Porter, and Steers (1982) define organizational commitment as "the relative strength of an individual's identification with
and involvement in a particular organization. Conceptually, it can
be characterized by at least three factors: (a) a strong belief in
and acceptance of the organization's goals and values; (b) a willingness
to exert considerable effort on behalf of the organization; and (c)
a strong desire to maintain membership in the organization" (p.
there are a variety of definitions (Buchanan, 1974; Hrebiniak & Alutto,
1972; O'Reilly & Chatman, 1986; Scholl, 1981; Wiener, 1982), organizational
commitment is becoming synonymous with the Mowday et al. (1982) definition.
This lends consistency to the study of commitment (Reichers, 1986).
Morrow (1983) identified thirty constructs that have been discussed
as forms of commitment. Many researchers have formulated their own
definitions and measures rather than building on existing research.
Commitment, as defined and measured by Mowday et al. (1982), maintains
an organizational focus and does not overlap empirically with other
measures. Based on this and other suggestions (Akhtar & Tan, 1994;
Griffin & Bateman, 1986; Reichers, 1985), the Mowday et al. (1982)
definition is used in the present research.
OF ORGANIZATIONAL COMMITMENT
antecedents generally fall into five categories: (a) personal characteristics;
(b) work experiences; (c) role-related characteristics
(Buchanan, 1974; Marsh & Mannari, 1977; Salancik, 1977; Schlenker & Gutek,
1987; Steers, 1977); (d) structural characteristics (Morris & Steers,
1980; Rhodes & Steers, 1981; Stevens, Beyer, & Trice, 1978);
and (e) job choice processes (O'Reilly & Caldwell, 1980, 1981;
Pfeffer & Lawler, 1980; Stumpf & Hartman, 1984). The present
study focuses on personal characteristics and work experiences. Items
in categories c, d, and e were not measured. Personal characteristics
were considered, primarily to control for the potential relationships
between these characteristics and the variables of primary interest.
Work experiences were also considered, particularly in the area of
support from the organization.
has been shown to be positively related to commitment (Angle & Perry,
1981; Hrebiniak, 1974; Lee, 1971; Sheldon, 1971). However, it is generally
thought that the link between age and tenure causes this relationship
(Buchanan, 1974; Farrell & Rusbult, 1981; Morris & Sherman,
1981). That is, as age increases so does tenure, and tenure is argued
to result in the link between age and commitment (Lincoln & Kalleberg,
1985; Williams & Hazar, 1986).
Mixed results are reported regarding education as an antecedent.
Koch and Steers (1978) report a positive relationship between education
and commitment. Education, or the desire for education, may also be
inversely related to commitment (Steers, 1977). Angle and Perry (1981)
reasoned that decreasing levels of education may restrict the individual
to the present job. Mowday et al. (1982) pointed out that higher educated
individuals may also have higher expectations than the organization
is able to meet. This would likely lead to lower commitment.
relationship of gender and commitment has also been addressed. Several
report that women are consistently more committed
to organizations than are men (Angle & Perry, 1981; Hrebiniak & Alutto,
1972; Mowday et al., 1982). Others have argued that no gender relationship
will be found when age, education, and organizational levels are statistically
controlled (Brief & Aldag, 1975; Bruning & Snyder, 1983; Wheeler,
Age, tenure, education, desire for continued education, and gender
were measured and statistically controlled to account for the potential
effect each may have on the relationships of primary interest in the
present research. Each of these variables is also considered individually.
Work experiences have not been studied as much as other antecedents.
Increased focus in this area is appropriate since organizations have
the ability to manipulate work experiences. The current research assesses
the employee's perception of support from the organization and the
relationship between support and commitment. The perception of organizational
support, which is discussed below, is a potential antecedent that can
be manipulated by the organization.
Another employment factor likely to have a relationship with commitment
is stage of employment. Career stage has been found to be a significant
moderator in the development of commitment (Buchanan, 1974; Reichers,
1986). The likelihood that commitment is different for employees at
different stages of employment would suggest that commitment research
could be directed toward each of these stages, or at least toward subjects
at similar stages. In the present research nearly all subjects were
at a similar stage of employment. There are varying levels of tenure,
but most respondents were in the same or similar positions.
OF ORGANIZATIONAL COMMITMENT
most replicated finding in commitment literature is an inverse relationship
commitment and turnover (Angle & Perry, 1981;
Clegg, 1983; Mowday et al., 1982; Porter, Crampon, & Smith, 1976;
Wiener, 1982; Wiener & Vardi, 1980). Another common finding is
the lack of a relationship between commitment and performance (Morrow,
1993; Mowday et al., 1982; Steers, 1977; Wiener, 1982). This may be
related to the difficult nature of performance measurement (Angle & Lawson,
1994; Campbell, McCloy, Opper, & Sagar, 1993; Austin and Villanova,
1992). Angle and Perry (1994) point out that since performance is setting
specific, multidimensional measures of performance are required.
In the present research a simple performance measure is used to measure
the relationship of commitment and performance. The performance scale
was developed following interviews with managers of retail sales organizations.
Managers rated each employee on several factors, including dependability,
product knowledge, and sales performance. Another measure of performance,
the likelihood of endorsing the organization's products or services,
is included to identify a relationship between commitment and one aspect
of performance. The salesperson's performance would likely be affected
by endorsement of the organization's products or services.
the antecedents of commitment are more clearly understood, interventions
increasing commitment may not be effective (Bateman & Strasser,
1984). If all antecedents are related to personal characteristics,
selection techniques may be the best way to increase commitment to
the organization. Antecedents to commitment that can be manipulated
by the organization would be helpful in an effort to develop certain
positive employee traits. The relationship between the perception of
organizational support and commitment may provide insight into an antecedent
that can be manipulated.
Perceived Organizational Support
support research addresses issues related to the organization's willingness
to support its employees. Perceived support has been shown
to be influenced by the frequency, extremity, and judged sincerity
of statements of praise or approval (Eisenberger, Huntington, Hutchinson, & Sowa,
1986). The Eisenberger et al. model suggests that perceived support
is influenced by the way in which the organization treats employees.
To the extent that this treatment meets the individual's needs for
praise and approval, the employee incorporates organizational membership
into self-identity and develops an emotional bond to the organization.
A positive relationship between the perception of organizational
support and commitment is hypothesized in the current research. An
employee becomes committed to the organization as a function of beliefs
concerning the organization's commitment to its employees. A cyclical
relationship of mutual commitments could maintain a stable, responsible
Reciprocity and Equity
The hypothesized relationship between perceived organizational support
and commitment is thought to be reciprocal or equitable in nature.
One theory that would explain this relationship is based on the norm
of reciprocity (Gouldner, 1960). Gouldner points out that people should
help those who have helped them and return benefits for those received.
In the workplace, reciprocal obligations may be created as an individual
receives a variety of benefits from the organization. The organization
may be repaid for offering these benefits through future performance
and higher commitment to the organization (Scholl, 1981).
A concept similar to reciprocity is equity (Adams, 1965). Individuals
compare their contributions and rewards to those of comparable others
in determining whether a situation is equitable. In an organization,
an individual's equity attitudes would be affected by his or her treatment
in the organization in comparison to co-workers. Reciprocity and equity
were each measured in the present study.
1. There will be a positive relationship between organizational commitment
and the perception of organizational support.
2. There will be a positive relationship between supervisor ratings
of employees and organizational commitment.
3. Highly committed employees will be more likely to endorse or recommend
the products or services of the organization.
4. The relationship between organizational support and commitment
will be influenced by endorsement of the reciprocity and equity norms.
Organizations selected for research included 106 retail clothing,
shoe, and specialty sporting goods stores located throughout the Denver
metropolitan area. The manager of each store was asked to allow employees
to complete the questionnaire. Thirty two of the managers declined.
Employees of six other stores were unable to complete the survey within
the time limit (discussed below). Twenty percent of the respondents
were employed in sporting goods sales. Another 20% were employed as
retail shoe salespeople. The remainder were retail clothing salespeople.
Only employees working in the store at the time of the survey participated.
Each store was surveyed just once. The number of employees on duty
at the time of the survey ranged from one to six. Stores were surveyed
at various times, both on weekdays and weekends.
Seventy-eight female and 40 male employees completed the survey.
Ages ranged from 18 to 55. Sixty percent of the respondents were 24
years old or younger, and only 10% were over 30 years old. Ninety-six
percent were high school graduates. Forty-two percent had some college
education and 25% had a college degree, graduate study, or a graduate
degree. Sixty-nine percent reported a desire to continue their formal
education. Sixty percent of the subjects had been employed in their
current organization for a year or less. Ninety percent had worked-for
their organization for less than three years. Forty-five percent planned
to remain with the organization indefinitely. Twenty-one percent were
in management positions.
questionnaire included the 15 item Organizational Commitment Questionnaire
Porter, & Steers, 1979) and the 16 item
Survey of Perceived Organizational Support (Eisenberger et al., 1986).
The Organizational Commitment Questionnaire (OCQ) measures affective
commitment (Allen & Meyer, 1990) to the organization, this is in
contrast to a financial necessity to stay with the organization. The
Survey of Perceived Organizational Support (SPOS) was developed to
test beliefs concerning the support the organization offers its employees.
Three additional questions addressed the endorsement of the organization's
products or services. Another 12 items measured agreement with reciprocity
and equity items. Items on the commitment, support, endorsement, reciprocity,
and equity scales were measured anchored at (1) strongly disagree to
(7) strongly agree. Other questions measured demographic variables,
intent to remain in the organization, and the desire for continued
The researcher introduced himself to the manager, provided a description
of the project, discussed the time needed to complete the survey, and
asked for permission to administer the questionnaire. The survey took
approximately 15 minutes, respondents were given two hours to complete
the questionnaire so that they could continue with pressing job duties.
The amount of time required was a factor in the manager's decision
to allow the questionnaire. Some managers suggested that the questionnaire
could be picked up in a few days or returned by mail. Since this would
affect the employee's sense of confidentiality, the two hour limit
was used in all cases. The questionnaires were picked up after two
hours, whether completed or not.
Upon manager approval, a brief introduction was given to employees.
The researcher explained that he was interested in attitudes toward
the organization. The employees were told that the research was part
of a project which was not endorsed or requested by the organization.
It was explained that (a) the organization referred to in the questionnaire
was the store in which they were employed, rather that the entire company
and all associated stores, (b) all responses would be confidential,
no names were to be used, and the number on the questionnaire would
be used only to match confidential information provided by the store
manager, and (c) responses would be used only in combination with the
responses of others.
Five separate scales were developed in the analysis of the questionnaire
data. Cronbach's estimate of internal consistency was computed for
each scale. Alphas were .69 for the reciprocity scale and .55 for the
measure of equity beliefs. Alphas for organizational commitment, the
perception of support, and the endorsement of organization products
or services were .89, .94, and .89 respectively.
spite of recent concerns regarding the multidimensionality of the
OCQ (Angle & Lawson,
1994), the 15 item scale was used as a unidimensional measure. Akhtar
and Tan (1994) address the question
of the multidimentional nature of commitment and the OCQ. Their findings
support the proposition of commitment as a multidimentional concept,
but their results were inconsistent with previous research. The 15
item OCQ has been used by the majority of previous researchers. Since
the interaction of turnover intent with commitment appears to be a
valid concern, in the present research the entire 15 item scale is
used (with an alpha of .89 which is quite respectable and consistent
with previous research) with the effects of turnover intent statistically
controlled in the analysis of data.
The means, standard deviations, and intercorrelations of the study
variables are presented in Table 1. Significant positive correlations
were found for several of the hypothesized relationships. Commitment
and support were highly correlated, as were commitment and endorsement.
Performance and turnover intent were significantly correlated, yet
there was no significant relationship of performance to other variables.
Women were more committed to their organizations than were men. The
hypothesized positive relationships between commitment and perceived
support and between commitment and endorsement of the organization's
products or services received preliminary support in this analysis,
but the hypothesized relationship between commitment and performance
A series of multiple regressions was
used to further test the hypotheses. Stepwise multiple regression
was used to test the contribution of variables to commitment, support,
endorsement, and performance. These analyses were used to test
the hypothesis and to eliminate variables that add little to the
prediction of the dependent variables. All variables were used
in the stepwise regressions, only those with significant results
are listed in Table 2.
Table 2. Summary of Stepwise Multiple
Step Variable Beta R Rsq RsqCh
1. Perceived Support .6047 .7797
2. Turnover Intent -.2337 .8102 .6565
3. Endorsement .2080 .8327 .6934
4. Age -.1458 .8448 .7136 .0202**
1. Organizational Commitment .7835
.7635 .6138 .6138**
1. Turnover Intent -.1892 .1892 .0358
of Products or Services
1. Organizational Commitment .5220
.5912 .3495 .3495**
2. Interaction with Co-workers .2199
.6270 .3931 .0435**
P<.Ol * p<.05
Perceived support added most to the
prediction equation in a stepwise multiple regression with commitment
as the dependent variable. Other significant variables are turnover
intent, endorsement of organization products or services, and age.
This analysis supports two of the hypotheses in this research.
As in the correlation analysis, both perceived support and endorsement
are positively related to commitment.
In the stepwise regression with perceived
support as the dependent variable, commitment was the only significant
variable. No other significant predictors of organizational support
were identified after the variance explained by commitment was
controlled. The only variable related to performance was a significant
negative relationship with turnover intent. Thus, the hypothesized
relationship between commitment and supervisor rating of performance
is not supported.
Table 3. Summary of Heirarchical
Multiple Regression Analyses
Step Variable Beta R Rsq RsqCh
1. Set 1 *** .3227 .1041 .1041
2. Interaction with Co-workers .1044
.4293 .1843 .0846**
3. Perceived Support .7249 .8070
1. Set 1 .1983 .0393 .0393
2. Turnover Intent -.2295 .2741 .0751
3. Interaction with Co-workers .1099
.2992 .0895 .0144
4. Endorsement .1005 .3048 .0929
5. Perceived Support .2059 .3071
6. Organizational Commitment -.2733
.3380 .1142 .0199
of Products or Services
1. Set 1 .2131 .0454 .0454
2. Turnover Intent .0320 .2822 .0797
3. Interaction with Co-workers .1968
.4402 .1937 .1141**
4. Perceived Support .1265 .5957
5. Organizational Commitment .4536
.6445 .4145 .0605**
1. Set 1 .3158 .0997 .0997
2. Interaction with Co-workers .1044
.4293 .1843 .0846**
3. Reciprocity -.0998 .4346 .1889
4. Perceived Support .5771 .8070
5. Interaction (Support x Recip.)
.1806 .8089 .6542 .0030
1. Set 1 .3158 .0997 .0997
2. Interaction with Co-workers .1105
.4293 .1843 .0846**
3. Equity -.2200 .4335 .1880 .0037
4. Perceived Support .3948 .8071
5. Interaction (Support x Equity)
.4082 .8135 .6618 .01041#
*** Set 1 includes: Age, gender, tenure,
education, and desire for continued formal education.
P<.0l * p<.05 # P=.069
Hierarchical multiple regressions
were used to test the hypothesized relationships while controlling
for the effects of covariates. Results of these analyses and the
orders in which variables were entered are listed in Table 3. Demographic
variables were entered in step one. Several of these variables
have been significantly related to commitment in previous studies
and are controlled in the present study in order to test the primary
hypothesized relationships. The next variable entered was a measure
of interaction with co-workers. This variable was a possible predictor
of commitment and was also a significant predictor of perceived
support. The interaction with co-workers variable was entered before
perceived support to control for any possible effect on the relationship
of commitment and perceived support.
The perception of organizational
support was a significant predictor of organizational commitment
even after much of the variance was explained by other variables.
As in the stepwise regression, the perception of support was the
best predictor of commitment. This supports the hypothesized positive
relationship between commitment and the perception of support.
Since only turnover intent predicted
performance rating in a stepwise regression, it is not likely that
other significant relationships would be identified in the heirarchical
regression, and none were. Hierarchical regression was used to
demonstrate the contributions of commitment and perceived support
on performance when other variables were held constant, no relationship
to performance was found. However, commitment was a significant
predictor of endorsement after controlling for covariates. Commitment,
perceived support, interaction with co-workers, and turnover intent
were each positively related to endorsement.
The interaction of reciprocity on
the relationship of perceived support and commitment was tested
with moderated hierarchical regression. In this analysis the main
effects of perceived support and reciprocity are statistically
controlled before entering the interaction of the reciprocity and
support variables. The interaction variable failed to add to the
prediction of commitment.
The effect of equity attitudes on
the relationship of perceived support and commitment was also tested
with moderated multiple regression. The interaction of equity and
support variable was a marginally significant moderator (p=.069).
The effect of equity as a moderator variable in the relationship
of perceived support and commitment is illustrated in Figure 1.
Perceived support has the strongest effect on commitment when equity
Figure 1. Moderating Effect of
Equity on the Relationship of Commitment and Perceived Support
6.5 - Low Equity
hypothesized positive relationship between the perception of organizational
support and organizational commitment variables was supported by
the analyses. The positive relationship between commitment and
the endorsement of the organization's products or services was
also supported in the analyses. The hypothesized relationship of
commitment and performance was not supported in this research.
The effect of the reciprocity norm endorsement on the commitment/support
relationship was not found in the hierarchical regression, although
there was marginal support for equity as a moderator of the commitment/support
for the relationship between perceived support and organizational
commitment is encouraging for the development of commitment. If
employees are treated well and feel they are supported by their
employer, they may return the favor in the form of increased commitment.
Further work is needed to understand the reciprocal nature of this
relationship. Witt (1991) has examined exchange ideology, a concept
similar to equity and reciprocity. Research in this area may provide
a clearer picture of the interaction of support and commitment.
without a clear understanding of this relationship, benefits of
increased support can be realized. Perceived support is related
to feedback and praise from the organization (Eisenberger et al.,
1986). Increasing perceived support has benefits for both the individual
and the organization since commitment is likely increased, goals
are clarified through feedback, and efforts toward these goals
may be increased as the result of increased commitment.
of factors indicative of support from the organization may lead
to other antecedents of commitment. In Eisenberger's research the
perception of support was developed primarily through the employee's
interpretation of statements of praise or approval (Eisenberger
et al., 19-86). Other actions and policies of organizations may
be further indicative of the organization's support for employees.
For example, Landau and Hammer (1986) have found that the organization's
policy on filling vacancies from within the organization is positively
related to commitment. Others have suggested that opportunities
to voice opinions will reduce turnover (Spencer, 1986; Steers & Mowday,
1981). These and other factors may lead to commitment, either directly,
or through the perception of organizational support. Research in
this area may indicate that these influences occur via the effect
of the perception of support on commitment.
relationship between commitment and the perception of support is
promising. It suggests the possibility of effective methods of
developing commitment. Many of the previously identified antecedents
of commitment could not be controlled by the organization. In contrast,
the perception of support can be manipulated by the organization
and efforts at increasing commitment may result in benefits other
than increased commitment. Further research into the commitment/perceived
support relationship could lead to the identification of other
antecedents of commitment as well as clearer reasons for attempting
to develop and increase commitment.
and Endorsement of Products or Services
the present research, no relationship between commitment and performance
was found. The only variable related to performance was turnover
intent. This should lead to caution in interpreting any relationship
between commitment and performance when the turnover intent variable
is not controlled in the analysis.
measurement of performance used in the present research is quite
simple. Any relationships concerning performance would be suspect.
The fact that endorsement of products or services was not related
to performance is additional reason to doubt the validity of the
measure. The relationship between commitment and endorsement, which
may be a form of performance for retail employees, lends support
to the idea that there is a link between commitment and performance.
Due to the variety of variables involved in performance measurement,
the relationship of commitment and performance may be difficult
to identify. An additional consideration is that a desire to excel,
if created by commitment, requires the ability to excel. By focusing
on certain aspects of performance, narrower and less influenced
by individual differences, potential benefits of increased commitment
can be demonstrated.
efforts toward exploring any relationship between commitment and
performance should be encouraged. It is appealing to think that
employees would make a conscious decision to be committed to an
organization as the result of their treatment by that organization.
A decision to commit to the organization would probably include
a decision to be a productive employee. Festinger (1957) writes
that dissonance will result when related attitudes do not fit together.
Since this dissonance will lead to feelings of discomfort, the
individual will make efforts to reduce the dissonance. It would
seem that dissonance would result from a decision to be committed
to an organization when that decision was not accompanied by efforts
toward being a productive member of that organization.
the current research no relationship between reciprocity and commitment
was identified. The basic idea that commitment would develop as
the result of favorable treatment by the organization was supported
in the relationship or perceived support and organizational commitment.
This would seem to be a reciprocal relationship, yet further research
is needed to clarify the relationship between reciprocity and commitment.
a concept similar to reciprocity, may have had a modest effect
on the commitment/perceived support relationship. Although only
marginally significant, this relationship was illustrated by plotting
the different effect of equity on commitment in conditions of high
and low perceived support. The relationship of commitment and perceived
support is stronger for individuals with a lower degree of equity
relationship of perceived support to commitment is altered by high
endorsement of the equity norm since individuals who support the
equity norm remain committed to the organization in the absence
of perceived support. In the present research equity moderates
the relationship of commitment and perceived support, but not in
the manner hypothesized. Perhaps those with high equity norm endorsement
are motivated by pay, while those with low equity norm endorsement
need support as well as pay. Further research into this relationship
could lead to clarification of the relationship between equity
interesting result, found through forward multiple regression analysis,
was the positive relationship of age and commitment. This has not
been found consistently in previous research. In the present study,
age was found to be a significant predictor of commitment after
the tenure variable was entered into the analysis. An additional
hierarchical multiple regression was used to test this relationship.
With commitment as the dependent variable, tenure was entered first
followed by age. Tenure did not contribute significantly to the
prediction of commitment while age was a significant predictor
(p<.05, RsqCh=.051) once the effect of tenure was removed.
explanation for the relationship between age and commitment can
be found in the intercorrelation of variables. Age was correlated
with tenure, and tenure was correlated with whether the employee
is in a managerial position, yet neither manager status nor tenure
was correlated with commitment. Perhaps these results are due to
the nature of retail sales. These organizations are not known for
generous financial rewards. It is possible that managers and high
tenure employees are unhappy with their pay. This dissatisfaction
leads to lower commitment. In this research it appears that older
employees are committed to their organization until their tenure
increases or until they are promoted to a position of management.
were more committed to the organization than were men. These results
support previous research by Angle and Perry (1981) and Hrebiniak
and Alutto (1972). Angle and Perry reported surprise at their findings
since commitment, as measured by the OCQ, is similar to work involvement,
and women are historically less involved in their work than are
men. Subjects in the current research were employed primarily in
retail clothing stores. Since this is traditionally a female-dominated
profession (note the majority female sample of the present study),
higher commitment and involvement by women seems likely. Aranya,
Kushnir, and Valency (1986) report lower commitment among females
in a male-dominated profession. Perhaps the opposite occurred in
the present research. Men had lower commitment in a female-dominated
relationships between commitment and education, or the desire for
education, were found in this research. This is in contrast to
previous research which has generally shown an inverse relationship
between commitment and education and/or the desire for continued
formal education (Hrebiniak & Alutto, 1972; Mowday et al.,
1982; Steers, 1977).
general, the results of this research are encouraging. The perception
of support is an antecedent to commitment that can be manipulated
by the organization in an effort to increase commitment. Even in
the event that commitment is not increased, the organizational
will surely benefit from the increased communication and other
efforts directed toward increasing the perception of support. Yet
the question of whether the organization will benefit from committed
employees still remains. Further research may lead to identification
of benefits of commitment, especially in the identification of
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