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  • Fall 2012 Committment case
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Introduction

Most adults will spend at least one-third of every day working. If you assume an eight-hour day, although that is now exceeded by many, you will have worked 2,080 hours each year, and over a 35 year period will work 93,600 hours. Perhaps this explains why commitment is second only to job satisfaction as the most studied work attitude in I/O psychology (PSU, 2012, p. 3). Organizational commitment refers to the extent to which an employee is attached to the their job and the amount of loyalty and allegiance that he or she has to his or her employer (PSU, 2012, p. 3). It is comprised of three types of commitment: affective commitment that refers to the emotional attachment one has to one's job and place of employment; continuance commitment, which is the degree to which one feels tied to one's place of employment for reasons that are important to the employee; and normative commitment, which refers to to one's feelings of obligation to a workplace, feeling that it is morally right to stay in the position (PSU, 2012, p. 4). Job involvement refers to the absorption that one has in the day to day work experience that a person has, which is determined by a person's own needs, values, and work ethic (PSU, 2012, p. 4).

Our case looks at a modern workplace and the different types of organizational commitment and job involvement that its employees experience, as well as the work ethic and potential workaholism that is prevalent in so many companies today. We also look at organizational commitment in terms of expectancy theory, as job involvement is theorized to increase or decrease based on outcome expectations. 

Case Information

Apollo Software Company creates games and productivity software for PCs and the Web. Their most popular products are in gaming, and the product development team that runs that division has been successfully putting out profitable new titles for three years. The company brought in a new president to replace the former head of this division and, under her watch, profitability has risen by over 10% per year. The former head has stayed on as vice-president, and is still the day-to-day manager of the division. There are very well-defined teams within the group, which are: technology, editorial, design, research, and operations. The group gets along well and the workflows are well defined; however, under the new president the workload has increased considerably and, although still highly functional, there are team members who are not in agreement with the current management style and who are finding it difficult to manage their work/life balance. They are in the 4th quarter of the year, and the president has promised them all a significant bonus if they can deliver 10% sales growth again. To do this, they know they will have to work incredibly long hours between October and December, but if they succeed the payoff will be sizable. 

Marjorie: Marjorie is the President of the division. Her background is in managing national operations for large retail companies, and her specialty in the past has been in improving workflows and supply chains in order to increase profitability. Her appointment was controversial because the gaming product development team has always been run by a more creative type of manager rather than an operational one, but Sharon, the former head of the division, fulfills the more creative role, and Marjorie and Sharon have developed a good working relationship. Marjorie eats, breathes, and sleeps work. Most of the team is on the East Coast but Marjorie lives on the West Coast, but spends two weeks of each month on the East Coast with the team. When she is on the West Coast she begins work earlier than most in the East Coast office despite the three hour time difference and works far later. It is not unusual for her to be sending emails long into the night and if she does not get an immediate response will send more emails on the topic. She is neither warm nor cold with the staff, maintaining complete professionalism at all times, but she will not spend any time at all talking with staff members that do not live up to her work ethic, often not even properly learning their names. She is very supportive of the team to upper management however, choosing to keep any discord or disharmony "within the tent" to be dealt with quietly. She often likens the team to a winning sports team, reminding them that only the best get to play for teams like that and that winning gets harder and harder if you don't commit to it fully. When she is on the East Coast she never leaves the office before 8pm and often schedules meetings on the weekend in order to "take advantage" of her face-to-face time with her team although when she is on the West Coast it is not much better, it just means that the meetings happen by phone. She believes that only complete focus can deliver the results that are needed and reminds everyone that the payoff will make all of their time worth it. Those that most closely support her style seem to be fast tracked for promotion while those that are less enthusiastic seem to stay in their positions far longer with no advancement. Once a year she takes a two-week vacation where she completely switches off with no contact with the team and then comes back renewed to do it all again. She is respected by the team, but many find it hard to say that they like her. 

Sharon: Sharon is the Vice-President of the division. She ran the gaming product development team for 15 years before the company brought in Marjorie. While she had some truly breakthrough game titles, some award winning, she had difficulty sticking to deadlines and making decisions, and she often did not empower the others on the team to do so either so there was a high degree of frustration, as many employees felt they did not have the autonomy needed to keep things moving efficiently. Other than that, though, Sharon is well liked, personable, and, although a perfectionist from a creative standpoint, very flexible with the team on a personal and social level. Although she was resentful of Marjorie's appointment at first, she had to admit that Marjorie had all of the skills that she did not, often referring to her as her "left brain". She finds Marjorie demanding but, she too, often likes to work late into the night and on weekends, so she feels validated by Marjorie's work ethic and finds that it is easier to demonstrate the work ethic that she wants to promote on the team. Sharon is often a sounding board for some of the employees that have been there the longest, one or two since she started, and if Sharon cannot motivate people any other way to continue, she will often invoke their long working history asking the older employees to "do it for her". Sharon has grown children and a husband who works similar hours to her, and most of her socializing is with work colleagues. Marjorie's insistence on timely deliverables puts pressure on Sharon but as a result has removed the one big area of conflict that existed between her and the team previously. She is happy to commit to the extra pressure until the end of the year and is rallying the team to do the same.

Mark: Mark is a rising star who oversees the technology team. He has only been with the company for one year, but his team has grown from three reports to eleven in that year, and his vision for the future of the team strongly influences decision-making by Sharon and Marjorie. Mark loves the job, sees it as a challenge, but also sees this time in his career as a period of learning; he hopes that when he leaves Apollo Software it will be to go to a role where he is head of a whole product development team. He respects Marjorie but would never say that he likes her; however, he feels he is learning skills from her that will benefit him in the long run. He also appreciates that he is able to make a better bonus at Apollo than at his last job, and that it is tied to the group's goals. Mark works well with the rest of the team and feels that everyone pulls their weight for the most part. He will occasionally be in conflict with the editorial team but nothing out of the ordinary. His plan is to keep the job for three more years, then try to trade up to a bigger opportunity. Mark is married with one child on the way. He is worried that the demands on his life will become much greater once his child arrives, but he feels confident that he can balance it all. 

Gwenn: Gwenn is the head of research and all the subject-matter-experts that create the games report to her--a team primarily made up of freelance resources, with only one house subject-matter-expert whose primary role is to create the algorithms for the game. Gwenn and Sharon were the first two employees in the game group and are very bonded both in work and outside of work. Gwenn is hard-working but, having contributed to the overwhelming financial success of numerous game titles, feels that she has earned an easier schedule than many of the others tend to keep, having "paid her dues". After the birth of her son, she fought very hard to work one to two days per week from home, which makes her immensely happy but has created some resentment with the rest of the team. Although much of Gwenn's work is with employees who are offsite, Marjorie, in particular, was against the move and it was only when Gwenn lobbied with HR that she was allowed this arrangement. Sharon felt caught in the middle but eventually weakly supported Gwenn.  Marjorie has never really quite gotten past it and now tends to ignore Gwenn in social contexts, only speaking to her when absolutely necessary. Since she started working from home, Gwenn feels that there are an inordinate number of phone meetings being scheduled after hours, but Sharon reassures her that this is wholly coincidental. Behind the scenes, Marjorie has been having conversations with Mark about whether Gwenn's team ought to report to him, which would be a step backwards for Gwenn. Gwenn does not like Marjorie much and feels undervalued by her, lamenting often that it is only Sharon that keeps her in the job, and that without her she would have left a long time ago. Despite the minor tension over working from home, everyone likes Gwenn and the whole team believes she is a tremendous asset. She is a bit worried that the big push until the end of the year will be an excuse to try to get her in the office more and is prepared to fight for her current status.

Peter: Peter is the head of design and has been described as being "in his own world". He is immune to the day-to-day workplace issues and politics because he absolutely loves his work. He would sleep in the office if he could and his staff are very much the same. Easygoing and collaborative, he is well liked by everyone on the team. Marjorie loves Peter and spends a great deal of time with him working on new designs, etc. They often are the last to leave the office and Peter is on email all night and all weekend, leaving others to wonder when he sleeps. He has no desire to move up or out, he is simply happy in the role that he is in and always delivers his piece of a project on time. He attends every conference and every trade show that he can, just to be in the company of others like himself. Sharon does not like his design sensibility as much as Marjorie does, but she keeps quiet about it because he is so well liked by Marjorie and others. Peter got divorced last year, and his wife cited his commitment to work as a primary reason for her desire to split with him. Since that time, Peter is only more dedicated to work, spending as much time as possible in the office. Peter's team has had a huge amount of turnover, since many new designers do not like the punishing hours and schedule that Peter keeps. When a new employee starts, he describes working on his team as "boot camp" but promises them that they will be great designers when they leave. Only two on his team have ever stayed longer than a year. His current employees are dreading the big end of year push because many can't see how they could work harder than they do right now, but they are willing to do it to get their bonus and then potentially move on.

Gene: Gene is the head of operations and works in a separate office, managing distribution and the call center for Apollo's gaming department. Gene works hard but believes that it is important to prioritize and not burn out your team, preferring to take a longer-term approach to time management. His team is very effective, but Marjorie feels that Gene does not drive them hard enough. He takes a great deal of criticism from Marjorie in an effort to shield his team from it. Recently, Marjorie scheduled a meeting for the two of them at 8pm, and he told her in no uncertain terms that he does not begin meetings at such an unsociable hour. After that, Marjorie said that she would need to start attending Gene's team meetings to make sure that he is communicating the right tone to employees about the company's expectations of them. Gene is very angry about this, and has urged his team not to take her presence too seriously, reassuring them that he is still the boss. More and more, however, Marjorie is interfering with his decision making ability and Gene is wondering how much longer he can cope with her and the demands of the job but does not want to leave his team, many of whom had never worked anywhere else and who look up to him as something of a father figure. Gene has asked for a meeting with Marjorie to see if they can agree on a set of guidelines regarding her involvement that would be acceptable to both of them but he has little hope that she will give up her interest in this area, since it is one of her key strengths. He hopes to make it through the end of the year and then will evaluate his situation again after January. 

Organizational Commitment - 

Organizational Commitment can best be described by level of attachment and loyalty an employee feels towards the company or organization they work for. There are three different sub-sections of Organizational Commitment; affective commitment, continue commitment, and normative commitment.

   Affective Commitment

Affective commitment is, in short, working because one wants too. This type of commitment is characterized by the desire to work and love of one's work. People who have affective commitment may be perceived as workaholics even if they are not because they enjoy their work and may work long hours.

In the above case study there are several people who show Affective Commitment:

Sharon - She loves her work and benefits from Marjorie's work ethic. Despite being 'replaced' by Marjorie, Sharon accepted the demotion based on the commitment to Apollo and its employees, as many seek her out as a sounding board. 

Peter - He gets great pleasure out of his work, so much so that he has been described as "living at the office."  Peter's lack of desire to move up in the company or seek a position elsewhere also reflects organizational commitment: he is content with his position and his goals have been met, so there is not professional or career goal to attain. 

   Continuance Commitment

Continuance commitment can best be described as working because one feels obligated to. This type of commitment can be formed from the fact that someone needs to work for the money or that they aren't able to find another job. When looking at our case study, there is one person who falls under this type of commitment style:

Mark - While Mark greatly loves his work, he does not necessarily love his job. Mark does not have any type of obligation or moral commitment to his company; rather, he is enjoying the nature of the work. Mark feels that this is a good company to get some training and experience under his belt. While Mark is not tied to this job because of financial aspects, he does have to take into consideration that he will be adding a new addition to his family soon. Mark needs to consider the financial security he gets from his current job even though he would like to leave in a few years.

   Normative Commitment

Normative Commitment is when an employee feels a moral obligation to their company. They stay with their employer out of guilt and feel as though it would be wrong to leave. Both Gwenn and Gene express traits of one who has a normative commitment to their organization:

Gwenn - Gwenn does not get along with Marjorie and does not enjoy working for the company any longer. Gwenn states that her only reason for staying with the company is out of moral obligation and long-time friendship with Sharon.

Gene - While Gene has a great deal of appreciation for his team, as well as his position of leadership, current changes enforced by Marjorie have left Gene considering other options. Marjorie wanted to schedule meetings outside of normal business hours; however, Gene refused and now Marjorie is standing in on his meetings and imposing on his leadership. Gene is staying with Apollo for the time-being to act as a buffer between his team and Marjorie, but he does not feel he can work under these conditions for very long and will be considering his options after January. Gene falls under normative commitment because of his moral obligation to be there for his team. 

Career and/or Professional Commitment

Whereas organizational commitment involves loyalty and service to a particular company or organization, career/professional commitment is less global and more personal/self-focused.  Career and/or professional commitment is "where a person expresses commitment to their own growth as an individual in a particular career path, whether that path is in a single organization, or multiple ones" (PSU, 2012, p. 7).  Rather than commit to an organization for many years, a person with career and/or professional commitment is working toward their own career path and is thus more willing to change jobs or even careers in order to better realize their own role in the working world.  Simply put, career and/or professional commitment is the commitment to one's 'title,' such as teacher, mechanic, doctor, mother, pastor, etc. It is important to note, however, that career commitment and organizational commitment can be (and often are) interrelated and intertwined. 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, pg.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, pg.339).

Career and professional commitment began to surpass organizational commitment when the primary work shifted from agrarian and mechanical to business and sales. This shift resulted in organizations hiring and firing based on economic motivations rather than human relationships (PSU, 2012, p. 7).  And, while it is clear that Apollo Software Company has increased its profits under its new president, Marjorie, it is also obvious that the individuals helping to run this company are experiencing conflict and struggle based on their different types-and levels of-career and/or professional commitment.

Our primary, newest, character, Marjorie, is very career/professionally committed.  It is clear that Apollo hired Marjorie based on her prior successes and experiences with managing large operations, and despite her lack of experience in the gaming industry. It is also clear that Marjorie made the decision to transition companies based on a desire to further develop her career path. Peter is also an employee who is very committed to his career and it is likely both he and Marjorie can be categorized as workaholics as well.  As is seen in Marjorie and Peters' relationships with other employees, an extreme commitment to one's career (which often borders on workaholism), can greatly affect the organization or team as a whole.  It is clear that Marjorie and Peters' self-focus and desire to find identity in their work creates dissension and also weakens any level of organizational commitment for other employees, who see working for either person as too costly and not worthwhile to meet their personal and professional goals in life. Furthermore, for Peter, commitment to his profession serves a more personal purpose, not only as an escape from a failed marriage and as a means for social identity, but also as an excuse to 'stay put.'  For Peter, the role at Apollo signifies the attainment of his goal and, as a result, Peter is not motivated to move up within the company or seek growth elsewhere. Peter is an example of one who is both committed to his career/profession and to the organization.  Another employee highly committed to his career is Mark.  Apollo, possibly aware of Mark's abilities as head of the technology team, has profited from this 'rising star.' It is Mark's commitment to his career, however, that will ultimately cost the company.  Mark sees his position within Apollo as temporary and, worse, a stepping stone to greater things.  This, in the end, may cost Apollo thousands of dollars in training new employees, as well as an ever-changing system based on each new employee's working- and learning-styles. 

Unlike Marjorie and Peter, Sharon is more organizationally committed.  Having been with Apollo for 15 years, Sharon accepted the lesser position as VP and continues to strive to maintain balance and a cohesive relationship amongst all employees.  The benefits of not just being career or professional committed, for Sharon, is that she gets a more personal and socially healthy relationship with the staff. Furthermore, it reduces tension and conflict among employees (due to her flexibility and relatability), and helped Sharon keep a job in an unstable economic time.  The costs, however, may include a deflated self-image.  Sharon does not recognize her capabilities and worth and sets aside personal goals for moving up and changing in order to be the leader that her company is working for. Gene is another employee with a strong organizational commitment; nevertheless, it is his career and professional commitment the he feels is being challenged by Marjorie, and which is thus causing Gene to question his ability to remain with Apollo.  As manager of the call center and distribution sector, Gene has earned a certain level of authority and independence to lead his group. With Marjorie interfering on these aspects of Gene's career, Gene is struggling with a decision--remain because of his commitment to Apollo and his team, or seek out another organization that will value his expertise and ability to lead. 

It is clear that, within Apollo's gaming sector, organizational commitment and career commitment clash more often than they work together to create a healthy work environment.  Though Apollo may be profitable this year and employees may reach year-end goals, it is also likely that the company will lose many of its employees due to this conflict of personalities, work expectations, and commitment to each one's career and/or organization.

Expectancy Theory and Work/Organizational Commitment-

A person's effort results in an acceptable level of performance (expectancy);  the person's performance results in a specific outcome for the person (instrumentality); and the outcome received is valued by the person (valence)(PSU, Psych 484, L4, P2).

Expectancy is directly related to organizational commitment, because the amount that each employee is putting in results in work performance, which, at Apollo, can lead to bonuses, raises and other perks. Such rewards are valued by the employees, and, more-so, hard work is valued by others within the organization.

Marjorie, being a workaholic, puts all of her efforts into this company, not being satisfied unless all employees are putting in 100%, and even then requiring more, with all the late meetings and phone calls. The only outcome that Marjorie values is profit through more work, and she accomplishes this by working late into evenings and on weekends.

Peter also has amazing commitment to his job and high expectancy, as he would sleep in the office if he could. He puts his new hires through boot camp to instill in them how committed you have to be to work for this organization. Peter has a high level of expectancy as well because his level of performance will result in the outcome of a bonus, and he values this bonus very much.

Gene, on the other hand, values his home life and time away from work. He works hard when he is on the clock, but after 8 hours, he calls it a day. Gene works to live and not vice versa. While Gene loves his work, his instrumentality is getting out at a decent time, which he values, as you can see by his rejection of a late meeting by the company president.

Gwenn has put in her time and has been rewarded for this. She has a small child at home and wants to make the most of her time spent with the baby, so her motivation is flexible scheduling. With her past performance, it is begrudgingly accepted by Marjorie, but not without the cold shoulder; but, that is not Gwenn’s valence anyway.

Apollo is a company where employees work hard, play hard, and get rewarded for all this hard work.

Job Involvement, Work Ethic, Workaholism -  

Job involvement is the degree of daily absorption into everyday work experiences (PSU, 2012, p. 4).   A person becomes involved with their job when they find the job challenging and are motivated to rise to that challenge.  By becoming involved with the job, they can identify with, and become committed to, the organization.  They will often seek feedback from co-workers as to their performance and areas for improvement.  In the case study, Sharon has a high degree of job involvement.  She has been with the company for 15 years, even continuing employment following a demotion.  She is well liked, very flexible with the team, and even socializes with the team outside of work.  She encourages the other employees to offer their opinions and provides motivation.

Workaholism is excessive work involvement, a high drive to work, and lack of work enjoyment (PSU, 2012, p. 4).  A workaholic is someone who cannot enjoy other aspects of life, and will be miserable when not working, and will often engage in behaviors like planning work activities while they are at other life functions (PSU, 2012, p. 4).  In the case study, Marjorie presents herself as the classic workaholic.  Marjorie eats, breathes, and sleeps work. She lives on the West Coast and the corporate offices are on the East Coast; as a result, she spends two weeks of each month on the East Coast with the team.  This equates to 26 weeks a year away from her home and family.  She begins her day three hours earlier than most on the West Coast due to East Coast operation time and she works late into the night.  She emails the subordinates at all hours of the day and week-ends and expects immediate results.  She doesn’t seem to enjoy her job in that she will not spend any time interacting with co-workers or even taking the time to learn their names. 

Work ethic is multidimensional; it pertains to work, is learned, refers to attitudes and beliefs (not necessarily behaviors), is a motivational construct reflected in behavior, and is secular, not necessarily tied to any one set of religious beliefs (PSU, 2012, p. 3).  Work ethic is a personal value developed by individuals as to how they work, the image they present, and varies by individual.  Work ethic may motivate one person to go above and beyond; crossing all "t’s" and dotting all "i’s," ensuring all details are perfect.  Another may be content with completing the task, to the best of their ability and on time.  Neither work ethic is right nor wrong, but simply an individuals’ work ethic.  In the case study, Gene has an outstanding work ethic.  He works hard but prioritizes the tasks for his team.  He is dedicated to his team and the work they are doing.     

Conclusion

Our case study of the organizational commitment of sample employees at the Apollo Software Company showed that commitment can vary widely between the employees.  Even in this relatively small sample, all three levels of commitment: affective, continuance, and normative, were displayed.  Further, it demonstrated how companies must balance goals against one another.  Marjorie seems a perfect managerial candidate, based on her experience.  However, her very demanding work ethic, which she also projects onto her expectations of her reports, could in the long run be detrimental to the organization, as it may encourage some employees, Mark and Gene for instance, to leave, taking with them valuable resources in the form of expertise and business knowledge.  While Marjorie's approach could benefit the company in the short term, it could lead to setbacks of production long-term as turnover could require new employees be hired and trained.

This study also revealed an interesting corollary to organizational commitment.  While much of the material on the subject focuses on the organizational commitment of the individual, it is apparent that differing and conflicting foci of commitment within a single organization can also have an effect on the commitment of each individual within the organization.  Specifically, as the correlation between organizational commitment and job satisfaction is very high (PSU, 2012, p. 5), competing reasons for and levels of commitment can effectively lower both, causing employees who would otherwise have both high commitment and satisfaction to experience decreases in both.

 

References

Moscoso Riveros, A.M. & Shir-Tau Tsai, T. (2002). Career Commitment and Organizational Commitment in for-Profit and non-Profit Sectors.  International Journal of Emerging Sciences, 1(3): 324-340, September 2011. Retrieved from http://ijes.info/1/3/4254138.pdf

Pennsylvania State University World Campus. (2012). PSYCH 484: Lesson 12: Work and Organizational Commitment: Am I attached to the organization? Retrieved from https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/fa12/psych484/001/content/lesson12/printlesson.html

Pennsylvania State University World Campus. (2012). PSYCH 484: Lesson 4: Expectancy Theory: Is there a link between my effort and what I really want? Retrieved from https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/fa12/psych484/001/content/lesson04/printlesson.html

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