Organizational commitment is when a member of a certain group identifies himself with the group and is willing to work intensely on its behalf. In these cases, an organizationally committed person takes a large part of his personal identity from the group and has positive associations with it. This is not the same as organizational identification or motivation, but is much broader than both. Commitment can be specifically seen as a broader concept of self-definition.


Definitions of commitment vary. They do, however, tend to revolve around something more than just support for a group. One may root for the Oakland Raiders, but not identify herself with the Raiders organization as such. One may be a patriotic Serb, but not identify with the government, bureaucracy or how the economy is run. Commitment is specifically organizational and much broader than these examples. It is broader in the sense that it is a lifestyle—rather than a state of mind—having to do with day-to-day labor, self-identification within a specific organization or group.

Behavioral Theories

Much of the literature in this field is behavioral. This means it tries to find the specific ingredients that make someone committed to a group rather than merely being a member or supporter. Adeyinka Tella et al., writing about librarians in Nigeria, cites several behavioral factors in creating a committed person. These are the variety of work, “role ambiguity,” the attitude of co-workers and friends, alternatives to the organization, and skill variety on the job. These seem to point to role freedom, a lack of over-specialization and interesting, rewarding labor.

Social Identity Theory

Social identity is a simple approach holding that all human beings want to increase their self-worth by being connected to a specific organization or group. This does not negate behavioral approaches, but rather wants to get behind the specific ingredients to this kind of commitment. Identity theory argues that a positive self-concept is—at least in part—created by having positive associations for a group that is attached to your very person. An example might be a man working for a social service organization. The group might have strong positive social associations, which, in turn, reflect on this worker as a man.

Self-Categorization Theory

Self-categorization approaches hold that the self is constructed through these organizational ties and that people can view themselves on several different levels. You can see yourself as an individual, but this, in part, is connected with the social groups to which you belong. You then become a “subordinated individual” or a person whose identity derives in part from these social connections such as working in a certain place or living in a certain area. The point is that organizational commitment is largely based on how a person has constructed her identity. If the groups to which she belongs are a large part of this identity, then you can expect a great deal of commitment.