The Determinants of Family Owner-Managers' Affective Organizational Commitment

By Memili, Esra; Zellweger, Thomas M. et al. | Family Relations, July 2013 | Go to article overview

The Determinants of Family Owner-Managers' Affective Organizational Commitment


Memili, Esra, Zellweger, Thomas M., Fang, Hanqing Chevy, Family Relations


Affective organizational commitment is an important predictor of the willingness to contribute to organizational goals and is of particular relevance to family firms, as these firms often rely on long-term involvement of family members through transgenerational succession. Drawing on organizational commitment and ownership attachment theories, we probe the influence of family firm dynamics (i.e., family harmony and relationship conflict) on work-family conflict and family owner-managers' ownership attachment, which in turn impact affective organizational commitment. On the basis of a study of 326 family firms, we introduce ownership attachment as an important antecedent to affective organizational commitment. We find that ownership attachment is positively affected by both family harmony and work-family conflict, whereby work-family conflict is influenced by relationship conflict. We also find that work-family conflict affects ownership attachment.

Key Words: affective organizational commitment, family harmony, family owner-managers, ownership attachment, relationship conflict, work-family conflict.

According to Buchanan (1974), organizational commitment of employees is essential for the survival and effectiveness of organizations. The underlying emphasis on the retention of employees and their willingness to contribute to organizational goals makes affective organizational commitment (i.e., identification with, involvement in, and emotional attachment to the organization; Allen & Meyer, 1996) particularly important for family firms, as they rely on the long-term involvement of family members in transgenerational succession and success (Sharma & Irving, 2005). Unfortunately, however, we do not know enough about the antecedents of affective organizational commitment.

To fill this gap, we explore the effects of family harmony and relationship conflict as two components of family dynamics (Barnett, Eddleston, & Kellermanns, 2009; Eddieston & Kellermanns, 2007; Kellermanns & Eddieston, 2004, 2006) on family owner-managers willingness to affectively commit to the organization. We also explore the role of ownership attachment and work-family conflict between the family dynamics and family owner-managers' affective organizational commitment. As such, we explore the mechanisms through which family-firm-specific dynamics impact the affective commitment of family owner-managers. To this end, we draw on ownership attachment and affective organizational commitment theories and test our model on a sample of 326 family firms.

This study contributes to the family firm literature in several important ways. As a first study, we provide family-firm-specific insights into the antecedents of affective organizational commitment. Identifying the antecedents of affective organizational commitment contributes to the advancement of the theory of the family firm given the pivotal role of family members' involvement in these organizations' success (Chrisman, Chua, Pearson, & Barnett, 2012). Second, we empirically investigated the impact of ownership attachment (Ball & Tasaki, 1992; Zellweger & Astrachan, 2008) on affective organizational commitment given the repeated conceptual assertions that attachment to family firm ownership may severely bias decision making in family firms (e.g., Sharma & Manikutty, 2005). We found ownership attachment to be an important mediator between family dynamics and affective organizational commitment. Lastly, this article contributes to research on ownership attachment theory by proposing and testing a model that translates how ownership attachment forms a bridge between unique family firm factors and affective organizational commitment of family owner-managers. Figure 1 provides a visual representation of our hypotheses.

Theoretical Overview

Affective Organizational Commitment

In their seminal article, Meyer and Allen (1991) proposed that individuals can become bound to organizations in different ways and that the implications for occupation-relevant behavior like citizenship, turnover, and performance can be quite different depending on the type of commitment. …

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