Organizational Commitment: Definition, Theory & Types

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Lesson Transcript
Shawn Grimsley

Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.

Expert Contributor
Jerry Allison

Jerry holds a Doctor of Business Administration and a Master’s in Mathematics. He has taught business, math, and accounting for over 25 years.

Organizational commitment is important to organizational success. In this lesson, you'll learn about organizational commitment and its underlying theory. You'll also have a chance to take a short quiz after finishing the lesson.

Definition of Organizational Commitment

Organizational commitment may be viewed as an organizational member's psychological attachment to the organization. Organizational commitment plays a very large role in determining whether a member will stay with the organization and zealously work towards organizational goals.

Theory of Organizational Commitment

A prominent theory in organizational commitment is the 3-component model (or TCM). The model argues that organizational commitment has three distinctive components.

Affective commitment is your emotional attachment to an organization. If you have a high level of affective commitment, you enjoy your relationship with the organization and are likely to stay. You stay because you want to stay.

Continuance commitment is the degree to which you believe that leaving the organization would be costly. If you have a high level of continuance commitment, you will stay with an organization because you feel that you must stay. For example, you may feel quitting your job may lead to an unacceptable length of unemployment. On the other hand, you may feel you will lose a certain degree of status if you leave a well-respected organization such as a top law firm or research company.

Normative commitment is the degree you feel obligated to the organization or believe that staying is the right thing to do. Here, you believe you ought to stay.

Keep in mind that your commitment is not based on just one of these components. A commitment profile is the interaction between these three components. For example, you may work at a prestigious medical research company that gives you a good salary and makes you feel important. You will have affective commitment because you enjoy your work and want to stay, but you will also have continuance commitment because you don't want to lose the pay and prestige associated with the work. Finally, given the nature of the work, you may feel you ought to stay to help with the medical research.

The three components can have a significant effect on retention, work performance, and member well-being. There is a negative relationship between affective, normative, and continuance commitment and a member's intention to voluntarily leave an organization. In other words, low affective, continuance, and normative commitment increases the likelihood that a member will leave the organization, while high levels of affective, continuance, and normative commitment are related to high retention rates.

Affective commitment has been linked to performance. For example, employees with a high level of affective commitment will be less absent from work, be high performers, and are likely to engage in organizational citizenship behavior such as helping other members, putting forth extra effort, and being an advocate for the organization.

Normative commitment does not appear to be related to employee absences. An employee's normative commitment is related to work performance and organizational citizenship, but the effect is weaker than with affective commitment. Research has indicated, however, that the relationship between normative commitment and work performance and organizational citizenship is stronger in other countries, suggesting cultural differences.

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Additional Activities

Organizational Commitment: Definition, Theory, & Types

Discussion Question

Think about a group, club, team, or job that you loved. Why did you want to remain with that group? What factors of the group made you feel good? Now think about a group, club, team, or job that you absolutely hated. What factors of that group made you feel bad? If you did not leave the group immediately, what factors influenced your decision to stay in the group?

Survey Project

Make a list of ten people who have jobs and who you know well. Ask them the following questions:

1. Do you enjoy your job, or do you wish you could find another job? Or are you somewhere in the middle?

2. If you enjoy your job, what are the factors that cause you to want to stay with the job? If you do not enjoy your job, what are the factors that cause you to want to leave? If you are in the middle, what are the good and bad factors of the job that are in your mind?

3. If you enjoy your job, are you proud to tell other people where you work? If you do not enjoy your job, do you tell others where you work or tell them in a negative light? If you are in the middle, do you share where you work? Why?

4. If you enjoy your job, do you go above and beyond your job to help out the organization?

5. If you do not enjoy your job, what is causing you to stay with the job and not find another one?

Compare the answers you get. You should find varying levels of continuance commitment, normative commitment, and affective commitment. The best information may come from what these people say in addition to their responses to the questions. Find the similarities and major differences in their responses. Write a report detailing your findings.

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