A person’s behavior toward work can be affected by a combination of personality traits, level of loyalty to one’s organization, level of immersion into one’s work and dedication to one’s profession (Pennsylvania State University, 2011). All job attitudes overlap and are highly related, thus providing us with a complete illustration of the way in which individuals approach their jobs, perform and make choices regarding their employment (Pennsylvania State University, 2011). In the following case study, we will follow an employee named Robert through the evolution of his career in the concrete industry, focusing on the affects of his varying job attitudes over time. Robert clearly enjoyed the concrete industry. At the young age of 20 he developed a desire to learn the concrete industry and developed many skills that involved concrete construction. At Company A, Robert worked in a division he felt he was unable to perform his job as wholeheartedly as he wanted to. He met directly with the owner expressing his desire to be of use anywhere in the company to demonstrate his willingness to work. Robert felt rejected by not only the lack of reciprocation but his ultimate layoff with Company A.
Details of Case
Robert was 20 years old when he started to work for Company A as a concrete pump truck operator. At Company A, Robert’s division was made up of 3 pump operators who were delegated work based upon seniority. Robert enjoyed his work and always arrived to work early, often continuing to help out at the shop even off the clock. Robert however was disappointed with the amount of work, never being able to put in over 35 hours a week because of the hierarchy of his division combined with the slow economy and reduced job assignments in his division. In Robert’s division, the senior operator always took the prime assignments, ones where an employee could put in a full day’s work. Robert had met with the owner and expressed his interest in working in any aspect of the company as he had a full range of construction skills and felt his desire to work and enjoyment of the field was reflected in his past year’s performance. However, not long after his meeting with the owner, Robert was laid off.
Robert applied for work at Company B, a competitor of Company A. Robert was hired as a concrete pump truck operator. Two years after working for Company B Robert was promoted as a construction foreman. As a salaried foreman, Robert made it a personal goal to arrive early to help assist in getting the supplies for the day loaded onto all trucks. Daily, he stayed at his job site as late as needed to get all the tasks completed. Often Robert would arrive home at night with enough time to eat and go to sleep to start his day over again. When he was home, Robert remained mentally engaged with work, dominating conversation by reiterating his workday and discussed industry news and company activity. Rarely did Robert take vacation and always went to work regardless of sickness. The only day Robert had off during the week was Sunday as he reported to work every Saturday whether or not he actually went to the job site. There was always work to be done around the shop! Robert also enjoyed attending company functions. In particular, the end of the year party where the entire company gathered along with invited key people Company B did business with.
After working 10 years at Company B, the owner promoted him to supervisor. As supervisor, Robert worked directly next to the owner of Company B for the next 10 years. Over the years Robert's relationship with the owner developed not only into one of mentor, where he taught Robert details in running the Company but also as confidant, discussing their personal lives. Robert had incremental pay raises and on years that were especially profitable for the company, received substantial end-of-year bonuses, and two years ago the owner established Robert with a special retirement fund in which the company intends to make yearly 5 digit contributions on years the company makes lucrative profit. Robert will be 100% percent vested in 15 years. One year ago Robert received a pay cut and 75% bonus reduction as part of a company-wide cut in an effort to reduce company expenses due to an economic slowdown; the owner himself took a cut in salary.
Over the past several years Robert has taken on side (concrete) work outside of his employment with Company B. Most recently he received a call to bid on a job that would undoubtedly launch him in own personal concrete business, but would place him as a direct competitor of his employer, Company B, he has worked with for 20 years. Robert decided to turn down the lucrative job offer, stay with Company B, and devote even more energy into his work as the owner promised as soon as the economy turns around Robert will return to his previous salary.
Job involvement is the level at which one immerses oneself into daily work (Pennsylvania State University, 2011). One’s level of immersion can be determined by a number of factors including one’s environment, personality, values and needs (Pennsylvania State University, 2011). Robert’s job involvement during his tenure with Company A was low. Robert’s disappointment in the lack of work led to a negative attitude toward his job and low job satisfaction. Over time, Robert became less interested in his work, was often absent and his performance was mediocre. Naturally, as lay-offs became imminent during the bad economic time, Robert was one of the first employees to be laid off.
During Robert’s tenure with Company B, however, his job involvement was dangerously high. Robert’s work began to consume him. He worked long hours, 6 days per week, never took time off and was unhappy if he was not working. Robert became a workaholic. His personal life suffered. He became less involved with his children and rarely attended any of their extracurricular events. When he did attend their events, his mind was on work, not his children. His relationship with his wife deteriorated and they frequently spoke of divorce. Robert’s work-life balance was inadequate and he had low life satisfaction.
Robert’s job involvement can be explained by the Multi-Dimensional Model of Job Involvement (Yoshimura, 1996). The Multi-Dimensional Model alludes to job involvement as being comprised of three types of involvement: interest in and attachment to one’s job (emotional job involvement), the importance of the job to one’s life and how much one desires to be involved in decision making (cognitive job involvement) and the frequency of one’s involvement in work-related activities or thoughts when not at work (behavioral job involvement) (Yoshimura, 1996).
Robert’s emotional and job involvements remained relatively high throughout his tenure in the concrete industry. He thoroughly enjoyed his line of work and had great interest in it. His interest in the job was also evidenced by his long-term career in the concrete industry. Despite not always being a part of the decision-making process, specifically during his tenure with Company A, Robert was a willing participant. Only when it became apparent that Company A was not and would not be providing him with a sense of job satisfaction did his emotional and cognitive job involvement begin to decline.
Robert’s behavioral job involvement, however, varied significantly amongst his tenure with Company A and Company B. While working with Company A, Robert was not afforded the opportunity to engage in additional roles, responsibilities or learning. In fact, assignments were scarce and Robert found it difficult to even work 35 hours per week. Robert’s tenure with Company B was the exact opposite. Robert was constantly involved with as many assignments as possible, often bringing his work home with him. Thoughts of work were with him every day of almost every hour. There was always something for Robert to do and learn and he made sure he kept himself occupied with work both in the workplace and at home. With Company A, there was too little behavioral job involvement. With Company B, there was too much behavioral job involvement, which led to Robert suffering from workaholism.
It should also be noted that research has evidenced a positive relationship between certain personality traits and workaholism. Liang and Chu (2009) have identified obsessive compulsiveness, achievement oriented, perfectionist and conscientious as an antecedent of a workaholic. Robert has displayed these characteristics at times during his employment with both Company A and Company B. Such characteristics also have an affect on Robert’s work ethic, further evidencing the overlapping of job attitudes.
To a certain degree, everyone has a need to work - some people have high need levels whereas others have low need levels and then their are those with neutral levels. The need to work, according to Pinder (2008), directly relates to a person's work ethics. In the United States, work ethics have changed over time however the basic core values have remained recognizable. Porter (2005) makes an association between higher hours on the job, most notably in recent years than previous ones, with work ethic core values. Porter's (2005) study created a working definition for good or strong work ethic and found the most common descriptors were:
1. Show up on time;
3. Being responsible and taking ownership;
4. Working diligently;
5. Taking initiative and going beyond being asked what to do;
6. Staying as long as it takes tp finish the job;
7. Taking pride in what you do.
On contrast Porter (2005) found a poor work ethic to be described as:
1. Feelings of entitlement - being 'owed' a job without any effort required to get one;
2. Not showing up to work;
3. Stopping work when they feel like it;
4. Switch jobs when 'the going gets rough';
5. Constant moving from job to job - the thinking that the 'grass is always greener on the other side';"
6. Viewing the workplace as a time to socialize rather than getting work done.
Persons who display neutral work ethic attitudes "do their job just to get to get it done" (Porter, 2005), doing it only with enough effort to get by without being terminated (Porter, 2005).
In the case study, Robert had a high work ethic. In Company A, Robert arranged a meeting with the boss and expressed his desire to work more and/or be placed to work in a different area of the company. In Company B, Robert was dependable. He went beyond what he was asked to do and took the initiative to show up early to help the crews with loading supplies. Robert also stayed every night at his job site completing the job until it was done. Clearly, after comparing the most common descriptors of a strong work ethic found in Porter's (2005) study, we can conclude Robert's work ethic was at a high level.
In the case study, Robert experienced 2 periods of economic instability during employment, one, in 1991 with Company A, and two, in 2010, with Company B. A relatively current article in the National Edition (Evans, Gunz and Jalland, 2009, p. FP11) described the current business trend as one in which downsizing and layoffs are prevalent. For Robert, this proved true in both 1991 and 2010, however, in 2010 Company B took an additional step to reduce costs - employee pay cuts. Evans, Gunz, and Jalland (2009, p. FP11) notes "reducing costs by omitting bonuses...is far less disruptive" for both the employee and the company than if their was a company-wide layoff. When experiencing a pay cut, how will an employee react/act? Become disheartened and slack at his job? Devote more energy to the company? Will the employee retain his employment? Interestingly, employee commitment relates to employee retention (Pastorino & Doyle-Portillo, 2010). In the case study, one can understand Robert's actions despite a pay cut by Company B through examining Organizational Commitment. "Organizational Commitment refers to the extent to which an employee develops an attachment and feels a sense of allegiance to his or her employer" (The Pennsylvania State University, 2011). Allen and Meyer identify 3 types of commitment that embody organizational commitment: Affective, Continuance, and Normative (The Pennsylvania State University, 2011).
Affective commitment: An employee stays with an organization due to identifying with the organization, having an emotional attachment to it, as well as social membership within it (The Pennsylvania State University, 2011; Pastorino & Doyle-Portillo, 2010).
Affective commitment proved to be part of Robert's reason for staying with Company B despite receiving a pay cut. Throughout Robert's career at Company B, the owner took notice of Robert's work ethic that was similar to his own - arriving early to work, working late, coming in on Saturdays, and socializing at company functions. Robert appreciated the owner recognizing his potential and was extremely satisfied when promoted to supervisor. As supervisor, not only did Robert feel he played an even more integral part of the company but he respected the owner as a mentor and the friendship they had developed. Robert was also close with many employees in the company, on occasion, associating and speaking on a social level outside of work hours. Clearly, it wasn't just the 20 years Robert worked at Company B that caused his commitment but it was the identification with Company B. Robert worked next to the owner, which enhanced Robert's identification with Company B, Robert also formed an emotional attachment to the Company, he was interested in its success since its success mean his success not only monetarily but the shared pride with the owner. Robert also wouldn't consider opening his own company that would be in direct competition with Company B because he respected the owner who took a chance on him as well as not wanting to jeopardize the friendship he developed with the owner and certain employees.
Continuance commitment: An employee stays with an organization because they cannot afford to leave due to the inability to obtain an equal salary and benefits package elsewhere, in addition to retirement and pension plans that require a certain amount of the employee's time to be vested on order to be eligible for its withdrawal (The Pennsylvania State University, 2011). As well as monetary benefits, continuance may also occur because the employee would lose company social ties or friendships (Pastorino & Doyle-Portillo, 2010).
Robert's continuance with Company B despite his pay cut has many facets. Robert stays with Company B in part because his benefits package is unprecedented for his industry. Compared to other concrete industries, none report setting a supervisor up with a retirement plan as Robert's. However, Robert does realize that their are other concrete companies that have given "higher ups" a different incentive - percentage of ownership in the company (e.g. 10%). While Robert would prefer to have a percentage of Company B he is happy with the perks he receives and would like to achieve full vestment in his retirement plan. Outside of the monetary benefits, Robert has developed valued friendships within the company and feels he would lose these social ties and friendships if he left Company B.
Normative commitment: An employee stays with an organization due to moral obligation; the employee doesn't want to let down his employer or be viewed by coworkers as lessor for resigning (The Pennsylvania State University, 2011; Pastorino & Doyle-Portillo, 2010).
Clearly, part of Robert's commitment is due to his feelings of obligation. Robert feels he ought to stay with Company B. He doesn't want to let the owner down after all, the owner took a chance on Robert advancing him within the Company and personally mentoring him.
Commitment to Career/Profession
Commitment to career/profession can be viewed as personal commitment. Unlike organizational commitment theories that attempt to explain the dedication employees may or may not have for a company, career/profession commitment is a relatively new aspect of this research (The Pennsylvania State University, 2011) that focuses on how professionals devote themselves to their own development. Professionals today are growing more dedicated to themselves rather than their employer and look at themselves as free agents. They see companies as an opportunity to build their resume. This strategy of resume building seeks to make each move appear to be a logical next step in their career.
Organizational commitment does interact with career/professional commitment by either supplanting it in the mind and emotions of the employee at some point in their career or by developing later in a career after the professional has accomplished much of what they have desired. Mid to late career professionals may be more likely to seek to settle into an organization in which they feel comfortable until retirement. It is possible for early career professionals to fall in love with an organization and become less concerned with career/professional development. It is also possible that professionals find a way to develop themselves within an organization and see no benefit in moving around. In this scenario, the employee could feel both fulfilled and become committed to the organization because of this development.
In this case, Robert has an interesting mix of organizational and career commitment. He seems to have a preference toward organizational commitment but focuses on career commitment when company A fails to meet his needs. He then goes out and finds a company that will appreciate his need to commit and take advantage of it. He realizes he should focus on a trade in order to become an expert at something but when he finds an environment where exercising his trade is possible he devotes himself to the company. It is clear from his reaction when he had the opportunity to go out on his own that his preference is to organizational commitment over career commitment.
Robert’s case study is a good example of the complex relationship between the various aspects of organizational commitment. Robert has experienced the many human responses to his working environment and has had to manage sometimes conflicting emotions within himself in relation to his career and his employer. Employees’ minds and emotions can become a swirling tide of obligations to themselves, their families, their employers, and their ethical obligations. In addition, the uncertainty of how someone’s decisions will play out adds additional stresses. Most people see their life and careers as their one and only chance to get things right. The need to be able to reflect back on one’s life and career and feel satisfaction and pride rather than regret and disappointment puts a great deal of stress on individuals to get it right the first time. In the modern working life, employees can have several careers. This development is possibly a natural human reaction to the modern “human resources” environment (The Pennsylvania State University, 2011). By abandoning the somewhat permanent employment situations of previous generations, modern employees have developed a way to give themselves secend, third, and more chances to get it right.
Evans, M.G., Gunz, H.P., Jalland, R.R. (2009, Febrary 3). Lessons from cost cutting in the 1990s; downsizing; explore options before following layoffs trend. National Edition, p. FP11.
Liang, Y., & Chu, C. (2009). Personality traits and personal and organizational inducements: Antecedents of workaholism. Social Behavior and Personality, 37(5), 645-660.
Pastorino, E., Doyle-Portillo, S. (2010). What is psychology? essentials. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Pinder, C. C. (2008). Work motivation in organizational behavior. New York: Psychology Press.
Porter, G. (2005). A "career" work ethic versus just a job. Journal of European Industrial Training,29(4), 336. http://search.proquest.com/docview/215389118?accountid=13158
The Pennsylvania State University (2011). Lesson 12: Work and organizational commitment: Am i attached to the organization? Retrieved from https://cms.psu.edu/section/content/default.asp?WCI=pgDisplay&WCU=CRSCNT&ENTRY_ID=97D4659902F4475D805509F12683C53D
Yoshimura, A. (1996). A review and proposal of job involvement. Keio Business Review, 33, 175-184.