Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

The Configural Approach to Organisational Commitment: An Application in Ghana

Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

The Configural Approach to Organisational Commitment: An Application in Ghana

Article excerpt


Organisational commitment, an attachment to one's employing organisation, continues to interest researchers and managers and remains a vibrant research topic because of its central role in understanding and predicting workplace behaviour. Commitment research has mostly focused on the variable-centred approach (see Meyer et al., 2002), which identifies the differences in relationships between variables involving the three-component model of organisational commitment (discussed later). However, recent efforts have focused on a person-centred approach, termed the configuration or profiles of commitment (Meyer & Herscovitch, 2001). The configural approach involves identifying homogenous subgroups of individuals within a population, groups that share similarities on the components of commitment (Kam, Morin, Meyer & Topolnytsky, 2013; Sinclair, Tucker, Cullen & Wright, 2005). Thus, commitment components may combine and relate differently to other variables within these subgroups. Hence, the defining feature of the configural approach is internal cohesion amongst profile members: the reliable occurrence of others. This concept assumes that research populations are not homogeneous and that the same theoretical framework and empirical findings may not apply uniformly to all sampled respondents (Meyer, Stanley & Vandenberg, 2013).

Whilst the three-component model has been applied in the African context (e.g. Beukes & Botha, 2013; Simons & Buitendach, 2013), little is known about the psychology of commitment profiles (configurations) and their effect on work outcomes. Thus, commitment profiles are an excellent means for gaining a better understanding of the dynamics amongst the three bases of commitment in relation to work outcomes (Somers, 2009), but there is limited research on the holistic view of commitment mindset using the threecomponent model of organisational commitment in an African context. The purpose of this study, therefore, is to test the concept of commitment profiles amongst samples of respondents from Ghana and to examine the credibility of the emergent clusters in terms of their relationships with a number of contextual variables and demographic factors. Consequently, the theoretical justification of this study lies in testing the generalisability of the configural perspective of commitment to an African country: Ghana.

Commitment is a psychological state and individuals may experience different bases of commitment simultaneously (Klein, Molloy & Cooper, 2009). This mental frame may lead to a unique psychological state for employees in terms of their attachment to the organisation, with implications for job behaviours. Hence, the focus on the configural approach (person-centred), instead of the variable-centred approach, signals the importance of individuals in the work context (Meyer & Herscovitch, 2001). According to Kam et al. (2013), the configural approach treats individuals in a more holistic fashion and allows commitment mindsets to be experienced differently and have different implications in combination than they do individually. Therefore, focusing on the psychology of commitment through configuration will provide new insight into the study of commitment and augment the variable-centred approach. The above suggests the possibility of a synergistic effect of the commitment components for organisations. The terms configural approach and profiles of commitment are used interchangeably in the rest of this article.

Theoretical framework and background

The three-component model of organisational commitment

Organisational commitment has been defined as the perceived bond or psychological attachment to the organisation (Klein, Brinsfield & Molloy, 2006; cf. Klein, Molloy & Cooper, 2009). Commitment to the organisation may take three forms, referred to as the three-component model (Allen & Meyer, 1990). These include affective commitment (AC), attachment based on emotions or desire, continuance commitment (CC), attachment based on perceived cost, and normative commitment (NC), attachment based on perceived obligation (Meyer & Allen, 1991). …

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