Even though majority of people consistently hold jobs and go to work, research has been conducted considering how committed these employees really are to their job. Work ethic, is defined as “a person's desire to work" (PSU, L12, n.d.) and one factor that contributes to how committed a person is to the organization with which they are involved with. Another factor is job involvement, which is defined as "the degree of daily absorption into everyday work experiences" (PSU, L12, n.d). Along with these two factors there are various variables that need to be considered, such as skill sets, personality traits, extenuating circumstances, and available resources. In past studies, it has been found that there are often three different types of commitments that an individual will hold concerning the organization they belong to; Affective, Continuance, and Normative (PSU, L12, n.d). While the Affective Commitment employee has the perfect balance of emotional attachment to the company and holds the same values, the Continuance Commitment employee stays simply because they feel they have nowhere else to go. Finally, the Normative Commitment employee is the person that feels that they have a moral obligation to stay and unwillingness to displease either coworker's or employers. The question is, are employees more likely to have better job performance if they have a higher level of commitment to the organization? What can be done to help a person feel more committed to their jobs? Below we take a look at a case study concerning this issue.
Carolyn: Carolyn is an office manager for a brokerage company that deals in setting middle class families on the right financial path by lowering their monthly bills, reducing their credit card debt, and investing in a retirement plan. Though the market is ripe in clients and the company is growing on a whole, she has noticed that the atmosphere in the office is not one that matches the positive direction that the company is taking. Carolyn knows that many clients have trusted her office because the positive work environment reinforces their decision by increasing their confidence levels. If she does not reach the root of the problem with her employees, the company will lose business. Carolyn is not sure what the cause of the negative atmosphere is within the office, and without knowing this, has no way to reach a plan of action to boost the office’s production and positive environment. She does notice that there are varying levels of commitment amongst her employees and is attempting to understand why.
Tom: Tom has been with the company for 15 years. He was licensed through the office at a young age, right after he was married and had a child. Since then, he has stayed with the company, worked his normal work weeks, done a basic job, and gone home on the weekends. He often refuses any involvement with company functions, and has no contact with any of the staff outside of normal office hours. Carolyn has noticed that his performance level has become stagnant, along with his demeanor. He appears to be bored with the work that is handed to him, and frustrated with dealing with the same clients and cases day in and day out. He recently has sarcastically vocalized his stress of having a child and a mortgage to keep up with, requiring him to stay at “this mundane job.”
Ashley: Ashley is fairly new to the company. She has just received her B.S. in business and is gaining experience through this new position. She has a positive work record from her past, and came with glowing references from her other employers. While Ashley seems to be a good addition to the office, she spends quite a bit of time worrying about things. She is in a constant panic about not having her work done perfectly, tries to work ahead, is constantly looking for feedback, even when it was just given, and seems to put too much weight on the opinions of those around her instead of trusting her own judgment and education. She has a nervous aura about her most of the time and voices her worries throughout much of the days.
Gary: Gary is a middle aged man that is married, but seems to have little involvement with his children or spouse. Most of the time, he is the first through the doors in the morning and the last to leave at night. In fact, many times Carolyn is preparing to leave for the evening, and Gary is still at his desk, seemingly caught in the “flow” of his job. Often, he forgets or knowingly misses some sort of family activity and will refuse to go on vacation. While his performance output has exceeded anyone in the office, including herself at times, he has a negative attitude that is noticeable to all those around, including clients. There never seems to be a smile for anything nor anyone, and much of what the company entails is an upbeat professional relationship with the clients.
Carissa: Carissa is an older woman who started with the company almost 25 years ago as a secretary to the first office manager. She comes from an era where women where rarely educated beyond being a secretary and knowing how to type. While she is dedicated and a maternal figure in the office, she seems to be struggling with her actual job duties and this is being perceived as a lack of commitment to her job. The new computer system was put in place last year, and since then, many of the other employees have made complaints about Carissa not having their client’s files entered into the system properly, and that she must just not want to do her job any longer. While Carissa pretends not to notice the snide comments, Carolyn has noticed that where Carissa was once the stability of the office and had a guaranteed smile for all, she has now become withdrawn.
Carolyn loves her job and loves working with the public. She feels that her job is the perfect combination of business and social work. While she gets to work with numbers on a daily basis, she also gets to work with families and come to know them, watch them grow, watch their children grow, and help them. When she began with the company, the motto of saving people money and helping them gain stability and a retirement was something that she could relate to and wanted to give the community more access to. She worked her way up through the company and has flourished. She cannot imagine having any other job, and is worried that the current issues in the office are going to have negative consequences for all.
He can be best described as a workaholic since he has a “poor work-life balance and low life satisfaction” combined with “excessive work involvement” (PSU, L12, n.d.). There can be numerous reasons on how a person becomes a workaholic since it is considered an addiction that has to have a “starting point”. Gary may feel the need to work beyond what someone would consider “reasonable” to make sure that the he meets the needs of organizations and/or possibly his co-workers. While he is committed to completing his own tasks, there is a lack of enjoyment from his work. Gary has low work commitment, high work ethic and high job involvement.
Gary’s behavior could be best explained through the use of the expectancy theory. The model suggests that an individual will feel motivated when three conditions are met: 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 L4, n.d.). Gary is motivated by his “addiction” to work which is why his personal “level of performance” is so much higher then everyone else’s. He is, however, lacking the value of enjoyment which thrusts him into the realm of workaholic as opposed to super motivated.
Improving Gary’s attitude will be the most difficult aspect to modify so that is corresponds closer to the company goals. While he works hard, he has zero commitment to the company. Since Gary already has a high motivation level, management could include a communication segment in everyone’s job is description that could include having upbeat professional relationship with his clients. Since he is very goal driven, this change in the job description might encourage him to offer a more positive attitude with co-workers and clients even if he has to “fake it”. On the upside, because workaholics tend to alienate their coworkers (Addiction-Treatment.com, 2013) by helping him work passed this disease; we can hope to improve the atmosphere of the office. The company may also need to establish a maximum number of hours (overtime cap) that Gary can work. They can also monitor his overtime and make sure that he is only spending necessary time on the clock and not creating work for himself and encourage him to delegated out if possible which would create a way to address the situation without insulting him by implying he is a workaholic. The company must also be encouraging to him as he learns to delegate. He has become so absorbed in his work that it has begun to hold little real meaning for him and he clings to the process more than the results causing him to be committed only to his tasks and not the company’s overall vision. A wellness program could provide a way to indicate on where each employee is in regards to work -life balance without singling Gary out. While the company cannot order him to go into therapy, they can take some of the above approaches to help begin his road to recovery.
Carissa would be best described as a person who has affective commitment that is being challenged. She has a high emotional attachment and identification with the organization as well as high work ethic. She lacks the skill set to readily handle the challenge before her. Recently though her commitment has become in question because some co-workers believe she is intentionally not preforming well, while she believes that the she is no longer being treated fairly. Carissa is experiencing personal threat because she perceives the situation is an attack on her own identity from the group and can be seen through her withdrawal from the group. This situation can easily be corrected through proper training on the new computer system. By improving her knowledge and skill sets, her own confidence will increase and through improved skills she will also be able to reestablish her previous status in the group.
Carolyn not only has a strong work commitment, but also a strong organizational commitment. As an employee her work ethic seems to be well above par and her job involvement is high but she is lacking in passing those values down to her staff. While she cannot force her employees to be committed to their job or the organization, she can implement strategies that will help increase her employee’s levels of commitment. First and foremost she needs to create an environment that her employees want to be a part of (PSU, L12, n.d). By creating a work environment that her employees want to be involved in, she can help garner feelings of belonging and increase individual employee’s sense of commitment to their organization. In order to create both forms of commitment, she also needs to find ways to create job involvement. This could be accomplished with something as simple as positive feedback for her employees, evaluating the level at which they are working or seeing if they want more challenging and significant duties. She could also meet with each employee individually and ask them for feedback regarding not only their jobs, but how management can improve. We know that not all employees are motivated by the same thing and by evaluating individual employees; Carolyn can tailor her approaches for each employee.
Ashley seems to have a normative commitment to the company. It is not obvious if Ashley enjoys her job duties because it is difficult to ascertain her level of organizational commitment through her anxiety. Ashley wants very much to do well, and this denotes that she has a strong a work ethic. Her managers face the challenge of turning her normative commitment into an affective one. Ashley needs reassurance and feedback from her managers to confirm her ability and increase her trust in herself. Doing so will result in a dual benefit for the organization. Not only will Ashley produce better and more quality work, but she will more than likely foster a loyalty to the company because of her developed work ability and increased confidence.
Due to Ashley’s normative commitment level she wants to do it well but she has a higher need for feedback and feels more of a moral obligation to please those around her than to being happy and confident with herself. She feels that she ought to do well and please those around her as opposed to wanting these things for herself. She believes that she has to perform to a certain level in order to gain the respect of those around her. While this is true to an extent concerning her superiors (she must meet expectations to keep her job), she only perceives respect through actual feedback. Her job involvement is connected to the amount of feedback that she receives and though her work ethic is high, her confidence in her abilities is low.
Over the 15 years of employment, Tom has shown little effort to go above and beyond the call of duty. He seldom exceeds the expectations set for him, and neither his managers nor fellow employees expect much from him in the office, or even in a social setting.
It appears that Tom is dissatisfied with his job. Why is this so? According to Frederick Herzberg’s two-factor theory, “motivation derives from the nature of the job itself, not from external rewards or situations on the job (PSU, L10, n.d).” Tom has been showing signs of boredom at work and does not seem to care about anything that is put in front of him. There is a lack of motivators, which are aspects of job content that help make the job interesting and challenging causing the content of his job to be unfulfilling to Tom.
By offering Tom more challenging work that holds his attention and carries more perceived significance, we could possibly improve Tom’s commitment to his job. There are also other hygiene factors that could be causing this stagnancy at work. It is possible that Tom does not attend company functions or make friends with his fellow employees because he does not like them. He may want to keep work separate from his personal life however; he could choose to stay away because he is afraid that creating relationships with his coworkers could lead to more commitment from him. Tom may have convinced himself deep down that this job is as good as any, especially since he has been with the company for so long. He might disagree with the organizations policies and general work environment, but he has a wife and a kid to support and plans on getting through each day without putting in any real effort. His goal is to survive and not expend more than he needs to. Finally, it is likely that Tom has alienated himself from his fellow employees. According to the Social Dominance Theory, “all people belong to groups and each group provides for the individuals that belong to the group” (PSU, L8, n.d.). Because Tom did not interact with his peers at the early stages of his employment, he now does not belong to any group, and his lethargy at work does not motivate him to try to join a group or encourage others to reach out to him.
The study of this particular brokerage firm exemplifies the difficulties that organizations and the respective management staffs have to face on a daily basis. Not only are they faced with the daunting task of not only identifying individual employees levels of commitment but determining how best to improve those levels. This task can be multifaceted and invoke various other areas of workplace motivation and thus managers must be well equipped with a repertoire of motivation knowledge.
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PSU World Campus. (n.d.). Lesson 4: Expectancy Theory: Is there a link between my effort and what I really want? Retrieved on 7/16/2013from: https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/su13/psych484/001/content/lesson04/printlesson.html
PSU World Campus. (n.d) Lesson 08: Intergroup Theories: Social Identity, Social Dominance, and Integrated Threat: How do the people around me influence me? Retrieved on 7/18/2013 from:https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/su13/psych484/001/content/lesson08/lesson08/printlesson.html
PSU World Campus. (n.d) Lesson 10: Job Design: Do I find my work interesting and challenging? Retrieved on 7/16/2013 from https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/su13/psych484/001/content/lesson10/lesson10_01.html
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