Organizational Commitment ; ‘Tis Better to Give than to Receive

Topic: Job AttitudesOrganizational Commitment
Publication: Academy of Management JournalArticle: Giving commitment: Employee support programs and the pro-social sense-making process.
Author: A.M. Grant, J.E. Dutton, B.D. Rosso
Blogger: Benjamin Granger

Since the nature of work and employees’ relationships with their employers is changing (e.g., work from home programs, more autonomy), it is becoming increasingly important for organizations to foster affective organizational commitment. This refers to a psychological attachment that helps bind an employee to his/her organization. More specifically, it’s an emotional attachment to one’s organization (feel like part of a family, attached to coworkers).

Employees who are affectively committed to their organizations perform better at work, show decreased absenteeism, and are less likely to turnover. Basically, affectively committed employees are gold mines!

Recognizing the value of fostering affective commitment in the workplace, many organizations have begun implementing employee support programs such as various employee aid programs, work-family programs that may include childcare or elder care.

So here is how it might go…You and I work for Company A. In an effort to increase our affective commitment, Company A implements several employee assistance programs These make us feel supported and thus more attached to our company, and bam! … We become more productive employees (and Cinderella lived happily ever after!). Seems reasonable, right?

Interestingly, researchers Grant, Dutton, and Rosso (2008) found that these support programs can also foster affective commitment by giving employees the opportunity to help others. (Whoa, so is it really better to give than receive?  Perhaps so!) In a series of two studies including employees from a Fortune 500 retail company, Grant and colleagues found that giving (yes, giving) can lead to increased affective commitment on the part of the employee. This implies that employee assistance programs work (i.e., do indeed increase employee commitment) partly due to the opportunities they give employees to help or give to fellow employees in need.

In many such programs, fellow organizational members are given the opportunity to help others and give to others within the organization (e.g., financial donations under hard times). Thus, the act of giving leads to affective organizational commitment!

Grant et al. also found that when employees give to others within the organization (through a support  program), they are likely to feel that both they and the organization are caring. And this fosters the commitment that management desires.

In summary, Grant and colleagues found that employee support programs cultivate commitment through both self-interest (e.g., “what can this program help ME with”) and other-interest (e.g., “this program gives me the chance to help my fellow coworkers in need”) pathways.

Grant, A.M., Dutton, J.E., & Rosso, B.D. (2008). Giving commitment: Employee support  programs and the prosocial sensemaking process. Academy of Management Journal, 51(5), 898 – 918.