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The relationship between organizational success and work commitment has made work commitment the second-most commonly studied job attitude in industrial-organizational psychology (PSU WC, L12, p2).  The positive correlation between work commitment and organizational success has resulted in companies and other organizations dedicating resources to study these aspects, attempt to measure the variables inherent in each aspect, and utilize the findings effectively to improve the organization’s performance. 

Commitment at the workplace can be categorized as one of several classifications.  Work ethic, job involvement, organizational commitment, and career commitment are all components of work commitment, and the interrelationships between these aspects all contribute, albeit disproportionally by individual, to a worker’s overall work commitment.

Whereas job satisfaction is centered on the individual worker, work commitment is a broader idea.  The relationship between an individual worker and a larger component, whether it be their employer, their career field, or their own sense of how much effort is considered appropriate and acceptable, plays a large part in determining what contributions that worker makes to the organization.

The following case study will illustrate these concepts, and an examination of the motivations of four employees at an automotive plant follows.

Case Study

In a moderate sized Midwestern town there is an automotive plant that produces car parts for big American car companies.  During the automotive boom, this plant was the largest employer in the town, and it provided sound employment for many members of the community.  The plant is a big part of the communities culture, and is a staple of the midwestern blue collar town.  Joe, Mike, Bill, and Tim are middle aged men who are employed by the plant, and each have given varying years of service to the plant.  Specific details of their work and organizational commitment are given below.  There are similarities and differences between them.  Following the case study, their work and organizational commitment will be examined thoroughly. 


Joe is a 35 year old male who is from the same town that he grew up in and still lives.  He also is employed at the plant, the biggest employer in the town.  His father and several relatives have worked and retired from that place of employment.  Obviously, the plant is a large part of Joe’s life.  He takes a lot of pride in his job, doing a great job at work, and representing his employer with class.  He has a spectacular work ethic and believes his job is more than just a paycheck.  Joe is not college educated, but considers himself to be successful within his work.  Joe is committed and involved in his job and would be considered to have a high level of job involvement.  Joe is viewed as having the perfect blend of qualities because he has high job involvement, is not a workaholic, and is considered to be very well liked by all throughout the plant.  Joe has affective commitment to the plant and works there because he wants to.  He has a high level of commitment and has a goal of familiarizing himself with all of the trades throughout the plant, and he aspires to become a foreman or a shift leader.


Mike is a 30 year old male who moved to the small Midwestern town three years ago.  He is college educated but was unable to find a job within his major he achieved at college.  Thus, he accepted a job in the plant to obtain a job in order to get by and make ends meet.  Mike does not have a high work ethic because he is disappointed that he is working a job that is not within his college degree.  He views it as just getting a paycheck and is not committed to his work or the plant.  He wants to quit working there as soon as possible, but now has to stay because he has to provide for his young family.  He has to stay to make ends meet and has a continuance commitment, which means he has to stay within his position.  Mike feels stuck because he is not doing what he wants to do for a living, and is simply working because he has to make money.  Mike is not popular at work because of his lack of commitment.  However, he does just enough to keep his current position.  Mike has a relatively low job satisfaction.


Bill is a 40 year old male who is from a neighboring town but has settled down in the town where he now works.  He is a 15 year veteran of the plant and is not college educated.  Bill is well respected by his peers at work and slowly has become one of the most talented employees at the plant.  Being good at his job, he occasionally gets pressure from his wife about possibly looking for a higher paying job within the same industry.  Bill just does not think that he should leave his position and it is best for him to stay where he is.  He is committed to his position in a sense that would be referred to as normative commitment.  Essentially this means that Bill believes he ought to keep working for the plant that he is a 15 year veteran at.  Bill job satisfaction is pretty good.


Tim is a 55 year old male who is native to the town in which the plant is located.  He has worked there for 30 years now and is a foremen within the plant who has extensive responsibilities and a constant list of tasks that need to be accomplished.  Outside of the executives and white collar members of the plant he has the most responsibility.  However, he is constantly handed a huge workload.  Thus, he feels as if though he needs to work all of the time.  Similar to Joe, Tim has had several relatives work and retire from the plant so it is a big part of his life.  Tim constantly feels as if he should be at work even after he has put in weeks of 70 plus hours.  Thus, he struggles to take his mind off of work when he is trying to enjoy a Sunday afternoon.  Rarely can Tim have a conversation with his wife, his children, or even his grandchildren without mentioning the plant.  He spent most of his youngest grandchild's first birthday immersed in his laptop, doing work that wasn't considered a priority by management.  Unfortunately, Tim has grown to be a workaholic and suffers from workaholism.  Thus, Tim's job satisfaction has dropped over the last few years as he always feels he needs to be working. 

Organizational Commitment

Organizational commitment is highly valuable and as a result is the second most studied work attitude in Industrial/Organizational psychology today.  Commitment has the ability to have an invaluable presence on an organization.  This is the result of a highly committed employee identifying with the goals and values of an organization.  They have a strong desire to feel an allegiance and be willing to according to Nehmeh (2009), display greater organizational citizenship behavior and go above and beyond the required duties of their job. (p.1). and shows the level of commitment one has toward their organization instead of the specific job or task that each individual is responsible for. Organizational commitment has been studied in a number of different settings which include the private, public and even non-profit sectors.  Findings have helped describe ways that an employee’s behaviors and performance effectiveness, their attitudinal and affective ideas such as job satisfaction, and the characteristics of the employee’s job and role play a part within the organization.  Organizational commitment has a wide variety of definitions, but can best be looked at as multidimensional in nature, involving an employee’s loyalty to the organization, willingness to exert effort on behalf of the organization, degree of goal and value congruency with the organization, and desire to maintain membership.  Commitment is often described in three distinct categories. 

Three types of Commitment:

                Affective commitment

                Affective commitment is the most studied of the three and “refers to an employee’s emotional attachment to and identification with the organization” (PSU World Campus, L.12, 2012, p.4-5).  If an employee has a high level of commitment to the organization they are most likely to buy into the goals being set and work hard to achieve them, as a way to maintain their membership.  By doing so an employee with the higher the commitment level reduces the likelihood they are to leave as a result of the individual’s conscious choice.

In our case study, Joe is a prime example of an employee who has an affective commitment toward his employer.  By following tradition, Joe takes pride in his job and does great work in response to his belief in the organization and the goals they have set.  His desires to better himself and expand his skills and abilities through advancement, and this shows a high level of commitment present in an individual who is a member of an organization, and this commitment is of his own choice.

                Continuance commitment

                Employees who are seen to have continuance commitment tend to stay with their organization for what could be considered the wrong reasons.  Many stay because they have to and can’t afford to go elsewhere, so while it appears they have a high level of commitment in staying, they may not show it through their work.    For many, the vested time and effort put into their work has developed what could be considered nontransferable investments such as a retirement plan, relationships with other employees, and other special interests that may have accumulated over time.

In our case study, Mike displays the attitudes and behaviors of an employee with continuance commitment towards his employer.  It is evident Mike does not want to be there, but he has to stay because while he would like to work in a field closely related to his degree, he has bills to pay and a family to take care of.  He views the job as just a paycheck, and is not committed to working hard on the goals of the organization.

                Normative commitment

                Of the three types of commitment, normative is the least researched of all of them.  It refers to those employees that have “feelings of obligation to remain with the organization because they feel it is morally right” (PSU World Campus, L.12, 2012, p.5), or as a generalized value of loyalty and duty.  As a result, many may have feelings of guilt when it comes to wanting to leave the organization for fear of disappointing their employer and coworkers.  It is similar to other moral commitments we typically view throughout society, such as marriage, family, and religion.

Bill fits the classic example of an employee with normative commitment.  He has been with the organization for 15 years, and has become a valued member of the team.  Although Bill's wife has continually urged him to seek a better paying job, he remains where he started, not only because he is comfortable there, but because he feels by staying he is doing the right thing by not letting his employer and co-workers down.

Work Ethic

Work ethic, is it something you learn or something you’re born with? The key concept to work ethic is motivation. Motivation is made up of multiple personal traits and is an inner drive within oneself. The notion of work ethic is a person’s inner desire to work. This inner notion to work sometimes is even considered a personal trait.

A researcher by the name of Max Weber was one of the first individuals to study work ethics.  This concept was first defined in 1904.  Weber is considered a founding father of sociology, and he wrote a book called The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.  Within this book, Weber coined the term “Protestant work ethic.”  This phrase was meant to describe a dedication, simplicity, and hard work that the protestant branches of the Christian church espoused.  In today’s world, this is regarded as the idea that hard work leads to commercial success, but in the Christian eyes this was a sin. This is why it is somewhat difficult to understand it from Weber’s viewpoint.  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 people have very high work ethic, and some people have very low work ethic, and many individuals are somewhere in between.

In the case study, Joe has great work ethic. It appears to be a trait that was influenced by his father.  Joe’s internal motivation comes from being proud of his organization, and his belief in his job and that its importance. These factors give Joe a high work ethic and help him succeed.  On the other hand, Mike works the same job, yet his work ethic is very low. This is due to him having a college degree and not being able to utilize the costly education he worked hard for many years to obtain. Mike does not take pride in his job and appears to have low motivation and low self-esteem. This results in low work ethic. This case study is a great example of how different individuals in the same workplace, working the same jobs, can have different motivation levels that lead to different work commitment levels.

Job Involvement

The term work involvement has a mixture of components pertinent to the strength of merit and substance of work as a domain of life’s enterprises. It is a multifacited construct, deferring to a set of connected ideas concerning a particular job, an occupation, or to a wide-ranging ideology about the focus of one’s life. Job involvement exhibits definite significance for companies. For instance, workers who display job involvement will be the least likely to depart from the company. Workers with little job involvement ought to be the first ones likely to depart from the company willingly. Workers with elevated job involvement and devalued organizational commitment are called lone wolves (Huselid & Day, 1991). The construct of job involvement also has been pointed out as the scale to which one is cognitively immersed with enthralled in, and worries with one’s present job (Rotenberry & Moberg, 2002). In regards to the case study we will explain how these individuals fit within the criterion of job involvement.

Joe has a high work involvement with the company; it’s a company that also employs his father and a few of his family members. As result of this family legacy there also exists a strong relationship to the company. The cognitive effect keeps them engaged at the dinner table and perhaps at family gatherings. I speculate their dialogue at the family events has to do with the company. The psychological effect is a deep respect to an institution that has provided a way for food and shelter for Joe’s family since he was born. The same company made it financially possible for Joe’s college degree. With that said, Joe’s college education indicates he has a higher likelihood of finding employment elsewhere.   More than likely he and his family share a sense of pride in their involvement with the company because it’s the biggest in town which further indicates the economical impact it has on all of the members of the community. So with all of these components that make up his involvement it is likely Joe will never voluntarily leave the company.

Mike has low work involvement and low satisfaction. He more than likely has few friends and this could be because he is from out of town as well as his lack of involvement. I speculate since he is an outsider, his awareness of how important this company is to the community is low. Meta-analyses suggest that emotional stability prompts job proficiency across occupations, whereas neuroticism should be associated with lower job efficiency (Liao & Lee, 2009). A neurotic personality type will experience anxiety, depression, anger, insecurity, and worry (Liao & Lee, 2009). Mike is experiencing some cognitive dissonance as result of being unable to utilize his college degree in the way in which he envisioned. As a result of Mike’s low involvement he will most likely leave the company voluntarily.

Bill registers high in the work involvement component; he is the most talented employee and has the respect of his coworkers. He has fifteen years with the company and refuses to take his wife up on her suggestion and find himself another job – a job that pays more. His involvement with his company is also evident by the fact that his work performance is steadily improving.

Tim has high in the Job involvement but he also exhibits a high degree of workaholism. This component is explored in the next section.


Workaholism, a pathological indication that some psychologist regard as a sever disease and regrettably, one that’s socially allowed (Psychology Facts, 2008). By definition, workaholism is an obsessive call to work, or compulsiveness about working, similar to compulsive disorder a wider obsession with methods of perfection, and authority at the expenditure of compliance, sincerity, and competence (Psychology Facts, 2008). Workaholics are smart, determined, fortuitous persons and they are trapped by their own accomplishments. The workaholic thinks that he is the only person competent of performing the work (Psychology Facts, 2008). The workaholic employee is a stickler, who will not believe mishaps that are considered as part of being human, and feels the need to get more tasks done before he can feel good about himself. It’s very difficult for a workaholic to unwind, often feeling that he must finish a  particular project- this concept does not apply to individuals who must work long hours as a necessity (Psychology Facts, 2008). On the contrary, a recent report suggests workaholics may not be as nefarious as originally thought to be. One recent report states workaholism is defined as work involvement, feelings of being compelled to work can be constructive as long as the compulsion to work is self-driven, it can lead to personal feelings of accomplishment (Wall Street Journal, 2011). Additionally, a sobering report recently stated workaholism is viewed in a positive perspective in the sense that it conveys to the person concerned the illusion of well-being as an incentive and commitment in their professional activity. This elicits penalties that affect their physical well-being and interpersonal relationships (Wall Street Journal, 2011). They have a propensity to live in the upcoming rather than the present. The physical and psychological penalty of professional fatigue are characterized primarily by the diminishment in self-esteem, symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, depression, irritability and manifestation of physical problems including cardiovascular ailments, as evidence by hypertension, as well as kidney problems (Wall Street Journal, 2011). This type of employee usually incurs medical cost and is eventually forced to rest as result of sickness. Ultimately, this could cost the company more money in the long run.

In regards to our case study, Tim’s involvement with work has features that are considered to be those of a workaholic; he feels he should be working all the time- this key feature is considered a compulsion. The fact that he struggles in his mind on Sundays (his day off) about wanting to work, exhibits the obsessive facet of workaholism. It is a possibility he is suffering from fatigue and this is directly affecting his satisfaction. If he continues on this path he is more than likely to suffer from additional physical ailments.

Commitment to Career/Profession

As stated in this week’s commentary, (The Pennsylvania State University, 2012) an average person in the United States now has seven different careers.  The commitment lies in the person’s own growth as an individual and carries him or her down their career path.  Whether that is one career their entire life or a series or careers throughout their life time.  As people develop, they gain knowledge, skills, and abilities that help them toward their own personal goals and commitments.

In this case study, Joe has a strong commitment to his career.  He will probably never leave the plant and has strong personal goals to keeping learning and climbing the ladder until he is a foreman or a shift leader.  Mike, on the other hand, is not setting any goals for himself to grow within the organization because this is not the career he wants.  Right now, he has zero commitment to his career/profession, but that could change if he could get a job in the career field of his choice.  Bill has a strong commitment to his career/profession.  His wife may be setting higher goals for him along the lines of making more money but staying in the same career field.  But after 15 years, he is still committed.  Tim is at the end of his career path.  He is still very committed to his career/profession and has stayed at the company for 30 years.  He is at the top of his path, and it appears he set good goals for himself throughout his career and it got him very far.  Maybe too far, since now all he can do is work.

Although all the workers, with the exception of Mike, are strongly committed to the organization, commitment to career/profession, focuses on the individual, not the company.  Employees could change companies every year but still have a strong commitment to themselves to keep growing and learning in order to keep advancing.


This case study focuces on a automotive plant environment and the differing levels of work and organizational commitment that four different employees have.  Among them there is affective commitment, continuance commitment, and normative commitment.  The employees also have different levels of work ethic.  Tim's excessive work ethic has led to the unhealthy point of workaholism.  Commitment varies among the employees with Mike have the least amount of organizational commitment.  Joe's great organizational commitment is due in large part to his family ties to the plant and community.  It is in his blood and he loves his work in a healthy way.  This case study produces a real life example of how different levels of commitment, work ethic, and job involvement are found among employees at the same plant. 


Huselid, M. A., & Day, N. E. (1991). Organizational Commitment Job Involvment, and Turnover: a Subtantive and Methodological Analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology , 380-390.

Liao, C.-S., & Lee, C.-W. (2009). An Empirical Study of Employee Job Involvement and Personality Traits: The Case of Taiwan. Int. Journal of Economics and Management , 22-36.

Miller, M.J., Woehr, D.J, & Hudspeth, N. (2002). The Meaning and Measurement of Work Ethic: Construction and Initial Validation of a Multidimensional Inventory. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 60, 451-489.

Nehmeh, R. (2009). What is Organizational commitment, why should managers want it in their workforce and is there any cost effective way to secure it. 
Swiss Management Center. Retrieved from

Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2012) Work Attitudes and Motivation.  PSYCH 484.  Lesson 12:  Work and Organizational Commitment:  Am I attached to the organization?  Retrieved from, M.J., Woehr, D.J, & Hudspeth, N. (2002). The Meaning and Measurement of Work Ethic: Construction and Initial Validation of a Multidimensional Inventory. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 60, 451-489

Psychology Facts. (2008, April 21). Psychology Facts. Retrieved May 5, 2012, from Psychology Facts:

Rotenberry, P. F., & Moberg, P. J. (2002). Assessing the impact of job involvment on performance. Emerald Insight , 203.

Wall Street Journal. (2011, November 15). Wall Street Journa. Retrieved May 05, 2012, from Wall Street Journa:

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