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Consequences of Organizational Commitment

management, business, organization, organizational commitment, job satisfaction, turnover

The consequences of organizational commitment group themselves into two main categories: job performance and turnover. One disappointing finding is that there is only a weak relationship between commitment and job performance. Satisfaction and commitment seem to be related, but whether one causes the other is still unknown. Level of commitment may be related to the strength of an organization's culture and is almost certainly dependent on its socialization processes.

A great deal of attention has been devoted to the relationship between commitment and turnover. Taken together, the studies provide strong support that such a relationship exists and that it is negative. Thus, when managers spot declining commitment, they should also expect subsequent voluntary turnover. Low commitment, then, is a danger sign for turnover. It might be thought that employee commitment is higher in countries such as Japan, where turnover is lower than in the United States. Yet, one comparison of Japanese, Korean, and American workers found that Japanese and Korean employee commitment to organizations is lower than that of their American counterparts, bringing into question the commitment–turnover relationship at least in these countries.

Managers often become interested in commitment because they want to reduce voluntary turnover. In an organization like a McDonald's franchise, turnover is not expensive—and may even be desired—but in other organizations, training costs, the need for scarce skills, and so on, may be so high that turnover is not desirable.

Turnover is certainly one possible end response to low commitment, but it may also be a response to a number of other factors in the work situation. In its own right, turnover has enjoyed considerable research attention because it is assumed to engender large costs to organizations and to society as a whole. Researchers have, by and large, assumed that reducing turnover reduces these costs. However, some researchers discuss turnover as a healthy factor in organizations. A moderate amount may positively influence organizational heterogeneity and flexibility by bringing in new ideas and circulating them throughout the organization.

Turnover rates and their correlates intrigue economists, whereas psychologists seem enamored by correlates of individual turnover. Economists want to know the causes and consequences of turnover in various sectors of the labor force; psychologists, on the other hand, are more interested in what causes workers to quit their jobs. Some attention has been given to merging these two approaches to turnover by examining the kinds of antecedents generally of interest to psychologists (such as organizational climate, age, tenure, education, and so on), not in relation to individual turnover, but in relation to turnover rates. The results of this investigation showed that turnover rates can be reliably predicted using these variables for some occupations—for example, sales personnel and managers—but not for others. More of this research will bring economic and psychological traditions together and provide a more complete view of the antecedents of turnover.

One of the earliest studies of turnover in the organizational literature found that people are more likely to stay in the organization when they perceive a balance between their efforts and their rewards. This balance is influenced by three factors: one's desire to leave the organization, the perceived ease of movement from the organization, and one's job satisfaction.

An interesting approach to turnover focuses on three possible responses to job dissatisfaction. The first response to dissatisfaction is exit—members leave the organization or request transfers. The painful decision to withdraw or switch requires considerable effort and usually means the employee does not believe his situation will improve. The exit option is regarded as powerful. The second option, called the voice option, represents an attempt to change things rather than to escape. Appeals are usually made to higher authority as employees attempt to repair deteriorating conditions. The third response is loyalty, in which the employee confronted with deteriorating conditions does nothing, but rather suffers in silence, hoping things will get better.
A fourth response to deteriorating conditions has recently been identified: lax or neglectful behavior. Temporary abandonment, just as full-fledged turnover, can be read by managers as a signal to look hard at the work situation.
The most frequently investigated model of turnover develops the following causal links: job dissatisfaction leads to thoughts about leaving, thoughts about leaving lead to intention to search for a new job, the probability of finding an acceptable job alternative leads to intention to quit, and intention to quit leads to turnover. A number of empirical tests support various linkages in the model. The model posits intention to quit as the strongest predictor of turnover. Thus, if a manager trusts the truthfulness of his employees' responses, the best indicator of turnover is to ask employees whether they intend to quit.

Others have proposed a model of turnover that relies on attribution processes. This model proposes a complex interplay of factors involved in turnover decisions that are grouped in three general clusters. The first group of factors has to do with the employee's job expectations and values. Influences here are the characteristics of the employee, the amount of information available about the job and the organization, and the prevalence of alternative jobs.

The second set of factors influencing the turnover decision are the employee's responses to the job, which include job expectations, the characteristics of the organization and the employee's work experience, and the employee's level of job performance. The authors point out here that an individual who is dissatisfied with the organization may attempt to improve the situation not just by leaving but by trying instead to change the organization or by working to remove another employee or a supervisor perceived as an obstacle. Job expectations are influenced by practical considerations such as a spouse's career or family obligations. It is important to remember that employees do not make decisions strictly on the basis of the job situation itself.

The third cluster of factors revolves around intent to leave, available alternatives, and the decision whether to leave. The authors suggest that the decision to leave is strongly influenced by the availability of alternatives, but they point out that intent to leave can make the employee more sensitive to alternatives and thus identify more opportunities. Nevertheless, the model proposes that the employee with few alternatives, however dissatisfied, will make some accommodation to stay. In this regard the model provides a useful balancing view of the turnover question—every worker who is dissatisfied does not leave.
Published: 2007-04-24
Author: Martin Hahn

About the author or the publisher
Martin Hahn PhD has received his education and degrees in Europe in organizational/industrial sociology. He grew up in South-East Asia and moved to Europe to get his tertiary education and gain experience in the fields of scientific research, radio journalism, and management consulting.

After living in Europe for 12 years, he moved to South-East again and has worked for the last 12 years as a management consultant, university lecturer, corporate trainer, and international school administrator

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