Chapter 1: Introduction

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Chapter 1: Introduction

Organizational commitment is a psychological construct that has been described and operationalized for more than a decade. Meyer and Herscovitch (2002) broadly defined commitment as a force that guides a course of action towards one or more targets. It has been theorized that commitment is a multidimensional construct and that the antecedents, correlates, and consequences of commitment vary across dimensions (Meyer, Stanley, Herscovitch, & Topolnytsky, 2001).

A widely used model of organizational commitment as a multidimensional construct is Meyer and Allen’s (1993) Three-Component Model of Commitment. This model refers to the three forms of commitment as affective, continuance, and normative commitment (Meyer, Allen, & Smith 1993). Affective commitment is explained as an emotional attachment to the organization. Continuance commitment is explained by the perceived costs associated with leaving the organization. Normative commitment refers to the perceived obligation to remain in the organization (Meyer, Stanley, Herscovitch, & Topolnytsky, 2001).

The target of most interest to researchers has historically been employee retention (Mobley, Griffeth, Hand, & Meglino, 1979). It has been suggested that employees who exhibit both high organizational commitment and high job involvement should be least likely to leave the organization and employees with low levels of organizational commitment and job involvement should be the most likely to leave the organization voluntarily (Huselid & Day, 1991).

This interest has led the construct, in relation to the business world, to have varying semantic definitions applied to it. The most common nomenclature used to define commitment is organizational commitment. Organization commitment is defined as a psychological state that is representative of an employee’s relationship with the organization, and influences the employee’s decision to remain employed at a particular organization (Meyer & Allen, 1993). Operationalized measures of the three-component commitment model have been shown to predict many important organization outcomes such as task performance, contextual performance, and job satisfaction (Meyer et al., 2001; Herscovitch & Meyer, 2002; LePine et al., 2002; Meyer et al., 1990).

It is our belief that these relationships will also hold when commitment is defined as the degree to which an employee feels devoted to the tasks that make up the job, and the degree to which an employee finds tasks to be personally relevant. To evaluate this hypothesis items will be generated on various topics concerning involvement in tasks, attachment to tasks, devotion to task performance, and the degree to which an employee finds task performance to be relevant to his life outside of work. These items will be combined in a questionnaire and administered to workers in labor intensive jobs. The MCL Task Commitment Inventory (MCLTCI) will be compared to a job satisfaction measure, as well as an existing contextual performance measure.

Most commonly, elements of contextual performance have been operationalized in the form of organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs). Organizational citizenship behavior has been a focus for many organizations because many managers claim to base decisions and formulate perceptions about employees based on OCBs ( LePine, Erez, & Johnson, 2002). Researchers have broadly defined OCB as a behavior that is discretionary, or not formally recognized by a reward system, that can promote the functioning of the organization (Podsakaff, MacKenzie, Paine, & Bachrach, 2000).

Recent studies have redefined OCBs more specifically as behaviors that contribute to or enhance the social and psychological context that supports task performance ( LePine, Erez, & Johnson, 2002). Further research has concluded that there are several types of organizational citizenship behaviors. Williams and Anderson (1991) broke OCBs down into three categories. These include positive behaviors directed toward co-workers (OCBI), behaviors directed at organizational enhancement (OCBO), and in-role behaviors (IRBs) directed toward task performance (Williams and Anderson, 1991). As the present study is concerned with employee task commitment, it is expected that total scores on the task commitment survey will correlate significantly higher with the IRB subscale than with the other two OCB subscales.

An existing career commitment survey and the Organizational Commitment Questionnaire (OCQ) will also be compared to the aforementioned OCB subscales. It is expected that these two surveys will show significantly stronger correlations with the OCBI and OCBO subscales.

It is our intention to determine if commitment levels lead to similar positive organizational outcomes in labor intensive settings. In order to accomplish this goal, a measure of job satisfaction, organizational commitment (OCQ), career commitment, and organizational citizenship behavior (OCBI, OCBO, IRB), will be combined with our task commitment items into a 76 item questionnaire. This questionnaire will be administered to workers in labor intensive settings.

This measure is designed to help determine if commitment has similar positive effects in labor-intensive jobs. The researchers will be able to determine if scores on task commitment are related to specific organizational outcomes. In addition, this measure will allow researchers to determine what outcomes are associated with increased levels of task commitment. This measure will be compared to various existing operationalized commitment measures such as the Organizational Commitment Questionnaire (OCQ) and a career commitment inventory to determine if task commitment explains more outcome variance for labor-intensive jobs. It has been shown that organizational commitment is generalizable across many occupations, but none of those occupations assessed were highly labor intensive (Irving, Coleman, & Cooper, 1997).

This research will help organizations to understand the degree to which resources should be allocated to practices that have been shown to increase levels of commitment in employees. Furthermore, organizations will be able to determine if task commitment is more important than other areas of commitment. The measure and the research to follow will give labor-based organizations in industries the opportunity to develop strategic plans that will bring employee task commitment to optimal levels.

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