Three Component Model of Commitment (Meyer and Allen)

Organizational Commitment
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Devayani Vyavaharkar
Student (University), Germany

Three Component Model of Commitment (Meyer and Allen)

An organization can be defined as a group of people working together towards a common purpose or set of goals. The People or the 'Human Resources' are therefore the greatest asset for most companies. The people drive the company towards its vision. Thus it's only logical that every organization strives hard to keep their most valuable asset happy and satisfied at work. While some employees indeed choose to stick around, some others will leave the organization in search of better career prospects.
Why do people stick with their current organization? What drives employees to 'commit' themselves to the company?


Meyer and Allen proposed the Three Component Model of Commitment (1991). According to them, Organizational Commitment is a psychological state (or a mindset) that describes the relationship of the employee with the organization, and reflects the desire or need to remain committed to the firm. This commitment has three components 1) an affective attachment to the company, 2) the perceived "costs" (disadvantages) related to quitting the firm, and 3) an obligation to remain an employee at the organization. Individual employees can experience these 3 components of commitments to varying degrees.

  1. Affective Commitment: This refers to the emotional attachment (or affect) which the employee has towards the organization. In other words, the employee WANTS to remain with the company. This typically happens when the employee is satisfied by the role, team, manager, or work environment. The employee might find the work fulfilling or satisfying, and hence chooses to stick with the role. Meyer and Allen (1991) suggest that there are 4 factors (antecedents) that lead to Affective Commitment:
    • Personal (employee's) characteristics
    • Work Experience (in the organization)
    • Organizational structure characteristics
    • Job-related characteristics
  2. Continuance Commitment: This refers to the employee's perception of the costs (disadvantages) associated with leaving the firm. The employee FEELS A NEED to stick with the organization when the perceived costs associated with leaving the job outweigh the benefits. Meyer and Allen (1991) mention that:
    • Side-bets / Investments (for example, time and efforts spent in acquiring non-transferrable skills, pension, seniority-based privileges, employee benefits, relationships with colleagues, etc.)
    • Availability of Alternatives (other employment opportunities)
    are the two factors which impact the perceived costs, and in turn the continuance commitment.
  3. Normative Commitment: This refers to the sense of obligation felt by the employee to continue the employment at the organization. That is, the employee feels that he/she OUGHT to stay with the firm. Normative commitment may occur:
    • When the company pays a reward in advance (such as paying for college fees) or invests significantly in the employee in the form of on-the-job training. The employee may feel an obligation to reciprocate this by committing themselves to the organization.
    • As a result of social conformity (sticking to the herd) imbibed through family, society, culture, or organization.

Applications of the Model

  • The employee commitment towards the organization is positively correlated with the average tenure (time period spent in the organization), and negatively correlated with employee turnover (attrition) (number of employees who leave the organization within a period.
  • Employees displaying higher levels of Affective commitment are more likely to strive hard for the organization. Studies show that Affective commitment is positively correlated with job performance, as the employee is self-motivated to work dedicatedly. Organizations should strive to ensure the well-being and job satisfaction of their employees to boost affective commitment towards the organization.
  • Employees having Normative commitment would be obligated to contribute to the firm, just as they are obligated to stay in the firm. Hence the commitment levels show a positive correlation with efforts and performance. However, employers must also bear that such employees would be sticking back till the obligation is paid off. Thus, the organization must strive to improve the affective component of commitment in such employees.
  • Employees with Continuance commitment would show the least correlation with job performance, compared with the above two components. Such employees may not exhort efforts over and above what is expected of their role.
The three components of commitment are not mutually exclusive all three of them could be present in the employee at varying levels. The organization should strive to enhance affective commitment by ensuring that the employees are satisfied and happy at work. Happy employees enjoy what they do, create a positive work environment, and give a boost to overall productivity. Although Normative and Continuance commitments also ensure that the employee sticks around, relying solely on them is not very beneficial for both the employee and the organization. When the employee thrives, so does the employer.

⇒ Do you see other components of commitment from employees beyond the 3 by Meyer et al.? Do you see others applications of this model beyond the ones already mentioned?

Meyer, John. P. and Allen, Natalie. J. (1991) "A three-component conceptualization of organizational commitment", Human Resource Management Review, 1, 61-89
Mind Tools (n.d.) "The Three Component Model of Commitment", Mind Tools


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