A Comparison of Organizational Commitment between National and Expatriate Employees in Public and Private Sector Organizations

By Kuehn, Kermit W.; Busaidi, Yousuf Al- | Journal of International Business Research, Annual 2002 | Go to article overview

A Comparison of Organizational Commitment between National and Expatriate Employees in Public and Private Sector Organizations


Kuehn, Kermit W., Busaidi, Yousuf Al-, Journal of International Business Research


ABSTRACT

Research literature reveals that organizational commitment is a well-studied construct in Western organizational literature, but few studies have focused on organizational commitment in Arab (Persian) Gulf organizations. This study used data from 101 expatriate and national employees working in private and public sector organizations in the Sultanate of Oman to compare organizational commitment levels.

Because of cultural and individual differences between nationals and expatriates, we hypothesized that there would be differences between national and expatriate commitment levels in both private and public sector organizations. Allen and Meyer's (1990) three-component measure of organizational commitment was used. A questionnaire was developed to collect subject responses to commitment, satisfaction and demographic items.

Results provided only partial support for our hypotheses. Generally, no difference in organizational commitment was found between nationals working in the private versus public sectors. Further, nationals working in the private sector reported higher commitment than expatriates, while expatriates working in the public sector had the same overall commitment levels as nationals. These results and their implications for managers are discussed.

INTRODUCTION

Commitment of employees to their organizations has been a important area of organizational research for several decades in Western organizations. What makes commitment important to practitioners and scholars alike is its relationship to numerous organizational constructs of interest, including in-role (e.g. turnover, performance, and absenteeism) and extra-role behaviors (e.g. organization citizenship or prosocial behaviors). Several studies have examined the relationship between employee commitment and employee characteristics, such as perceived competence, age, gender, tenure, marital status, education, and salary (Mathieu and Zajac, 1990).

The relationship between commitment and organizational and job characteristics have also been heavily researched areas (Hackman & Lawler, 1971; Mathieu & Zajac, 1990). Furthermore, there has been a growing interest in comparative studies of different industries and sectors. One such area of interest to this study has been in comparative research between public and private sector organizational commitment (Balfour & Wechsler, 1991).

However, even with this growing research literature, there remains considerable uncertainty as to the relevance of much of the research to specific cultural contexts, namely those outside Western environments. Moreover, little research has compared commitment in private versus public organizations outside the U.S. Unlike Western contexts, in most developing countries the government is the primary employer of national employees, whereas the private sector employs mostly expatriates. This setting, combined with several other socio-cultural factors, suggest that significant differences in commitment can be expected between employees in both public and private sectors.

The purpose of the present study was to explore the issue of organizational commitment in Oman, a small country located on the Arabian Peninsula. Little previous work has been done in this important region of the world. Given the competitive market forces enveloping this region of the world, the need for enhanced organizational performance becomes a social and economic imperative.

CULTURAL BACKGROUND OF THE GULF COUNTRIES

The six Arab countries that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) include Saudi Arabia, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain. They are nations of an estimated 28.9 million residents of whom approximately 7.3 million (31%) are expatriate. Furthermore, these expatriates make up nearly 70% of the workforce in these countries (The Europa World Year Book, 1999). Islam is the dominant religion in the region and the monarchical form of government is the only administrative system. …

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