A Comparative Evaluation

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is reflected in research linking commitment and turnover (Arnold & Feldman,. 1982 ...... Isen, A.M. & Baron, R.A. (1991). ... In P.S. Goodman ft R.S Atkin (Eds.),.

Jouraal of Management 1995, Vol. 21, No. 4,617-638

Tfie Multidimensional View of Commitment and the Theory of Reasoned Action: A Comparative Evaluation Thomas E. Becker University of Delaware Oonna M. Randall The University of Memphis Carl D. Riegel Washington State University This study examined the relative ability of the multidimensional view of commitment and the theory of reasoned action to explain employee intentions and predict work behavior. Variables within the theory of reasoned action were sigjerior to commitment in explaining employee intentions to be punctual and to engage in altruistic acts. However, the theory of reasoned action did not explain unique variance in either volitional behavior (altruism) or in less volitional behavior (tardiness). Finally, foci and bases ofernployee commitment accountedfor sign^cant variance in both altruism and tardiness, and explained variance in both behaviors over and above variables contained within the theory of reasoned action. Implications of these findings for the usefulness of the approaches are discussed.

Organizational conunitment has been the subject of substantial research interest for a number of years (see Mathieu & Za^ac, 1990; Randall, 1990, for recent reviews). In part, the extensive and continuing inter^t in organizational commitnKnt steins from its presumed link to d^irable employee behaviors. For a number of years, researchers have a r g i ^ that employee who value orgsmizational membership should eschew withdrawal behaviors, such as tardiniKS a i ^ absenteeism (Clegg, 1983; Cotton & Tuttte, 1986). More recently, or^tnizational commitment has been linkiKi to organizational citizenship behaviors such as altruism (behavior that is directly aM intentionally aimed at telping specific persons in f^x-to-face situations) and conscientiousness (a more imperson^ tjpe of helping behavior that d o ^ not provide inmiediate aid Direct aB ccHiespiHKlence Us: Thcnnas E. Bedte, Uaivenity of Ddamue, Depaitment Of Buriness ^ t o , 306 Prnndl HaB. Newark, DE 19716-2710.




to a particular individual, but is intended to be indirectly helpful to other people in the organization) (Brief & Motowidlo, 1986; Organ, 1988). Such behaviors are important because they, "lubricate the social machinery of the organization" (Smith, Organ & Near, 1983, pp. 653-654). Commitment has also be«n linked to intentions to eng^e in a variety of behaviors (Steers & Mowday, 1981; Sussmann & Vechio, 1982). Rather than being content to examine simple job attitude-outcome relationships, recent researchers have shown a greater interest in investigating the complex psychological process associated with these relationsh^)s. There is a growing recognition that the influence of commitment on work behaviors may be mediated by behavioral intention (Mathieu & Zajac, 1990). This recognition is reflected in research linking commitment and turnover (Arnold & Feldman, 1982; Bluedom, 1982; Michaels & Spector, 1982; Mobley, Griffeth, Hand & Meglino, 1979; Stumpf & Hartman, 1984) and commitment and absenteeism (Steers & Rhodes, 1978, 1984). In addition, there is evidence that commitment is closely related to affect (such as job satisfaction) and may be linked to dependent variables of interest through affective processes (Curry, Wakefield, Price & Mueller, 1986; WiUiams & Hazer, 1986). Despite the general popularity of organizational commitment research, certain scholars have not been impressed with the construct's ability to explain and predict behavior. H i ^ y critical of traditional attitude-behavior research, Fishbein and Ajzen (1975) set forth a competing model, the theory of reasoned action, to explain and predict individuals' actions. They KJ&Aed the assumption that there is a direct lkk betw^n an attitude toward an object and any given action with respect to that object. They argued that consideration of attitudes toward objects, such as organizational commitment, does not enhance the prediction of behavior beyond that made possible by the variables contained within the theory of reasoned action. If such extraneous variables have an impact, the effect is indirect—mediated through major components of the model or the weighing of those components. In an effort to test competing claims of these two perspectives, Hom and his colleagues (Hom & Hulin, 1981; Hom, ICaterberg & Hulin, 1979) pitted oi^uuzational commitn^nt against Fishbein and Ajzen's (1975) theory of reasoned action. Using National Guard members as a sample, they demonstr^ed the comparative effectiveness of the theoiy of reasoned action over cotaBatment in predicting intent to reoolist stai actual reenlistn»nt Howevor, ov«r tte past decade, a number of ^Ivaix:^ have taken place involving the ii»asurement and con(^tuidiza^n d employ commitn^nt Indeed, in t i ^ of advaiu:^ in tiwory and rraefach on commiUiKiit, we argue that earlier e\^uations are now imulequate tests of ^ comparati^^ eSectiv q p of the commitment approach and the theory of reasoned action. In the pr«ent p^)er, building upon advances in both fidds, we examine the relative power of the Fishbein a ^ Ajzen approach ai^ the commitn^nt constnKt to explain and predict employee intentions aiul behavior. JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT, VOL. 21, NO. 4,1995



Thewetical The Multidimensional View of Commitment There is growing evidence that the attitudinal commitment of employees to the workplace is multidimensional and that the foci and bases of commitment can improve the prediction of employee intentions and behaviors. Foci of commitment are the particular entities, such as individuals and groups, to whom an employee is attach^ (Reichers, 1985). Bases of commitment are the motives engendering attachment (O'Reilly & Chatnian, 1986). It has been known for some time that employees may be committed to foci such as professions (Gouldner, 1957, 1958) and unions (Gordon, Philpot, Burt, Thompson & Spiller, 1980; Gordon, Beauvais & Ladd, 1984), as well as to organizations (Mowday, Porter & Steers, 1982). More recent research has demonstrated that employees are differentially committed to top management, supervisors, coworkers, and customers (Becker, 1992; Reichers, 1986), and a recent metaanalysis has concluded that there is substanti^ evidence for the existence of multiple commitments (Mathieu & Z^ac, 1990). Related studies suggest that commitment is not a zero-sum game; many employees evince high degrees of commitment to multiple foci (Becker & Billing, 1993; Conlon & Gallagher, 1987). Regarding the bases of commitment, early research su^ested that there are different motivational processes underlying single attitwles. According to Kelman (1958; 1961), compliance occurs when attitudes and behaviors are adopted in order to obtain specific rewards or avoid specific punishments. Identification occurs when people adopt attitudes and behaviors in order to be associated with a satisfying, self-defining relationship with another person or group. Finally, intemalization occurs when people adopt attitudes and behaviors because their content is congruent with the individuals' value systems. More recent research has demonstrated that employee commitment, as a workrelated attitude, may be based upon disparate motives (Allen & Meyer, 1990; Caldwell, Chatman & O'Reilly, 1990; O'Reilly & Chatman, 1986). O'Reilly and Chatman (1986), for example, found that compliance, identification, and intemalization, viewed as bases of commitment, were differentially related to prosocial organizational behaviors, turnover, and intent to stay with an Distinctions among fod and bas^ of commitn^nt are not made in the more conventional view of commitment. Accordii^ to this view, organizational commitment is d ^ n e d as normative, involving, 'ihe relative strength of an individual's identification with and involvement in a particular organization" (Mowday et al., 1982, p. 27). Consisteitt with this uni >© «S CO fO



rv of reasoned actioiirrRA)ccnitai]IS attitiKk toward the behavior and sulqecdve mwms. For beiiavion, tim set coirtains one variable: the predicted valiK of intentions (Le., the v^ttx of intention estimated from the tegresaon d' intention on attitude towaid the b^aviw aad svt^ttive. norms). + / » < .10; * p < .05; **p < .01.

of .26, the power for aU of these tests vims .81 or greater. We assumed this eff»:t size, defiiwd by Cohen (1988) as "medium," becmise there is insufficient literature on comparisons betvraen tte multiple commitments appro^h and the theory of reasons! action for us to base estimates of effect size mi prior research. We felt that tte s^sumption of a lm-ge eff«^ shse woukl be too liberal, and that a^umiiig a small effect skos would be too ojiser^nrtiiw. In tiME r e g r ^ o m of intenti(»is on tbe iiid£|}ei^eiit variables, tl^ set of variables for the tteory of reasoned action was coded O =

JOURNAL OF M A N A ^ M E N T , VOL 21, NO. 4,




Discussion The current paper contributes to the past literature on commitment and the theory of reasoned action in several ways. It extends recent research on the foci and bases of commitment by including an examination of commitment to foci not included in previous investigations and dependent variables not previously examined. More importantly, this represents the first attempt to compare the miiltipie commitment approach and the theory of reason^ action. In contrast to prior research comparing the theory of reasoned action and organizational conunitment (Hom & Hulin, 1981; Hom et al., 1979), this work includes (1) a sample from the private sector, (2) dependent variables which, we would argue, are more relevant to business organizations, and (3) current, state-of-the-art conceptiializations and measures. While Hom and his colleagues compared a unidimensional view of orpinizational commitment with the theory of reasoned action, our comparisons involved a multi-dimensional perspective consistent with more recent conceptualizations of attachment. Our primaiy aim was to compare the relative ability of the multidimensional view of conmiitment and the theory of reasoned action to explain employee intentions and to predict work behavior. In explaining intentions to perform work behaviors, the picture was clear cut. As predicted, attitude toward behavior and subjective norms were uniformly superior to the multidimensional view of commitment. The commitment approach failed to account for variancx in intention to be altruistic over and above that accounted for by variables from the theory of reasoned action. Although commitment explained unique variaiKX in intent to be punctual, the unount of explained variance was relatively small. While findings regarding employee intentions are of interest, the prediction of employee behaviors may have more practical implications. In predicting the work behaviors included in this study, the theory of reasoned action did not outperform the multidimensional view of commitment. In fact, the commitment approach performed better than the theory of reasoned action in the prediction of both altruism and tardiness. Therefore, the proposition that the theory of reasoned action has greater predictive power than the commitment approach for work behaviors cannot be supported. We hypothesized that the theory of reasoned action would not be particularly u%ful in predicting tardine^ because the theory is meant to be most relevant to behaviors which are largely volitional; tardii^ss, while partly under tte control of employees, would also appear to have a substantial nonvolitional component Our data supported this lkie of reasoning. Intent to be puiu^ual was unrelat^ to tardiness (r = —.04, ns), aiMl tte tl^ory of reasoned action dkl not account for variance in tardin^s beyoiKi that explained by demographic commitment variable. We also hypotl^zed that the U^ory of reasoned wouU explain significant variance in altruism because this behavior is, l^ definition, largely volitionaL The correlational analysis appeared to support this hypothesis; intent to oi^age in aUruistu; acts was s^niflcanUy related to attnmm (r = .26, p < .OS). However, we also fouml that variables from tix JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT, VOL 21. NO. 4,1995



theory of reasoned action did not account for variance in altruism over and above variance accounted for by demographic or commitment variables. There are several possible reasons for why the theory of reasoned action did not explain unique variance in altruism. First, we controlled for a number of demographic variables that are not often controlled for in research on the theory of reasoned action. Some advocates of the theory might aigue that demographic effects should not be controlled because variables within the theory are presumed to mediate such effects. Our view is that if the theory cannot explain variance in key dependent variables beyond that accounted for by demographic variables, then the theory is of questionable utility. Second, in predicting behavior, we used preJicrerf intentions (estimated from the regression of intention on attitude toward the behavior and subjective norms) rather than measured intentions. While past researchers have used measure intentions in their analyses (e.g., Hom et al., 1979; Hom & Hulin, 1981), we assert that our approach was more consistent with the theory. Third, as explained below, altruism may be partly a function of affective processes. Because the theory of reasoned action does not appear to assess affwrt, it may not be particularly useful in predicting behaviors that have a substantial affective component. Why did the multidimensional approach to commitment outperform the theory of reasoned action in predicting behavior? In retrospect, we suspart that one major reason is that the multidimensional commitment perspective is linked to behavior through both cognitive and affective procwses. For example, with respect to cognitions, more committed individuals tend to have different expectations, intentions, aiul attributions than do less committed people (Mowday et al., 1982). In addition, regarding affect, more committed employees tend to be more motivated and satisfied than their less committed co-workers (Mathieu & Zajac, 1990). Thus, even after cognitive variables (such as intentions) are partialled out, the affective links between commitment and behavior remain. The theory of reason^ action, on the other hand, is strictly a cognitive approach (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975, 1976). To the extent that behavior is influenced by both cognition and affect, a purely cognitive approach would be at a disadvantage compared to the multiple commitments approach. This line of reasoning is elucidated below. The simultaneous regressions suggested that commitments to the supervisor and workgroup were the key forms of attachment accounting for unique variance in altruism. Given that our n^asure of altruism involved cooperative behaviors directed towards the supervisor and workgroup (e.g., helping co-workers who had heavy workloads, assisting the boss with his or her work), this finding is not surprising. As discussed in an earlier s«:tion, such a findii^ is consistent with the nation that commitn^nt ^ould be most related to behavior when commitn^nt and behaviw hsNt tht san^ fod. Because the relatiomhip betvt^n commitnKnt and altruism remaiiKd irfter controlling for intentions, we si^gKt that the affective link n^ntioi^ abow is retevant here. Commitn^nt to supervisors and co-workers any generate pc^itive aff«^ becaiue woiidr^ wiA (Hhets who share OIM*6 v^vecA asA with whom oan identifi^ is intiiasically Te^rardii^ simply put, it feds good to be a b JOURNAL OF MANAGEMerr, VOT. 21. NO. 4,1995



of such a group. Positive affect, in turn, can lead directly to altruism (see Krebs & Miller, 1985, for further discussion of this link), including prosocial organizational behaviors (Isen & Baron, 1991). The simultaneous regressions also showed that commitment to employees and overall compliance were the only variables accounting for unique variance in tardiness. The fact that compliance was positively relate to tardiness is consistent with the assertion that "compliance has negative implications, apparently because this form of attachment is fleeting and does not involve acceptance of norms and values beneficial to an organization" (Becker, 1992: 234). In fact, Becker (1992) found that compliance was positively related to intent to quit and negatively related to prosocial behaviors; consistent with our proposed affective link, he also found a negative relationship between compliance and satisfaction. More surprising is the finding that normative commitment to employees was also positively related to tardiness. However, a potential explanation for this result becomes clear when one recalls that normative commitment to employees involves the intemalization of norms and values of the workgroup. To the extent that workgroup norms are accepting of tardiness, normative commitment to the workgroup would be expected to be positively related to tardiness. One might argue that this relationship should have been reflected in the theory of reason^i action via the subjective norms construct. However, like behavior, acceptance of norms and values may be determined by both cognitions and affect (Van Maanen & Schein, 1979). It is possible that subjective nonns, as operationalized by the theory of reasoned action, only capture the cognitive component of norm acceptance. Consistent with our on-going argument, the multiple commitments approach is likely to capture both cognitive and affective comptonents. In addition, the typical measure of subjective norms (including that used in our study) simply asks r^pondents about the perceived norms of "most people who are important to me." It is possible that most people (such as supervisors, famUy members, and so on) could value punctuality while a minority of individuals (such as the other employees in a respondent's restaurant) could value the freedom to come to work late occasionally. If so, we would argue that local norms established by the workgroup woidd be more psychologically potent due to the salieace and influence of this group in the immediate work setting. Based on this study, we can make the followii^ reconunendations. First, researchers md pr»:titioners interested in expUuning and predicting intentions would be well-advised to utilize variables from the theory of reasoned action (attitude toward behavior and subjective norms) rather than foci and bases of employee commitment. Second, those interested in predicting organizational citizenship behavior and emploj^e withdrawal shoukl probably prefer the multidin^nsional ^proach to comnutment over the theory of reasoned action. In comidering ibese sugi^tions, se\%ral caveats deserve mention. While we ha'v^ trkd to be inq)artial in our compmisons, it is difficult to determine whether or not o w analyse aie entirely fair. As Cooper a i ^ Richardson (19S6) pointed out, comparative eviduations of different Uwori^ can be hindered by theory being more strongly operationaliz^, manipulated, or measured than JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT, VOL. 21, NO. 4,1993



another theory. However, we believe that by including state-of-the-art measures for both approaches and selecting a sample with sufficient variance in the variables, we have taken reasonable steps to conduct a fair comparative evaluation. Further, in assessing the generalizability of ourfindings,it should be noted that the sample was selected from a relatively low-skilled population in the fastservice industry, characteriz»l by high levels of employee withdrawal and the opportunity to engage in a wide-range of organizational citizenship behaviors. In fact, we selected this sample because of these characteristics, the logic being that commitment and variables within the theory of reasoned ^;tion should be most relevant in such a setting. At the same time, we can think of no convincing reason why these features of the sample should have influenced the relative ability of the theory of reasoned action and the commitment approach to explain intentions or to predict behavior. Still, additional ie^arch with samples from other populations would help to address the issue of the pneralizability of our findings. Finally, two methodological points deserve mention. First, consistent with the recommendations of Budd (1987), and in an attempt to t^uce concerns for artificial r^ponse consistency, we randomized sections of the survey. All subjects were then presented with the same random order. In retrospect, we can imagine how this approach could by chance produce an order of sections that would promote consistency effects. We recommend that future researchers randomize the ordering of sections separately for individual subjects (or at least for small groups of subjects). TUs would make it less likely that a randomized order accidently encourages response bias for aU subjects. Alternatively, the researcher could use his or her own judgment to present sections to all subjects in an order that seems least apt to promote a consistency bias. Second, while our sample was large e n o i ^ to allow the detection of moderate effects, a lar^r sample would have clearly created greater statistical power to detect small effect sizes. Also, while our response rate (about 37%) was not unusually low for survey research, neitl^r was it impressively high. Tlius, we recommend that later re%arch replicate our finding with a larger sample, using methods (e.g., ^Iditional follow-up mailing) likely to prodiu:e hi^!^ respond rates. In conclusk>n, the results of this investigation provide supjK^ for the theory of re^oned action in explaining varialnlity ia employee intentions and tte u^ulmss of tbs multidin^^onid view of commitment for tbs prediction of certain woiic behaviors. Uomevac, future work ^oukl continue to advamx the themy uado^lyi^ ^ s e two dkferrat qq»ro^^s. For instanx, more attention to 1K)W mpematiomi cmnmits^iit is translate into behswk>r is Future r^eucheis should abo invract^te conditions (su^ as tbxx lag attitude and bdmvior) whkh m ^ infhieiKx the relative superiority : Jossey-Bass. Stumpf, S.A. ft Hartman, K. (1M4). Individual exfriorvlion to organizittional commitment or witMrawal. Academy ofMmagement Jowntl, 27: 3 ^ 3 2 9 . Suamann, M. ft Vechio, R.P. (1982). A soda! influemx iaterpretttion of worker mc^vation. Academy of Matagemem Re\4ew, 7:177-186. Tab^hnick, B.G. ft FideU, L.S. (1^3). Using multivariate statistics. New York: Harper ft Row. Van Maanen, J. ft Schein, E.H. (1979). Toward a theory of organizational socialization. In L.L. Cummings ft B.M. SUw (Eds.X Research in orgmizational behavior. Vol. 1. Greenwidi, CT: JAI Press. Wardiaw, P.R. ft Davs, F.D. (1985). Disentai^iing bdiavioral attention aadbehavioral eiqiectation. JOWTIOI o/ExperinKntid Socal Psychology, 21: 213-228. Williams, LJ. ft Hazer, J.T. ( 1 ^ ) . Antecedeids uid conseqoaices erf siftMaOimi and commitment in tumover mo

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