The last few decades have brought many changes to the world of work. For vocational scholars, one shift in particular has gained much recent research attention – the introduction, adoption, and popularity of the boundaryless career. In years past, organizations and their employees bought into the traditional career model which stressed early organizational entry, retention, upward mobility primarily based on seniority, tall organizational hierarchies, and great behavioral control, in order to foster perceptions of organizational support, satisfaction, and decreased turnover. In contrast, the boundaryless career mentality (also generally referred to as protean career mentality) is characterized by altered career trajectories and boundaryless organizational relations which emphasize life-long learning and skill development while offering high performing employees the promise of ‘employability’ across organizations rather than continued employment within one company. Although this new mentality has lead to greater flexibility, costs in terms of low organizational commitment, and therefore, shortened organizational tenure may result.
BOUNDARYLESS CAREERS AND ORGANIZATIONAL COMMITMENT
The current study sought to test just that: Does the trend in boundaryless career attitudes negatively impact organizational commitment? Boundaryless career attitudes were assessed by items tapping an employee’s degree of self-directed career management, desire for a value-driven career orientation, preference for organizational mobility, and the extent to which he/she possesses a “boundaryless” mindset. Three types of organizational commitment were assessed: affective commitment (i.e. feelings of organizational loyalty), continuance commitment (i.e. feelings that the costs of leaving the organization out-weight the perceived benefits), and normative commitment (i.e. feelings that it is right to not leave the company). Supervisor support for career development was also examined because if supervisors take active roles in identifying and developing their employees’ career goals, this could lead to feelings of increased organizational commitment on the part of their employees even when these employees hold high boundaryless career attitudes.
RESULTS OF THE STUDY
The study results show two main findings: First, generally speaking, all three types of organizational commitment are negatively impacted by employees holding boundaryless career attitudes. This means that employees who identify with a broader career development trajectory extending outside the functional walls of their organization and who make career decisions based on their own, personalized goals rather than internalizing the goals of the organization, in general, experience lower levels of commitment to their organization. Interestingly, however, the organizational mobility preference facet of boundaryless career attitudes was not found to be significantly related to organizational commitment, suggesting that although boundaryless employees indicated a preference to change organizations, this does not seem to impact their commitment to their current organization. Secondly, although no support was found for supervisor career development support to assuage the negative effects of boundaryless career attitudes, higher supervisor support was linked to higher levels of employee organizational commitment (specifically, affective commitment and normative commitment).
PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR ORGANIZATIONS
With the trend in boundaryless career attitudes quickly replacing the traditional career mentality, what can organizations do insure a committed workforce? First, employers should understand that just because employees are taking their career development into their own hands, and thus, they adopt a more boundaryless career attitude, this does not mean that these employees will turnover. Supervisors should work to support the aspects of the boundaryless career mentality that in turn can benefit both the organization and the employee such as, providing performance-related feedback, supplying information about internal promotions, and supporting the employee’s educational and training endeavors.
Cakmak-Otluoglu, K. Ovgu. (2012). Protean and boundaryless career attitudes and organizational commitment: The effects of perceived supervisor support. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 80, 638-646.