Personal Factors and Organizational Commitment: Main and Interactive Effects in the United Arab Emirates

By Abdulla, Mohamed H. A.; Shaw, Jason D. | Journal of Managerial Issues, Spring 1999 | Go to article overview

Personal Factors and Organizational Commitment: Main and Interactive Effects in the United Arab Emirates


Abdulla, Mohamed H. A., Shaw, Jason D., Journal of Managerial Issues


The breadth and depth of organizational commitment research has led researchers to undertake both qualitative (e.g., Morrow, 1983; Mowday et al., 1982) and quantitative (Mathieu and Zajac, 1990) reviews of the literature. This research stream has uncovered several consistently significant determinants of organizational commitment including several personal factors (e.g., age, gender, and education). However, several issues with respect to personal characteristics remain to be fully explored (Mathieu and Zajac, 1990). For example, although significant direct effects have been found, few studies have hypothesized and tested differential predictions between personal factors and different dimensions of organizational commitment. Furthermore, despite the relatively large body of research exploring organizational commitment issues, little is known about how personal characteristics interact in determining organizational commitment. Indeed, Mathieu and Zajac's meta-analysis demonstrated support for direct relationships with organizational commitment, but the authors suggested that researchers should now "explore more fully the role of individual variables as moderators of the influence of other variables" (italics in original) (1990: 188). That is what we propose to do. In this article, the influence of personal characteristics, individually and collectively, on two dimensions of organizational commitment is explored. In addition, we explore the moderating role of nationality between other personal characteristics and organizational commitment.

The model is tested on a unique sample of employees from the Ministry of Health in the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.). The setting not only provides an interesting contrast to settings normally found in organizational commitment research, but also allows a unique opportunity to explore dynamics related to country of origin. Foreign employees or "guest workers" make up the largest segment of the labor pool in the U.A.E., with most organizations being composed nearly entirely of immigrant labor. The sample for this study was selected from the U.A.E. Ministry of Health, an ideal setting for examining organizational commitment dynamics in a highly diverse work setting. As employee diversity in organizations increases throughout the world, a more complete-understanding of nationality" dynamics and workplace attitudes is needed (e.g., Arthur and Bennett, 1995). This study is also intended to be a step in that direction. More specifically, the purposes of this article are: (1) to briefly review the extant literature pertaining to personal characteristics and organizational commitment, (2) to derive and test main effect and interactive hypotheses concerning personal characteristics and dimensions of organizational commitment, and (3) to discuss the theoretical and managerial implications of the research.

Background and Theory

Organizational Commitment Review

Organizational commitment has been defined and measured in several ways, with a bond between the individual and the organizational being the thread of commonality among different authors (Mathieu and Zajac, 1990). The nature of this bond, whether of necessity or feeling, has been the primary point of debate and discussion among organizational commitment researchers. Morris and Sherman (1981) proposed that theorists typically favor an exchange approach, in which commitment is the result of investments in the organization, or a psychological approach, in which commitment is depicted as a positive, high-involvement orientation toward the organization.

Probably the most frequently used constitutive definition of the construct is that proposed by Mowday and colleagues (Mowday et al., 1979; Mowday et al., 1982), who suggested that organizational commitment is an internalization of the values and goals of the organization, a willingness to work hard on behalf of the organization, and a strong desire to remain with the organization. …

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