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Organizations' efforts to enhance their competitiveness largely hinge on the willingness of their members to work smarter, do more with less, and go beyond the call of duty. Employees can react to these demands in many different ways. Much of their reaction depends on the nature of their commitment to the organization. As a result, concerns about the nature and consequences of organizational commitment have become prominent for both management scholars and practitioners. This article contributes to this call for improving our understanding of organizational commitment by focusing on the measurement and implications of individuals' psychological attachments to an organization.
In an attempt to improve on traditional treatments of organizational commitment, O'Reilly and Chatman (1986) argued for emphasizing commitment's "central theme"--the nature of individuals' psychological attachments to organizations. O'Reilly and Chatman suggested that there were three dimensions of psychological attachment: compliance, identification, and internalization. Compliance refers to attachment based on the expectation of receiving extrinsic rewards such as pay and employment as the result of work activities. Identification refers to attachment based on valued membership in, and affiliation with, the organization. Internalization refers to attachment based on the congruence between organizational and individual values. In addition to positing these three dimensions of psychological attachment, O'Reilly and Chatman developed a 12-item instrument (hereafter referred to as the Psychological Attachment Instrument or PAI) to measure them.
The psychological attachment perspective articulated by O'Reilly and Chatman and the measurement instrument they developed have the potential to expand and improve the understanding of the nature and consequences of organizational commitment for both management scholars and practitioners. However, because of its relative newness and the entrenchment of more traditional measures of organizational commitment such as Mowday, Steers, and Porter's (1979) Organizational Commitment Questionnaire, relatively little research employing the PAI has been reported. However, three interesting findings have emerged from the limited studies that are available. First, internalization and identification are often indistinguishable, both in terms of the psychometrics of the PAI and in their relationships to other variables of interest. Second, compliance seems to have relationships with several variables opposite those of identification and internalization, suggesting that identification and internalization reflect attachment that is in some sense fundamentally counter to that reflected by compliance. Third, unlike compliance, internalization and identification are associated with extrarole, pro-social behaviors. This suggests that organizational members who identify with the organization and have internalized its values are more likely to go beyond the call of duty when needed and are more likely to do it without having to be cajoled.
Both management scholars and practitioners would benefit from additional research examining the utility of the psychological attachment perspective on organizational commitment and its measurement by the PAI. In particular, several questions require additional attention:
1. What is the dimensionality of the PAI--specifically, are identification and internalization sufficiently distinct to justify being treated as two dimensions or should they be merged?
2. How do the dimensions of psychological attachment relate to job characteristics and attitudes found to correlate with traditional organizational commitment measures?
3. Are there other forms of behaviors similar to extrarole behaviors where the nature of one's psychological attachment exerts an influence?
The purpose of this article is to address these questions. Providing further evidence regarding Questions 1 and 2 represents incremental contributions to the existing literature. Addressing Question 3 represents a more unique contribution regarding the influence of psychological attachment on discretionary behaviors. Specifically, with regard to Question 3, we examine whether or not incumbents' psychological attachments to an organization are related to their preferences and input regarding the appropriate early developmental experiences for "high-potential" new hires.
DIMENSIONALITY OF THE PSYCHOLOGICAL ATTACHMENT INSTRUMENT
Five studies have reported factor analytic results of the PAI. In two studies reported in O'Reilly and Chatman (1986), three factors corresponding to internalization, identification, and compliance emerged. Studies by Caldwell, Chatman, and O'Reilly (1990), O'Reilly, Chatman, and Caldwell (1991), and Sutton, Harrison, and Woerner (1990), revealed only two factors. Consistent with Porter, Steers, Mowday, and Boulian's (1974) treatment of identification and internalization as components of attitudinal commitment, internalization and identification items formed one factor in these studies. Even in studies where identification and internalization are distinguished, they are shown to be highly related to each other (Becker, 1992) or to relate similarly to other variables of interest (O'Reilly & Chatman, 1986). In contrast to identification and internalization, compliance reliably emerges from the PAI.
Taken as a whole, these studies suggest that the dimensionality of the PAI, particularly with regard to distinguishing between identification and internalization, is not stable across all samples and contexts. Clearly, more tests of the dimensionality of the PAI are required. In the present study, the instrument is examined in an organization in the midst of a multiyear culture change effort. Given that organizational values were the primary target of change in this organization rather than organizational affiliation per se, such a context should enhance the possibility of clearly distinguishing between identification and internalization.
PSYCHOLOGICAL ATTACHMENTS AND JOB CHARACTERISTICS AND ATTITUDES
Underrepresented in previous studies employing the PAI are examinations of relationships between the bases of psychological attachment and correlates of traditional measures of organizational commitment. Such examinations are necessary to provide additional evidence regarding the nature and usefulness of the psychological attachment approach to commitment. In the present study, relationships between the bases of psychological attachment and six correlates of traditional commitment measures (see Mathieu & Zajac, 1990)--three person/job characteristics: organizational tenure, job level, and task autonomy, and three affective outcomes: job involvement, job satisfaction, and turnover intention--are examined.
Intuitively, one would expect that organizational commitment should relate to person/job characteristics such as tenure, job level, and task autonomy such that those with greater tenure, higher job level, and greater task autonomy should experience greater intrinsic commitment to the organization. In general, traditional organizational commitment research supports these expectations (Mathieu & Zajac, 1990). However, of these three correlates, only organizational tenure has been examined relative to the PAI. Employing the PAI in a study of 82 university …