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Organizational Commitment
Jul 1, 2013
Ever wondered why some people we work with go above and beyond workplace expectations while others hardly meet the minimum requirements? Or why some people work at one organization for a lifetime while others tend to change jobs as frequently as they change their socks? Is it just the pay that makes certain people so committed to their jobs, or are there other factors we are not aware of?

In order to survive, organizations need to gain the commitment of their members regardless of whether they are non-profit organizations or large business-oriented enterprises. Organizational commitment has important implications for both individual and organizational outcomes and is a central issue for an organization.

Organizational commitment can be defined as the relative strength of an individual’s identification with, and involvement in, a particular organization and it can be characterized by three factors: a strong belief in and acceptance of the organization’s goals and values, a willingness to exert considerable effort on behalf of the organization, and a strong desire to maintain membership in the organization (Mowday et al 1979).

Organizational commitment can be categorized in three dimensions. First is the affective dimension and refers to the person’s emotional attachment to, identification with, and involvement in the organization. The second is the continuance dimension and refers to commitment based on the costs the person associates with leaving the organization. The last is the normative dimension and it refers to the person’s feelings of obligation to remain with the organization (Meyer and Allen 1984, 1990).

Positive organizational commitment is associated with improved organizational efficiency and effectiveness. Organizations need to support their human capital in every possible way in order to earn their psychological or emotional attachment rather than having a group of people who just comply solely for material gains. Many critical behaviors in organizations rely on acts of cooperation, altruism, and spontaneous unrewarded help (Smith et a. 1983). Also, innovative behaviors that go beyond role prescriptions are essential for functioning organizations (Katz 1964).

Considering these factors, what are the factors that today’s leaders need to pay attention to in order to not only retain, but also commit people to their organizations while heading their groups? Is there a magic formula?

Procedural justice, good communication, increased participation, more supportive management and reasonable rewards are some of the means to achieve this goal (Nehmeh, 2009). Perceived job characteristics (such as task autonomy, skill variety, supervisory feedback), organizational dependability, perceived participation opportunities, career satisfaction are also found to be related to organizational commitment (Dunham et al 1994).

We always compare and contrast the fairness of the behaviors of others that is particularly directed at us. We always question whether we are being treated fairly as compared to them. This thought is always present, unconsciously running at the back of our minds while we deal with others in our daily life. We get dissatisfied as soon as we perceive injustice being committed towards ourselves. Similarly, it is important to provide procedural justice in an organization. One example of fairness is the distribution of rewards or promotions. As members of the group weigh the treatment they receive, if they perceive fairness and equality in treatment, their organizational commitment level is likely to increase.

One problem we often encounter in our daily interactions, which is the cause of other problems, is miscommunication. When we misunderstand each others’ attitudes or behaviors, we tend to become easily discontent and lose touch with the reality of the situation. This applies to organizational settings as well. If the communication channels are open and clear, and if there are multiple ways of communication in order to clarify our intentions, we minimize the probability that other group members misunderstand us. This way, we can minimize the risk of alienating our peers. For example, giving timely supervisory feedback could positively contribute in an organizational setting in this respect.

Another way of achieving more organizational commitment is encouraging participation either through consultation or direct engagement. The more individuals take part in projects, the more they will identify themselves with the goals of the larger group. It always feels good to be asked one’s opinion, because it shows that their opinion is valued.

Socialization opportunities also contribute to an individual’s integration into the organizational culture. Leaders that seek ways to organize retreats, trainings, and team building exercises can help build an atmosphere of citizenship in an organization. As individuals integrate to the community and get reminded of the common goals in such settings, they tend to feel more valued, see the bigger picture, and understand how their work contributes to the final outcome. Such events also open more channels of communication between peers.

Further, the more supportive the leaders are, the more likely they are to gain their group’s attachment. It is important to envision coworkers as living and breathing people who have individual needs and responsibilities (such as family, voluntary work, religious, and academic responsibilities) outside the organizational setting rather than machines or tools to achieve project goals. The more support people get in these areas, the more committed they are likely to become to their organization.

For example, many organizations encourage their members to pursue higher degrees and support their professional activities outside the organizational setting. Research suggests that professionally committed individuals also tend to be organizationally committed. Such individuals like scientists who are committed to their specialized areas thrive for opportunities to associate with their peers and stay in touch with the latest advances in their fields. It is also important to match the skill levels of individuals with meaningful tasks. It would be a definite mismatch if an individual with a doctorate degree is given simple repetitive tasks that has very little to do with their expertise.

Other organizations provide silent rooms for individuals to meditate or pray during work hours. Respecting people’s daily habits and providing such conveniences at work can make a difference in employee performance and satisfaction. Flexible hours or work-from-home arrangements are also common among organizations with professionals who have to joggle work and family responsibilities.

Some of us get tired of doing the same tasks over and over again. We tend to get dissatisfied after a while and start looking for new challenges. In such situations, a change of setting or scope of the tasks we perform can make us more productive. Similarly, switching of roles in a group at an organizational setting can help to overcome the dissatisfaction such people could develop over time. Perception of various opportunities that one can pursue is also likely to increase individuals’ tendency to stay in the same organization.

While performing our share of work in a group, we generally want a certain level of autonomy. We may need some direction at the beginning, but no one likes to be micro-managed. Good leaders should be able to find a balance in the degree of their involvement while dealing with their coworkers. Otherwise they may find themselves micro-managing others and being overloaded with extra work. This also can alienate the people who prefer to perform autonomously.

In summation, organizations need committed individuals to reach their goals. When we associate with the values of an organization, we tend to contribute more positively, even in an altruistic manner. Good leaders should see their team as individuals who have their own needs and responsibilities. It is important not only to retain people but also to win over their hearts in order to attain the highest quality of outcomes.

Alptekin Kavi is an electrical engineer and designs computer chips at a high-technology company. He lives in Superior, Colorado.


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