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                                                  Work and Organizational Commitment


Work and Organizational Commitment is one of most studied job attitudes in the field of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. It is a theory that encompasses a person’s commitment to a career, amount of involvement in their career and their work ethic. The theory focuses on turnover, organizational behavior and work performance. It also studies the stress against or challenges to optimal performance and commitment. The study of these qualities is used to analyze and improve organizational commitment from employees. (L12, p.2)


Case Study

Pam Smith was approached by her regional director regarding a new project that was going to take approximately two years to complete. Her Regional Director is looking for two staff members that show initiative and are willing to go above and beyond to work on the team he is putting together regarding the project. Pam has four staff members that would be suitable for the project, and she must decide who would be the two best choices to recommend for the team. She starts by making a list of her staff and qualities she thinks are important in making the decision.

Brian is a recent college grad and has been with the company for a little over a year. He is definitely a go-getter. Pam has given him several assignments where he has shown stellar performance. She has had a few conversations with Brian regarding his future goals with the company and concludes that perhaps Brian is more committed to his career than the organization. Pam is concerned that Brian would leave the company should the right opportunity arise elsewhere.

Mark has been with the company for a little over five years, his work has always been steady but he really doesn’t show much initiative. He does have a good work ethic and is not considered lazy. Pam knows that Mark relies on his steady income and is supporting a family so the benefits the company provides are very important to him. She knows he would be capable working on the project and does not believe he has plans to leave within the next two years, however she is a little worried that he is not exactly what her regional director is looking for.

Fred has been working with the company a little over four years and puts in long hours on a frequent basis. He is known as the first one you see in the morning and the last one to leave at night. Fred often volunteers for extra duties and Pam is worried that he is spreading himself too thin. While Fred is committed to the organization and its mission and Pam believes he would work hard on the project, she is worried that his workaholic tendencies are going to catch up to him.

Cathy has very high commitment to the organization and is balanced when it comes to her work and personal life. She is in her late forties and has been with the company the longest - over 15 years. Since she no longer has small children to care for, she has been able to focus more on her career and the organization. She likes challenges and often recommends new ideas regarding work items. For a long time, Cathy was seen as a steady but not outstanding employee so this change in her reputation is still in the development stage. Pam is sure she will be a good choice for the project but may raise some eyebrows if she selectes her for this role. 

Work Ethic

Work ethic is a person’s desire to work. (L12, p.2)  According to it can be defined as a belief in the moral benefit and importance of work and its ability to strengthen character. Miller, Woehr & Hudspeth (2002) describes “work ethic” as a gathering of outlooks and principles relating to work behavior. Features 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 outlooks and principles (not necessarily behavior);

(e)    is a motivational concept reflected in behavior;

(f)    is nonspiritual, not necessarily tied to any one set of religious beliefs.  

Looking at the case study it appears the all of Pam’s employees exhibit good work ethic. Brian seems to have a high level of work ethic, but perhaps his motivations are personal rather than organizational. Mark also exhibits good work ethic, but doesn’t seem to go out of his way to perform at a higher standard. Fred has high work ethic, but may be on the way to job burnout, since he does not appear to be balancing his work and personal life. Cathy also has a good work ethic and has most recently begun to express more of an interest in work, rebalancing her personal life to accomodate. 


Job Involvement

Job involvement can be defined as the degree of daily absorption into everyday work experiences (Pinder, 2008) and can be tied job satisfaction (Cheloha & Farr, 1980; Gorn & Kanugo, 1980).  Job involvement can be determined by a person’s personal needs and values as well as the organization setting (L12, p.4). A person’s level of job involvement is higher if they find the job challenging and are committed to work in general. Job involvement is also partially controlled by personal characteristics and the work environment (Pinder, 2008).

Brian’s motivations for job involvement appears to be guided by his personal needs and values. He has interest in advancing his career and is willing to work for it but does not believe that it is solely dependant upon advancement by his current employer. Mark’s job involvement is considered average. He extends the effort required to complete his tasks but does not find his role overly challenging. His primary concerns is working to support his family. Fred has high job involvement and it appears that work is his life. He frequently goes above and beyond what is necessary and is pleased with himself when he completes tasks. Cathy also has high job involvement although this is a relatively recent change. She is happy to be focusing on her career and wants to progress within the company that she's comfortable in.

Organizational Commitment

Organizational commitment is "the extent to which an employee develops an attachment and feels a sense of allegiance to his or her employer" (L12, p.4).  This is typically seen when job satisifaction is also high.  There are three main types of organizational commitment:

  1. Affective Commitment - This is expressed by employees who accept an organization's goals and values and have a strong desire to stay with the company. Most often, people who express this commitment are happy with their company as a whole and feel connected to it. (L12, p.5)
  2. Contiuance Commitment - This type of commitment occurs when a person feels tied to a company for reasons such as pay and benefits. Individuals who fit into this category do not necessarily express satisfaction with their employer but feel that they lack options otherwise. (L12, p.5)
  3. Normative Commitment - This is when people who feel morally obligated to stay with a company. They may fear the opinion others would have of them if they were to leave or have other reasons which compel them to stay. (L12, p.5)

In this case study, organizational commitment should be one of the deciding factors for Pam. Since her director has made it clear that there is a 2-year commitment to this project, Pam will want to select candidates who are willing and able to stay with the company through the duration of the project. 

Brian is currently with the company because he lacks a better offer elsewhere. However, he has expressed that if something were to come up, he would not have a problem leaving. According the three descriptions, Brian has Continuance Commitment. Mark also shows Continunace Commitment because he relies on his salary to take care of his family. He doesn't appear to define himself as a member of the company and would possibly consider a move elsewhere if his pay and benefits were matched. Fred is Affectively committed to his work. He loves what he does and thrives on doing a good job and meeting the needs of the company. Cathy also has Affective Commitment to the company and possibly expresses some Normative Commitment as well. She is happy to be moving forward in her career and may feel that she owes the company for standing behind her during the years that she had less flexibility in her personal life.

Career Commitment


Career Commitment is a newer idea developed in I/O psychology to address the structural changes in the work force. While starting with and retiring from a single company was commonplace in prior generations, today this is no longer the norm. These days, career commitment and organizational commitment are separate. Working Americans now hold an average of 7 careers (not jobs) in their lifetime. This new shift has prompted movement towards personal growth within a career path.  This commitment is important because through it many skills and knowledge for a particular job are gained. (L12, p.6)

Pam will want to consider Career Commitment in her selection of candidates for the project role. Brian shows high Career Commitment and has expressed that he will be looking to move his career forward with or without the assistance of his current employer. Mark expresses less Career Commitment and seems to be willing to meet the needs of his employer for the explicit purpose of maintaining his current level of employment. Fred shows high commitment to his career as he's frequently looking for opportunities to stretch himself. Cathy shows moderate to high Career Commitment. She previously did not have the same level of dedication to her career that she now displays.


Pam's knowledge of these behavioral components will aid her in making an informed decision for her Regional Director. As mentioned at the onset, the right candidates for this role will be committed to both the organization and their career. Since the project is due to take 2 years and requires individuals who have the ability and desire to put in the hours necessary to complete the project successfully, Pam will want to strongly consider Fred and Cathy. Fred brings a sense of urgency and excitement about the work he does. While he tends to involve himself in too many different initiatives at once, Pam can work with him to correct this behavior and help ensure his succes on this project. Cathy has experience and a renewed excitement about her work. Her solid past gives her the consistency that the project team will need and her dedication to the company assures that she will have little desire to leave prior to the conclusion of the 2-year requirement.


Works Cited:


Cheloha, R.S., & Farr, J.L. (1980). Absenteeism, job involvement, and job satisfaction in an organizational setting. Journal of Applied Psychology, 65, 467-473. retrieved at

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.

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.

Pinder, C. C. (2008). Work motivation in organizational behavior. New York: Psychology Press.

Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2011). PSYCH 484 Lesson 12: Work and Organizational Commitment: Am I attached to the organization?  Retrieved from

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