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Work & Organizational Commitment Wiki

I. Introduction to Work & Organizational 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 this their job or career. As a result, employers have an incentive to ensure that their employees are committed towards the success of the organization and producing at a high level. Many organizations strive to provide an environment that will foster innovation and collaboration, build a great brand name, and promote employees who excel.

Work commitment is the fuel that pushes employees to strive for excellence. This belief has lead to substantial attention to the concept. Industrial Organizational Psychology pundits consider work commitment the second most commonly studied job attitude (PSU, 2014).  

II. Overview

i. Work Commitment

Individuals compliance to work ethic, job involvement, commitment to a profession, and organizational commitment combine to define an individual’s work commitment (PSU, 2014).  The term commitment is a demonstrable loyalty towards an individual or entity (Commitment, n.d.). Therefore, for an individual to be committed to an organization, the individual must demonstrate loyalty to the company or organization

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

ii. Work Ethic

Work ethic is best defined as an individual's beliefs and attitude towards their job and work behavior (PSU, 2014).  Work ethic has been the topic of psychology studies for years, due to it’s complex nature.  Some will say there is a direct positive correlation between work ethic and job satisfaction (PSU, 2014).  By extension, if a person enjoys their job, they have a higher work ethic. Other studies show that work ethic is an ingrained part of a person’s inherent personality traits (PSU, 2014). They either have a high work ethic or a low work ethic as a part of their makeup. Work ethic is a complex driving force in work and organizational commitment.


iii. Job Involvement

An individual's engagement in their daily work, can be defined as their job involvement (PSU, 2014).  Individuals that find their work challenging, motivating, and are committed to the work, have higher job involvement (PSU, 2014). This drives the individual to be less likely to leave their job, and increases the likelihood that they will solicit feedback from their coworkers on their own work and performance.  The other driving force behind job involvement is the alignment between individual’s personal needs and values and those of the organization (PSU, 2014). Based on all these conditions and factors, individuals that obtain higher job satisfaction, also have higher job involvement (PSU, 2014).

iv. Workaholism

Individuals who are overly involved with their work yet do not enjoy their job are said to be workaholics (Aziz & Zickar, 2006). Workaholics lack a balance between their work and personal lives. Workaholics prioritize their work lives over their social and personal lives.They also tend to find little satisfaction in their personal/social lives (PSU, 2014). The life of a workaholic is psychologically unhealthy. They do not enjoy their work yet they are miserable when they are not working and have a hard time enjoying non-work activities (PSU, 2014). They find it hard to detach themselves from their work lives and will engage in work activity during their personal and social time (PSU, 2014). Workaholics are addicted to their work in much the same way that others find themselves addicted to drugs or alcohol. The workaholic feels psychologically compelled to work at all times even though they may recognize that it is unhealthy (PSU, 2014).

v. Organizational Commitment

Organizational commitment reflects the degree to which an individual feels a sense of attachment and dedication to their employer (PSU, 2014). It is closely related to job satisfaction because they share many causal factors. Additionally, the emotional reactions that individuals experience to both dimensions are similar (PSU, 2014). While organizational commitment offers many similar parallels to job satisfaction, they are fundamentally different in that job satisfaction is related to a specific job whereas organizational commitment refers to an individual’s commitment towards an entire organization (PSU, 2014).

vi. Forms of Commitment

a. Affective Commitment

Affective commitment is the type of commitment that one feels when they have a strong sense of emotional attachment towards an organization (PSU, 2014). They feel this way because their goals and ideology is in alignment with the organization. As a result, they are willing to work hard for the organization (PSU, 2014). 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 (PSU, 2014).

b. Continuance Commitment

Continuance commitment is the sort of commitment that individuals have towards an organization when they do not have a viable alternative (PSU, 2014). For instance, some may continue with an organization because it is their best available salary and benefits option. In other instances, an individual may remain committed to an organization because of pending financial incentives or contractual obligations. While employees may remain with an organization, they do not necessarily feel compelled to perform at a high level (PSU, 2014).

c. Normative Commitment

Normative commitment is when an individual feels compelled to remain committed towards an organization because they believe that it is the morally correct thing to do (PSU, 2014), An example of this is when an individual remains with a company that is not performing well. They 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 (PSU, 2014).

d. Career and/or professional Commitment

A type of commitment exists that is not related to a specific job or organization. Instead, it is a sense of commitment towards one’s vocation. This form of commitment is called career or professional commitment (PSU, 2014). While the dimensions of job commitment may still apply to an individual during the course of their career, they can feel a sense of commitment towards their chosen vocation over the long-run (PSU, 2014). Over the course of an individual’s lifetime, they may have multiple job experiences yet demonstrate commitment towards a specific job field (PSU, 2014).

III. Case Study

The Boston distribution facility of United States Postal Service features an assortment of individuals who have worked there for many years. This facility is significant to those in the Northeast because it is a major hub responsible for the sorting and distribution of mail. As a result, it is important that its employees perform well and remain committed to their jobs.

Cliff Mavin

Cliff is one of the logistics coordinators for the facility. His positive attitude is a delight to all of those around him. Cliff is a focal point for the organization because all distribution channels need his assistance to ensure that shipments arrive on time and to their correct destinations. Cliff is deeply appreciative of the great benefits that USPS employees receive. He likes to travel with his family and enjoys the healthy vacation allowance that USPS rewards him with for his years of service. Additionally, he is cognizant that USPS’s retirement benefits are second to none. His Manager is respectful of him and always takes the time to praise his phenomenal work. As a result, Cliff has a great appreciation of his work environment and looks forward to going to work everyday. This reciprocal appreciation provides Cliff with the motivation he needs to be a top employee.

Sam Ramone

Sam is customer service representative for USPS at the front desk.  He has been with USPS for over fifteen years and cannot wait for retirement. While Sam is an expert at his job and has been a top performer in the past, he is currently operating like an average performer. He does just enough to avoid falling on the radar for low performance. Sam has also been rewarded in the past with restricted stock units that will vest in five years.  At the heart of his reasons for staying in this organization is that his wife of twenty years has been diagnosed with breast cancer. She depends upon Sam’s benefits package for her medical care. Sam continues in his role because he understands that he and his wife will become increasingly reliant on his medical coverage as they increase in age. Sam has a very active personal life and has hobbies that are relatively expensive. He restores classic trucks and attends car shows.  His role in USPS allows him to have these financial needs met.

Woody Huckleberry Tiberious Floyd

One of the drivers that receives coordination from Cliff is Woody. Woody has been with USPS for over ten years. He is fully-vested in the USPS pension plan and has maximized all of his employee benefits. Woody is appreciative of the dutiful employment that he has received over the years and the great benefits but he has grown disenchanted with his role. USPS made some changes to the job and organizational structure a few years back and he feels that his role has become monotonous and unfulfilling. Unfortunately, there were other drivers who shared his distaste for the new job responsibilities and decided to leave USPS. Recently, a recruiter for Fedex contacted Woody with a great new job opportunity with their organization. He liked what the recruiter had to say but, in the back of his mind, he felt bad even considering a new opportunity because he knew that it would leave the other drivers and his Supervisor in a lurch.  

Rebecca Nowe

Rebecca is one of the managers at the USPS facility.  She is dedicated to her career and aspires to climb the management ladder. She is very committed in her role as a manager and the success of her team, but not very committed to the organization as a whole. She has been a manager for three different divisions at USPS. First, she was manager in Finance, then moved to Sales, and now she is in Operations. She believes she is a good manager, and wants to enhance her career path as a Senior Manager or Director in the next few years.  Rebecca has been pursued by other companies and agencies, but has stayed with USPS because she is continuously afforded opportunities of escalating importance. Though she remains with USPS for the time being, Rebecca always has her eye on the job market to further her career as a manager.  Rebecca has a hard time maintaining social relationships since she is dedicated to her work and would rather work than socialize.

IV. Application of Concepts to Case Study

  • Cliff’s performance and attitude indicates that he has an affective commitment towards his job. He is emotionally attached towards his role and believes in the importance of their cause. This affective commitment is undoubtedly the result of a fair and supportive leadership organization and his identification with the team.
  • Sam’s actions and performance indicate that he has a continuance form of commitment towards his job. He is not motivated to perform at a high level nor is he invested in the success of the organization. He demonstrates very low job involvement and is only working there because he needs the health benefits that it affords him and is awaiting the vesting of his pension package.
  • Woody’s actions demonstrate that he has a normative form of job commitment. He stays with the organization because he feels that it is the morally correct thing to do. He has been a member of the team for many years and is concerned about leaving his leader or his team in a bad position by leaving. Employee attrition has left the team in a weakened state and he does not want to compound upon the situation by leaving even though he is disenchanted with his role.
  • Rebecca’s attitude displays a career commitment, rather than an organizational commitment. She is striving to further her career as a manager and it not necessarily committed to her current organization.  She is a workaholic, due to the fact that she always puts work before her social life.  She demonstrates high work ethic as well as high job involvement due to her emphasis on her career.  

V. Policy changes / Methodology

USPS has been experiencing several years of diminished profitability and has decided to undertake a transformation project to reinvent themselves and emerge as a profitable and cohesive organization. As part of this project, Norm, the Postmaster General of USPS, has decided to hire a team of Industrial-Organizational Psychologists to evaluate their business structure and find ways to increase productivity.

Through a number of surveys and employee interviews, the I/O team determines that one of the major issues affecting productivity is the lack of organizational commitment from the work force. The I/O team informs USPS that it should strive for high affective commitment from its workforce because affectively committed employees are more likely to remain loyal to the organization and are motivated to perform at a high level (PSU, 2014). These are the sort of employee attributes that will be desirable in a high performing organization.


The I/O team devises a program to reinvigorate the work force. Rather than unilaterally push a new organizational structure, they decide to involve the current employee base by establishing cross-functional teams to identify areas of strength and discuss growth opportunities for roles throughout the company. Once consensus on the change methodology is established, front line leadership will push the change across the organization. The underlying goal is to improve work commitment from the employees in an effort to increase profitability.

Through the cross-functional program process, the team determined that there are a multitude of growth opportunities in the organization. The I/O team trained the cross-functional team to understand that they are seeking affective commitment from as many individuals as possible. Further, they explained that this form of commitment is the result of a fair and supportive work environment where the goals and ideology of the organization are in alignment with that of employees (PSU, 2014). With that lesson in mind, they determined that they needed to find a way to better support employees and place workers in roles that are are more likely to match their personal goals and/or ideology (PSU, 2014). They decided that in the organizational transformation process, many employees will have an opportunity to changes roles, gain exposure to new projects, influence change, or engage in training that will enable them to expand their areas of expertise. Employees within five years of retirement will be assigned as mentors to the newer staff so that they can pass on their expert skills and knowledge. While the organization has an eye towards the future, they cannot lose sight of the structure that made them successful in the first place.

 ii. Rationale for solution / Concept Linkage

  • Cliff - Under the new program from USPS, Cliff was identified as an affectively committed employee. Leadership appreciated his ideological alignment and viewed him as a great role model for others. They felt that promoting him to supervisor would allow him to be a direct influence on front line employees. Further, they believed that his promotion was a warranted reward for his years of excellence. Cliff was appreciative of his promotion and he felt that it was very fair. As a result, his job involvement and organizational commitment was increased (PSU, 2014). Additionally, he welcomed the increased feedback from his peers and leadership (Brown, 1996).

  • Sam - Due to his quickly approaching retirement and years of experience, Sam was selected for the new mentorship program. The cross-functional team felt that entering individuals into the program would have a multiple benefits. This unexpected new responsibility instills a sense of pride and leadership responsibility in Sam. (Dose, 1999). This understanding reignites his underlying work ethic and his overall performance is increased. Further, with the wealth of experience and knowledge that he possessed, he was ideally suited for the role. It becomes quickly apparent that the extenuating circumstance of his pending retirement had a negative effect on his motivation (PSU, 2014).

  • Woody - With the creation of the cross-functional teams, Woody becomes a dominant contributing member because he had experience and opinions on many organizational growth opportunities. Woody’s work ethic was already high, but his involvement was low.  By working on the cross-functional team and sharing his ideas, he was able to drive positive change into the new branding of the company that was more closely aligned to his own values. He found his involvement in the team to be challenging and exciting. This led to an increase to his job involvement (PSU, 2014). Since his job involvement is closely tied to his job satisfaction, it was also affected in a positive manner (Gorn & Kanugo, 1980). Woody’s inclusion into the cross-functional team made him feel that his input was valued and he was being supported. The successful outcome with Woody is that he experienced newfound alignment with organizational values and increased commitment as a result of a supportive work environment and a perception that he was a valued employee (PSU, 2014). Woody was able to see the positive changes his cross-functional team was achieving and it increased his desire to stay with the organization (PSU, 2014).

  • Rebecca - During the I/O analysis of the company, employees that are career committed but not necessarily committed to the organization were identified. The I/O team understood that individuals who are career committed but not organizationally committed may often jump from organization to organization (PSU, 2014). The goal of the I/O team was to increase the affective commitment in career committed individuals.  

    The organization valued Rebecca as an talented employee with high upside and it wanted to do what it could to ensure that she did not leave to a competitor. They felt that by increasing her affective commitment and that of others like her, they could influence their desire to stay at USPS (PSU, 2014). The I/O Psychologist team understood that affectively committed employees identify with an organization and see alignment in their goals and values (PSU, 2014). They felt that they needed to increase Rebecca’s affinity with these dimensions. As a result, they placed Rebecca on the senior organizational change team. This team was responsible for selecting the most important ideas generated by the cross-functional team and finding ways to incorporate them into the business in a way that was feasible.

    With her active participation in the shaping of the new organization, Rebecca found herself  developing a closer alignment between her own personal goals and those of the organization. This increased alignment increased her organizational and affective commitment (PSU, 2014). Additionally, an unanticipated outcome to the change is that Rebecca found herself having more fun. Her newfound goal alignment enabled her to find others who were of like mind and she found herself interacting with them more in a social setting. As a result, Rebecca finds herself working less and having more fun in her free time.

VI. Outcome

The USPS transformation process was more successful than anyone anticipated. The detailed analysis of the I/O psychology team, the input of the cross functional team and management’s focus on transforming the organization resulted in many beneficial outcomes. USPS employees have increased their work commitment and employee retention has been increased. Through the rejuvenation of the organization, employees now possess a stronger sense of organizational loyalty and commitment (PSU, 2014). USPS profitability increased as soon as the new programs were implemented as a result of increased worker motivation(Mathieu & Zajac, 1990). A follow up study by the I/O team determined that the workforce underwent a statistically relevant increase in affective commitment that can be attributed to the change. Based on the new results, USPS achieved its overall goal of increasing the affective commitment of its workforce. With the dramatic increase in organization commitment amongst its employees, USPS was ranked as one of the best companies to work for in the Boston area.

VII. References

Aziz, S., & Zickar, M.J. (2006). A cluster analysis investigation of workaholism as a syndrome. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 11, 52-62.

Brown, S.P. (1996). A meta-analysis and review of organizational research on job involvement. Psychological bulletin, 120, 235-255.

Commitment. (n.d.). Retrieved July 2, 2014, from

Dose, J.J. (1999). The relationship between work values similarity and team-member and leader-member exchange relationships. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 3, 20-32.

Gorn, G.J., & Kanugo, R.N. (1980). Job involvement and motivation: Are intrinsically motivated managers more job involved? Organizational Behavior & Human Performance, 26, 265-277.

Mathieu, J. E., & Zajac, D. M. (1990). A review and meta-analysis of the antecedents, correlates, and consequences of organizational commitment. Psychological Bulletin, 108, 171-194.

Meyer, J. P., & Allen, N. J. (1991). A three-component conceptualization of organizational commitment. Human Resource Management Review, 1, 61-89.

Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2014). PSYCH 484, lesson 12: Work and Organization commitment: Am I attached to the organization? Retrieved from


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