 484 Commentary, 2011, Lesson 12, p. 5). Even though he had other options available to him and did not experience Continuance Commitment; for Carlos to voluntarily walk away from the organization and pursue those options, he would also have to walk away from all of the important relationships and sense of community that was made, leaving him with the perception that people would be disappointed and angry about his departure. As a minister, Carlos might have seen it as being morally wrong to let so many close friends down in this manner. Therefore, Carlos desired to be a part of the company's new endeavors, in spite of the fact that he knew the restructuring of the company was designed to require less and less of what services he was able to provide, creating job insecurity.
Larry's normative commitment came from the perception that due to the importance of his position as a department manager (AC), if he had voluntarily left the organization, his fellow coworkers as well as those he managed would be at a loss without him, and therefore be left disappointed, distressed, and unsuccessful. Larry's perceived expertise, position, and responsibilities associated with his affective commitment helped to influence his perception of being morally obligated (NC) to the organization and the employees directly under his supervision. He felt that the new direction of the company would cause some of his employees to be overlooked by any other manager in his place, and they could possibly be let go as a result. Larry's logic was that it was morally right to stay in his position and not allow that outcome to occur. His perceived responsibility to protect his employees well being was the driving force behind his staying with the company and not looking for a more secure position elsewhere. This is a perfect example of how the different components of organizational commitment: Affective, Continuance, and Normative commitment, can overlap and influence each other.
Commitment to career or profession
Commitment to career or profession is a fairly new idea and has not been as widely studied yet. This type of commitment continues to rise while commitment to an organization has steadily declined (PSU, Pysch 484 Commentary, Lesson 12, p.7). Studies have shown that the average American has seven careers in their lifetime as a result of this trend (PSU). Historically, commitment to one's career or profession has been viewed as the same as organizational commitment. People would choose their career and their organization and be with the company for many years. In the more recent years, career, or professional, commitment has become its own type of commitment separate from organizational commitment.
Kyle in our case study is a perfect example of career commitment. He joined the company to gain experience in his chosen field and also to learn about real world business situations. The organization welcomed Kyle because his lack of a history and preconceived notions about the company and felt as if they could mold him into who they needed at that point in time for the good of the organization. Kyle did not feel a certain commitment to the organization, but rather a commitment to the growth of his individual career by using his time with the organization to further his knowledge level and acquire a professional network to find opportunities in his chosen profession. The organization made it clear that he was in control of his career and no bonds to the company were expected, hence, he went off to another organization after gaining the necessary experience needed to boost him to the next level of his career. Ultimately, Kyle was committed to his own growth as an individual in a particular career path (PSU).
Resolution and Conclusion
Organizations have changed dramatically over the last couple decades. Global trade has had an enormous impact on the need to produce high quality products as quickly and efficiently as possible in order to sell these products at reasonable prices. Much of the manufacturing and production that in the past was done by hard working loyal and dedicated employees has been sent overseas to be produced. This shift in American industry has had an impact on the commitment employees feels towards their organizations. Few employees join a company out of high school and stay with them for most of their career, which was typical in days gone by. Similar to the case study's scenario, automation and technology have created uncertainty and a lack of confidence in job stability on a global scale for some industrialized countries, often affecting the commitment employees have towards their company. This is a problem for employees, and an inevitable truth in companies like XYZ who increasingly and heavily rely on technological advancements for good business, therefore, the responses and actions of those employees who are at risk might benefit from acknowledging the sources of their commitment and attempt to keep it in perspective with the reality of today's organizational trends as an answer to this problem.
As mentioned before, Mary could have benefited by beginning the search for a position that better suited her personal and financial needs with the realization that as her job security decreased, her trust in the company would begin to decrease and her stress would go up (Business Daily, 2008).
Carlos would have also benefited from searching for another job where his talents could be utilized, if he hadn't been overly focused on feelings of obligation, and in letting coworkers down. Since he was a positive community figure and knew many fellow XYZ employees from his neighborhood and community, Carlos would have been able to maintain those relationships he valued outside of XYZ while being realistic about his future with the changing company and seeking other employment opportunities.
Larry's decision was ideal, as it was based on fact and personal convictions. Larry would have been justified in either leaving the company or staying with the company. Turning down other companies' offers to stay with the organization and employees who needed him was in his best personal interests, as his loyalty rested with the success of the company and the people he worked with. Factually, his expertise and experience were still valued and necessary to the company's future and the employee's morale, making it an ideal situation. He could have left the company as a result of the affects of downsizing and restructuring, which have been sited as affecting job involvement and organizational commitment in employees (Business Daily, 2008), but he was instead influenced by his high affective and normative commitment; feeling obligated to stay out of loyalty to the company he identified with.
It is evident that each previously described XYZ employee may have needed to reassess their commitment to the company in order to take the necessary steps toward a more secure job future for themselves, similar to Larry, and our case study's career committed employee, Kyle. Companies will continue to change in response to global and national economy, trends, technological advancements, and in-house modifications, affecting jobs everywhere. As a result, employees today need to be aware of the necessity to be versatile and skilled in multiple areas so as to have an alternative should their jobs be eliminated or automated. Advanced technology is creeping into every aspect of our lives and no one is exempt from the possibility of being replaced by a machine, be it a production press or a computer.
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