Are Cultural Minorities Less (or More) Committed to their Organizations?

Topic: CultureJob Attitudes
Publication: Journal of Business and Psychology (MAR 2010)
ArticleCommitment of cultural minorities in organizations: Effects of leadership and pressure to conform
Authors: J. Rupert, K.A. Jehn, M.L. van Engen, and R.S.M. de Reuver
Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger

Several organizational theories suggest that cultural minorities (employees born in a country different from the country of the host organization) may have lower levels of commitment to their organizations than majority group members.  This also implies that cultural minorities may be less effective performers, more likely to quit, etc., than majority group employees. To provide a much-needed test of this general hypothesis, Rupert and colleagues (2010) surveyed 107 employees of a multinational corporation in the Netherlands.  About 21% of the participants were considered cultural minorities.  In addition to comparing the commitment of minority and majority group members, the authors also explored two factors (leadership and pressure to conform) that may help explain the degree of commitment cultural minorities tend to have to their organizations.

Contrary to what has been suggested by past theories, Rupert et al. found that the cultural minority group employees actually had higher levels of affective (feel emotionally attached) and normative (feel obligated) organizational commitment than the majority group employees. Their results also suggest that cultural minorities may be more affected by pressures to conform and task-oriented leadership than majority group members.  The authors suggest that this may be due to the possibility that cultural minorities are more heavily focused on how they should behave at work, than majority group members (who presumably already know how they should act at work).

Rupert et al. note that care should be taken when interpreting their results, given the very small number of cultural minority group members surveyed in their study. Nevertheless, Rupert et al.’s results clearly refute the general notion that cultural minorities automatically have lower levels of commitment to their organizations. In fact, it may be that they are sensitive to task-oriented leadership and pressures to conform (more so than majority group members) and thus develop higher levels of normative organizational commitment. The reason for their higher levels of affective commitment remains unclear.

Rupert, J., Jehn, K.A., van Engen, M.L., & de Reuver, R.S.M. (2010).  Commitment of cultural minorities in organizations: Effects of leadership and pressure to conform. Journal of Business and Psychology, 25, 25-37.