Leadership in the work environment

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CHAPTER 3 Employee commitment


Employee commitment as a concept has attracted research interest mainly due to the realisation and acknowledgement of its importance in the success of an organisation. The acknowledgement of this concept has prompted organisations to invest significant effort in attracting and retaining committed employees (Mercurio, 2016:390). This is, as Lesabe and Nkosi (2007:35) argue, because having committed employees assists an organisation to become more competitive. Indeed, DuBois and Associates (1997:1) contend that for an organisation to succeed in its total quality and work re-organisation efforts it should at least have 80% of committed employees at all levels.
In the light of this, it seems a rational proposition that in the face of economic challenges and difficult working conditions, employees who are committed to the organisation are capable of exerting the same or more effort if called upon to do so. The awareness of the importance of employee commitment has brought to the fore the notion that the success of an organisation does not only depend on the effectiveness and efficient utilisation of human competencies, but also on the stimulation of employee commitment (Nijhof, De Jong & Beukehof, 1998:243).
A dual focus on production and the needs of employees thus compels an organisation to maintain a balance in the effort of ensuring that both organisational and employee goals are met. By doing so, an organisation may be assured of a stable workforce that can be depended upon to attain desired business performance. For this reason, and others perhaps, researchers continue to seek factors that include amongst others leadership behaviour that promotes employee commitment.
Leadership behaviour is one of the factors that influence the attitudes and behaviour of employees (Philipp, & Lopez, 2013:304). This is mainly due to the fact that leaders hold a position of power and authority within the organisation (Joo & Park, 2010:483; Macey, Schnieder, Barbera & Young, 2009:26). In other words, leaders possess a unique organisational role that enables them to create the context within which employees operate. Against this background, leadership behaviours are material in shaping employee commitment. Therefore, leadership behaviour could influence the nature or extent of employee commitment that enables the retention of a talented workforce to support business performance.
Black top managers as leaders in SOEs are at the forefront of driving employee behaviour in the SOE and they can be viewed as the principal contributors to the employee commitment. In other words, the leadership styles of black top managers may be a critical variable in the formation of employee commitment. Therefore, to set the tone for the exploration of the possible relationship between leadership style and employee commitment, the chapter attempts to define employee commitment and discuss the different components and characteristics of employee commitment. The employee commitment discussion in the chapter concludes with an exploration of the plausible association between leadership behaviours and employee commitment.

Definition of employee commitment

Allen and Meyer (2000:286) describe employee commitment as a psychological state that characterises a subordinate’s relationship with the organisation, and in cases where this is positive, it has the potential to lower the likelihood of rapid staff turnovers. Sarantinos (2007:6) asserts that employee commitment is directly linked to the psychological contract defined by the unspoken agreement between employees and the organisation with regard to their reciprocal obligations and perceived expectations. Employee commitment is therefore defined as an individual’s feelings toward an organisation as a whole and these feelings are evident in the motivation to invest substantial effort into one’s work (Nijhof, De Jong Beukehof, 1998:243). Simply put, employee commitment relates to the strength of the connection between employees and the organisation.
In this study, a reference to the construct of employee commitment represents employee commitment to the organisation. Therefore, the study predominantly adopts Allen and Meyer’s (2000) definition of employee commitment which suggests that it is the employee’s strong belief in the organisation, the acceptance of an organisation’s goals and values and a collateral willingness to retain organisational membership while exercising considerable effort in pursuit of the organisation’s goals.

Theoretical background of employee commitment

Baron (2012:21) states that despite the extent of empirical research evidence generated on employee commitment of the employee, there is limited knowledge on what it really means in different settings. Mercurio (2016:393) writes that the fragmented evolution of scholarship on employee commitment can be ascribed to the different disciplines under which the concept has been studied. However, despite the fragmented contexts within which employee commitment is studied, the concept is nonetheless considered important to organisations that aim to create a stable workforce that can be depended upon to continue a long-term relationship that sustains business performance (Jain, Giga, & Cooper, 2009:257).
In the kaleidoscope of employee commitment perspectives, there is a consistent element that relates to an exchange process that emanates from a psychological contract between the employee and an organisation. Hence, it would seem that employee commitment is driven by the development of the employment relationship process that cycles through a resource exchange directed by the norm of reciprocity and couched in the provision of benefits and balancing of expectations and obligations (Coyle-Shapiro & Morrow, 2006:419). Raja, Johns and Ntalianis (2004:350) argue that these psychological contracts find some expression in the form of transactional or relational arrangements. Transactional contracts tend to be short term and focus on economic exchanges with a greater emphasis on extrinsic rather than intrinsic rewards. On the other hand, relational contracts are long term and are based on mutual loyalty and trust (Jepsen & Rodwell, 2012:822).
A study by Jabeen, Behery and Elanain (2015) on the impact of relational and transactional psychological contracts on employee commitment in the United Arab Emirates found that the impact of the psychological contract on the employees’ commitment to the organisation is the same, regardless of the contractual status.
Essentially, in this particular context, what is of consequence to the effectiveness of either a transactional or relational contract is the individual needs of employees as each contractual relationship when utilised accordingly could result in the same level of commitment.
This interpretation resonates with the position of the social exchange theory, which maintains that employees’ actions are motivated by the belief that their employers will reciprocate through rewards, benefits, opportunities, and other positive outcomes (Aselage & Eisenberger, 2003:492). Consequently, in instances where there is a purported imbalance and the subordinates perceive a sense of unfairness and betrayal, the loss of employee commitment unfolds (Herriot, Manning & Kidd, 1997:152). This being the case, it is easy to see that the social exchange theory is in harmony with the equity theory that hints at the desire of employees to maintain a psychologically comfortable balance between what they put into their jobs (equity inputs) and what they get out of their jobs (equity outputs).
According to Nakra (2014:187), equity inputs include qualifications, experience and efforts made by employees, such as loyalty, hard work, skill, flexibility, determination, support of colleagues and personal sacrifices; whereas equity outputs encompass different types of financial remuneration such as salary, bonus, stock options, pension, commissions as well as intangible rewards such as recognition, training, and promotions received by employees from their organisations.
All the above points to the fact that the values and needs of subordinates are recognised as per their individual expectations to boost their morale, which in turn is expected to enhance employee commitment (Coyle-Shapiro & Morrow, 2006:426). Meyer and Herscovitch (2001:301) assert that commitment in general is a binding force and that any variable contributing to the likelihood of involvement, identification, internalisation or congruence will be conducive to the development of employee commitment.

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Chapter 1: Background of the study
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Background
1.3 Research problem
1.4 Framework of the study
1.5 Research objectives
1.6 Research questions
1.7 Definition of key terms
1.8 Significance of the study
1.9 Delimitations of the study
1.10 Outline of the study
1.11 Summary
Chapter 2: Leadership in the work environment
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Definition of leadership
2.3 The leadership process
2.4 Leadership theories
2.5 Leadership styles
Chapter 3: Employee commitment
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Definition of employee commitment
3.3 Theoretical background of employee commitment
3.4 Components of employee commitment
3.5Characteristics of employee commitment
3.6Levels of commitment
3.7The role of employee commitment
Chapter 4: Leadership style, employee commitment and business performance
4.2Business performance
4.3Span of control
4.4Leadership style and business performance
4.5Leadership style and employee commitment
4.4Employee commitment and performance
Chapter 5: Research Methodology
5.2Research paradigms
5.3Deductive approach
5.4Research design
5.5Data collection formance
5.6Ethical considerations
Chapter 6: Presentation of findings
6.2Sample profile
6.3Case screening
6.4Towards a measurement model
6.5Final measurement models
6.6Span of control
6.7Business performance
6.8Bi-variate correlation analysis
6.9Multivariate analysis
6.10Testing for mediation
Chapter 7: Conclusion
7.2Overview of descriptive statistics
7.3Measurement model
7.4Revisiting the research objectives
7.5Study contributions
7.6Limitations of the study
7.7Recommendations and future research

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