Strategy and Transformation


Article Citation
Mathieu, John E. & Zajac, Dennis M. (1990). A review and meta-analysis of the
antecedents, correlates, and consequences of organizational commitment. Psychological
Bulletin, 108(2): 171-194.

Research Question
Using the meta-analytic method (Hunter, Schmidt, & Jackson, 1982), the authors
evaluate prior research on organizational commitment distinguishing between attitudinal
and calculated commitment as moderators, and assess the overall findings regarding
antecedents, correlates, and consequences of organizational commitment.
Theoretical or Conceptual Framework
The study analyzed the effects of antecedents of organizational commitment in the
categories of personal characteristics, role states, job characteristics, group and leader
relations, and organizational characteristics on correlates and consequences. Correlates
were defined in the categories of motivation and job satisfaction, while consequences
were defined in terms of job performance using both behavioral and perceived measures.
1. Age, organizational tenure, satisfaction with promotion opportunities, satisfaction
with pay, intention to leave, and turnover would be highly related to calculative
2. Job involvement; overall satisfaction; satisfaction with supervision, coworkers,
work; and occupational commitment would correlate with attitudinal
This study explored the correlations among 48 variables identified in 124 published
studies which produced 174 samples for meta-analysis. A hundred and thirty two of the
samples assessed attitudinal commitment while 28 assessed calculative commitment.
Since this study only corrected for sampling error and measurement unreliability, the
authors propose that support for the presence of moderating variables would be shown if
less than 50 to 60% of the differences between samples is explained by the statistical
artifacts, rather than the norm of 75% as proposed by Pearlman, Schmidt, and Hunter
Organizational commitment was shown to be a distinct construct with type of
commitment distinguished by the factors of attitudinal commitment and calculated
commitment. However, the magnitude of correlation was significantly higher for
attitudinal commitment suggesting a need for further elucidation of the effects of
calculated commitment. Further, in their attempt to extrapolate causal inferences, the
authors suggest that field theory (Lewin, 1943, 1951) may inform our understanding of
the effects of organizational commitment. They also suggest that the weak links between
attitudes and behavior may be explained by the mediating role of action potential and
self-efficacy as proposed by Fishbein & Ajzen (1975). Finally, as noted in prior studies,
the validity of the conclusions may be threatened by a bias resulting from a desire to
respond in a socially-appealing way despite actual beliefs or actions to the contrary
(Arnold & Feldman, 1981; Ganster, Hennessey, & Luthans, 1983; Moorman &
Podsakoff, 1992).

Critique and Commentary
The results of this meta-analysis raise a number of questions regarding correlational
studies involving perceived variables in terms of how they may predict or relate to
behavioral outcomes. First, most of the high correlations found in this study were
between perceptions such as attitudinal commitment and perceived personal confidence,
motivation, job satisfaction, and intent to quit. Smaller effect sizes were found in the
relationships between perceived organizational commitment and behavioral outcomes,
such as objective job performance, attendance, lateness, and turnover. Perhaps the
relationship found between organizational commitment and supervisor perception of
performance may have more to do with the “false” judgments that leaders tend to make in
cohesive groups who share a common fate (Asch, 1987; Janis, 1983). In fact, other
studies have shown that team cohesiveness may be a significant mediator between
people, tasks, work effort and performance by reducing conflict and improving
communications (Hinds & Mortensen, 2005).
Second, the authors note that prior research has shown the overlap in semantic
articulation of perceptual constructs. They suggest that the use in surveys of similarly
worded items among the correlates to organizational commitment may be inadequately
discriminating the constructs involved. Definitional confounds may also exist as
respondents abstract meaning from an item question.
Third, the authors report weak links between the construct of organizational commitment
and actual, objective performance. Other studies, such as Bishop, Scott & Burroughs
(2000), question this finding and suggest a stronger correlation. However, in these studies
perceived organizational commitment is related to perceived performance rather than the
objective performance discussed in this study. As mentioned above, such an approach
risks confounding effects of cohesiveness with those of organizational commitment.

This study by Mathieu and Zajac makes a substantial contribution not only to our
understanding of organizational commitment, but also organizational research overall by
differentiating between emotive, cognitive, and behavioral antecedents and outcomes. In
the process they expose some of the potential weakness in the relying on correlational
research to explicate the effects of complex psychological constructs. For organizational
studies to become more of a science with predictive power, it seems to me that the issues
raised by this study represent one of our most significant challenges.
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