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The interactive relationship between organization commitment and union commitment in the Nigerian workplace.


Over the years, a great deal of research has focused on the effects of organizational commitment. Like many constructs in organizational behavior, however, commitment has been conceptualized and measured in several ways. Common to all the conceptualizations of commitment found in the literature is a link with turnover; employees who are strongly committed are those who are least likely to leave the organization. Previous studies have also demonstrated that organizational commitment is positively related to employee outcomes, such as job satisfaction (Bateman & Strausser, 1984), attendance (Mathieu & Zajac, 1990), prosocial organizational behavior (O'Reilly & Chatman, 1986), and job performance (Meyer, Allen, & Smith, 1993), and negatively related to turnover intention (Mowday, Porter, & Steers, 1982). Perhaps more important than this similarity, however, are the differences between the various conceptualizations of commitment. These differences involve the psychological state reflected in commitment, the antecedent conditions leading to its development, and the behaviors that are expected to result from commitment.

Most researchers of commitment treat the business firm as a unitarist organization, with one set of goals, values, and beliefs to which all organizational members subscribe. It follows that the committed employee is someone who is committed to the whole organization, including upper management, front-line supervisors, and co-workers etc. Conversely, an uncommitted employee is someone who is not committed to anyone in the organization. Employee commitment is logically inseparable from organizational commitment. For instance, Mowday, Porter, and Steers (1982: 27) define employee commitment as 'the relative strength of an individual's identification with and involvement in a particular organization.' Similarly, Hall, Schneider, and Nygren (1970: 176) view commitment as 'the process by which the goals of the organization and those of the individual become increasingly integrated or congruent.' Sheldon (1971: 143) also sees it as 'an orientation toward the organization which links or attaches the identity of the person to the organization.'

Reanalyzing data from Becker's study (1992), Hunt and Morgan (1994) illustrated that organizational commitment is a key mediating concept; organizational commitment directly influences the various organizational outcomes, and foci-specific commitments influence those outcomes only by way of their influences on organizational commitment. Hunt and Morgan's work suggested that organizational commitment is a global construct, and therefore we called their key mediating model the 'global hypothesis'. This unidimensional conception of commitment has some intuitive appeal, given the monolithic portrayal of organizations in the media. It also has considerable appeal to researchers, because a unidimensional conception of commitment is relatively easy to measure and model as an explanatory factor in a range of organizational outcomes. As a result, many researchers have used organizational commitment, particularly as measured by the Organizational Commitment Questionnaire (OCQ), to explain absenteeism, turnover (Cohen, 1993; Cotton & Tuttle, 1986; Lum, Kervin, Clark, Reid, & Sirola, 1998; Somers, 1995), job satisfaction (Mowday, Porter, & Steers, 1982; Wimalasiri, 1995), prosocial organizational behaviors (Brief & Motowidlo, 1986), and even job performance (Brett, Cron, & Slocum, 1995; Cohen, 1991; Leong, Randall, & Cote, 1994; Randall, 1990).

Despite its appeal, the unitarist conception of the firm and corresponding unidimensional conception of commitment are fundamentally flawed for two reasons (Reichers, 1985). First, firms are comprised of competing groups, with conflicting values, beliefs, and interests (March & Simon, 1958). For example, departments compete for shares of the firm's resources and influence over its strategy. Likewise, employees and employers often clash over the distribution of rewards and over control of the work process. Groups usually reach compromise agreements in the interests of mutual survival, but they do this without fully adopting or accepting the same organizational goals (Cyert & March, 1963). As a result, conflict is endemic to organizational life. Harmony tends to be either a temporary state, arrived at through compromise, or else a cover for more insidious forms of conflict. A 'dominant coalition' of groups or individuals may provide the formal definition of the organization's goals and the appearance of unity (March & Simon, 1958), but diverse and conflicting agendas are the organizational reality (Friedlander & Pickle, 1968; Whetten, 1978).

To buttress this point, Reichers (1985), one of the early foci of commitment researchers, noted that the general concepts of organizational commitment might be best understood as a collection of commitments. She argued that employees could experience several different commitments to the goals and values of multiple groups within the organization. Thus, within an organization, it is important not only to understand the simple organizational commitment but also the foci of commitment. Additionally, employees could also commit differentially to these constituencies due to the degree of congruence between the individuals' and constituencies' goals and values. Using the multi-foci commitment approach, Becker (1992) provided support for reconceptualizing employee attachment as a multiple-foci phenomenon. He demonstrated employees' foci of commitment (e.g., commitment to top management, supervisor, and workgroups) account for unique variances in job satisfaction, intention to quit, and prosocial organizational behaviors above and beyond the variance of commitment to organization.

Unlike Hunt and Morgan (1994), however, Becker, Billing, Eveleth, and Gilbert (1996) argued that local foci, such as supervisor or workgroup, are psychologically more proximal than global foci (i.e., top management or organization) and thus local foci would influence subordinate behavior more than would global foci. Using regression analysis, their results showed that supervisory commitment is more positively associated with job performance than is organizational commitment. Becker et al.'s model highlighted that local foci have stronger influences on employees' attitudes and behaviors than do global foci. Consequently, we called Becker et al.'s model the 'proximal hypothesis'.

Other researchers reject this perspective, preferring instead to see organizational commitment as the aggregation of commitments to various internal constituencies. In this view, the organization is nothing more than the sum of its parts. It follows that someone committed to the individual parts is likely to be committed to the whole. Conversely, someone with little commitment to any of the parts is unlikely to be committed to the whole. Variance in the constituency-specific commitments thus accounts for variance in organizational commitment. But why did the conflicting results occur in the studies of Hunt and Morgan (1994) and Becker et al. (1996)? Relatively few researchers have tested these competing views of multiple commitment. Where they have, most have tested the first theorization by using measures of various types of commitment to account for unique variance in organizational outcome variables (see, for example, Becker, 1992; Becker, Billings, Eveleth, & Gilbert, 1996; Becker, Randall, & Riegel, 1995; Meyer, Natalie, & Smith, 1993). If the different commitments do account for unique variance in outcomes, this is interpreted as evidence for the independence of these commitments. Some researchers have tested the second view by incorporating organizational commitment as an intervening variable between constituency-specific commitments and various organizational outcomes in a LISREL analysis (see, for example, Hunt & Morgan, 1994). Evidence of path effects via organizational commitment corroborates the view that organizational commitment is merely the sum of constituency-specific commitments.

Although it seems like two competing hypotheses have provided different explanations, the principle of compatibility, proposed by Ajzen and Fishbein (1977) and Ajzen (1989), can integrate the competing findings. According to Ajzen (1989), the principle of compatibility suggested that the relationship between a given attitude and other attitudes or behaviors is based on the attitudes and behaviors having the same targets. As a result, we suggest that the global hypothesis is better suited for predicting organization-relevant outcomes, such as job satisfaction and turnover intention, while the proximal hypothesis is more conducive in explaining the leader-relevant outcomes, such as organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) and job performance.

More recently, the question of whether unions can retain worker commitment appears of great significance in the era of new management techniques, e.g. human resources management (HRM), Total Quality Management (TQM) and Lean Production, which require a strong commitment from workers to the company. Some (Kochan & Osterman, 1994) argue that the new management techniques based on the mutual gains model may obtain a dual commitment from workers, to both company and union. By contrast, others (Bacon & Storey, 1996; Storey & Bacon, 1993) insist that these management techniques tend to increase company commitment at the expense of union commitment, since techniques promoting individualism seem to fracture collective trade unions by employer-led initiatives in the management of human resources. Although much of the literature has theoretically discussed and empirically examined feasibility and antecedents of workers' dual commitments to company and the union, there have been few studies to illuminate systematically the mechanisms by which this has been brought about at a workplace where new management techniques have been implemented. This lack of research is important from a policy point of view because we have little understanding of elements generating dual commitment, and we should create a strategy for its effective building via the new management techniques.

Workers can be considered to be committed' to various entities both inside the outside of the workplace (e.g. profession/occupation, employing organization, trade union, family, workgroup, football club). However research into UC has borrowed almost exclusively from the research agenda developed by researchers interested in worker 'commitment' to the employing organization (Snape and Chan 2000), usually referred to as Organizational Commitment (OC) (Meyer & Allen, 1997). Within the field of OC how organizations are perceived has also influenced research. Fincham and Rhodes (1992) describe two predominant schools of thought: one concerned with the sociology of organizations, the other concerned with internal efficiency of organizations. It is this second school with its managerialist perspectives (ibid), that appears to have had most influence on research into OC.

The study of organizational commitment developed out of research into job satisfaction by industrial psychologists (Lydka, 1991) and, as highlighted by Gordon et al, (1980), managerial perspectives have a long history of association with (the application of) industrial psychology. The influence of industrial psychologists has meant that research into OC has concentrated on the individual and has generally been pursued using positivist methodologies and methods. This has resulted in the development of research instruments that "assume causation" whilst establishing correlations between [an individuals] attitudinal variables (Snape and Chan; 2000:22). At the same time managerialist perspectives have been reflected in the search for links between OC and the motivation of individuals to perform in line with stated organizational goals. As Guest (1991) makes clear, managerial interest in 'Commitment' (Albeit expressed via the introduction of employee involvement initiatives) is essentially unitarist and despite attendant conceptual problems, such interest is attracted to the definition developed by Mowday, Porter, and Steers, (1979). They define Organisational Commitment as: "The relative strength of an individual's identification with and involvement in a particular organization." (Mowday, Porter, & Steers, 1979:226). They further operationalise this definition as being characterized by three related factors:

1). A strong belief in an acceptance of the organization's goals and values;

2). A willingness to exert considerable effort on behalf of the organization;

3). A strong desire to maintain membership in the organization. (Ibid.).

Union commitment is a relatively recent construct, developed predominantly from the organizational commitment research. Sverke and Kuruvilla's study (1995) reviewed prior empirical evidence of union commitment and concluded that four factors were associated with the union commitment construct: union loyalty, responsibility to the union, willingness to work for the union, and a belief in unionism. Other studies have also confirmed these four factors as the best fit for the concept (Iverson & Kuruvilla, 1995). The scales developed by Gordon et al. (1980) are the most frequently used measures of union commitment (Gordon & Ladd, 1995) Although researchers have attempted to determine the presence or otherwise of common and or divergent antecedents (Barling et al., 1990. Snape and Chan, 2000), there is an acceptance that the underlying models predicting OC and UC are similar (Thacker, Fields, and Barclay 1990 in Guest 1991). Thus, we start by tracing the links between organizational commitment and union commitment. We then highlights the conceptual inadequacies of the generally accepted concept of union commitment consequent upon these links before outlining an alternative conceptualization intended to provide a more accurate abstraction.

Implicit in this acceptance that the underlying models predicting OC and UC are similar is the assumption that no significant conceptual differences delineate OC from UC. This assumption is made explicit in the work of Gordon et al., (1980: 481) who pioneered recent research into UC and they state clearly their underlying assumptions: "Because scientific investigation of a concept demands measurement of all variables, development of criticism is an obvious starting point for a study of union commitment. Such a criterion should be similar to an accepted definition of the more general construct of organizational commitment. An empirically derived commitment to the union measure should posses a factor structure that reflects the components identified in a prior definition of organizational commitment." Not surprisingly given this approach, UC has been defined as the extent to which an individual:-

a) Has a strong desire to remain a member of the union.

b) Is willing to exert high levels of effort on behalf of the union.

c) Has a definite belief in an acceptance of the values and goals of the union (Gordon et al., 1980, in Kuruvilla & Iverson (1993).

As might be expected given the above, research into UC has followed the pattern of research set out by those investigating OC and is characterized by a positivist preoccupation with attempts to discover the laws that govern the relationships between 'causes' and 'effects' (Banister et al., 1994), the managerialist fantasy of prediction and control (Thompson & Mchugh, 1995), and psychology's focus on the individual (Jackson & Carter, 2000). These factors have combined to produce a research agenda that holds out the promise of a deterministic world where workers become receptacles, devoid of the powers of collective interaction and subservient to the needs of the organization. This is clearly evident in the following quotations. "It should be possible for organizations to use the results of research examining antecedents [of OC] ... to better manage the experiences of their employees so as to foster the development of the desired profile" (Allen & Meyer, 1990:15). "As we gain better insight into the mechanism involved in the formation of commitment, we will be in a better possible to design HRM systems that can be applied to develop desired levels of commitment efficiently and efficiently without producing undesirable side effects" (Allen & Meyer, 1997:114). "An understanding of commitment is important--not only for psychological research on unions, but also for labor leaders who wish to address the deteriorating levels of union participation and increase democratic involvement of rank and file members (Fullagar & Barling, 1987). These accounts are redolent of Granovetter's (1985) description of over socialized atomized actors whose behavior patterns have been internalized such that ongoing social relations have only minor effects on behavior. That the process of internalization may be recognized as having social origins does not detract from the conclusion that the conceptualizations of OC--generally found in the literature separates workers from their social context and each other.

Retuning to the Organizational Commitment literature, Mowday, Porter, and Steers, (1982:225) identify two broad definitional trends one that aligns "commitment' with behavior. That is an individual becomes "bound by his actions e.g. 'the binding of an individual to behavioural acts' (Kiesler, 1971, in Angle & Perry, 1981). Whilst the other aligns commitment' with attitude/psychological state where an individual is compelled by their values and goals (Mowday, Porter, & Steers, 1982) that is 'an affective attachment to an organization apart from the purely instrumental worth of the relationship' (Buchaman, 1974, in angle and Perry, 1981). However, what is important from a theoretical perspective is that what unites these categorizations is not the differences between them. Both categorizations presuppose that once behavioral and/or psychological patterns become internalized continuing social relations become peripheral. The references to individuals being 'bound' and/or 'compelled' makes explicit the premise the once it is known exactly how an individual has been affected, continuing social relations and structures are neither here nor there. The situation becomes one where: "social influences are all contained inside an individual's head, so in actual decision situations, he or she can be atomized." (Grandovetter, 1985:486).

The marginalization of ongoing social relations inherent in the conceptualization of UC presents researchers with a somewhat idealized world. Allen and Meyer's (1997) declaration that it may be necessary to consider methods of analysis that do not concentrate on the individual in order to develop a more complete understanding acknowledges need for a more sophisticated approach. A finding that is reiterated in Snape and Chan (2000) call for longitudinal studies that treat commitment as an ongoing process. The rest of this section outlines an alternatives approach to both the conceptualization and analysis of UC that avoids the atomization of workers built into the existing concepts. The basic premise being that workers cannot be isolated from their social context and that their actions and decisions are embedded in concrete ongoing social relations, relations that fashion workers and are at the same time fashioned by them.

From the above discussion, it is obvious that there have been a significant number of studies on the concept of employee commitment. This growth of scholarly activity within the organizational framework is among the most significant development in the sociology of knowledge. Yet despite a background of intensive studies on the subject, something remains lacking: first, although these studies are of intrinsic interest, they do not directly address the question of how commitments are inter-related. Only Reichers (1986:513) has modeled organizational commitment as a function of constituency-specific commitments, including top management, the profession, funding agencies, and clients/the general public, in a study of 124 workers at a community health agency in the American Midwest. She found that commitment to top management accounted for just 5 percent of the variance in organizational commitment, and commitment to the other constituencies each explained none of the variance in organizational commitment. This suggests that the various types of commitment are essentially independent constructs; that organizational commitment is not simply the aggregation of commitment to its constituent parts. Other researchers (Weiner & Vardi, 1980: 82) have also suggested that work outcomes could be a function of a combination of different types of employee commitment. This means that a specific type of employee commitment could exert an influence on another type of commitment. Hence, if foci-specific commitments are to become more useful concepts for understanding organization phenomena, then studies based on more comprehensive theories need to be undertaken. Second, a review of related literature shows that most of the research to investigate the concept of employee commitment has been undertaken mainly in western countries (eg. Mowday, Porter, & Steers, 1982; Mathieu & Zajac, 1990; Meyer & Allen, 1997; Reichers, 1986 etc.).

However, the generalizability of these findings to an African and more specifically, Nigerian organizational culture has not been established. For instance, unlike Western culture, Chinese (and by extension, Nigerian) culture fosters a strong vertical linkage between supervisor and subordinate (Redding, 1990). Therefore, supervisory commitment may be more important in the Chinese (and Nigerian) context than it is in the Western context. If foci-specific commitments are to become more useful concepts for understanding organization phenomena, then studies based on more comprehensive theories need to be undertaken. Hence, if the research findings are to become more valuable and relevant for Nigerian organizations, it is necessary for researchers to use Nigerian organizations for organizational research. To fill this gap in the literature, this study examines the interactive relationship between two different foci or facets of employee commitment: organizational commitment and commitment to union in selected Oil companies in Nigeria.


This study is patterned after the quasi-experimental design. The cross-sectional survey was adopted. Sampling involves selecting a representative number from a given population where it is believed that a common feature exist among the elements of a given population. The sample for this study consisted of Three hundred and eighty two (382) full-time members of staff in both managerial and non-managerial positions in the seven randomly selected major Oil companies in Nigeria. The Yaro Yamen's formula proposed by Baridam (2000) and the systematic sampling technique were adopted in selecting the sample. The choice of this technique was because, like the simple random sampling, the mean of this technique (i.e. Systematic Sampling) is an unbiased estimate of the universal mean but less susceptible to error than the simple random sampling.

Two main instruments were employed in the collection of data for this study. These include; Questionnaires and Personal/Oral Interviews. First, A comprehensive questionnaire was designed by the researcher. The questions were generally structured using the 5--point Likert scale and provisions made to allow for free comments by the respondents. The questionnaire contained questions asked to elicit information on the employee commitment to their organizational and the labor unions. The questionnaire was pre--tested on a group of Ten (10) workers. This was done to check the suitability of the questionnaire for the study. Second, in the course of administering the questionnaire, series of oral questions were put to the respondents for the purpose of explanation of issues arising there from and for clarity of opinion of the respondent.

Operational Measures of the Variables

The variables investigated in this study are organizational commitment and union commitment.

Organizational commitment: The three components of Organizational Commitment (Affective, Continuance and Normative) were measured using an 18-item scale developed by Meyer, Allen and Smith (1993)--e.g., "This organization has a great deal of personal meaning for me," "It would be very hard for me to leave my organization right now, even if I wanted to," "This organization deserves my loyalty" (alphas: affective = 0.82, continuance = 0.76, normative = 0.86). Three measures were used for testing commitment to the organization: affective commitment with an eight-item scale, continuous commitment with an eight-item scale and normative commitment with an eight-item scale. All three scales were integrated into one questionnaire with closed questions. The responses were rated on a seven-point scale, ranging from 1 very much disagree to 7 very much agree.

Union commitment: is a relatively recent construct, developed predominantly from the organizational commitment research. Sverke and Kuruvilla's study (1995) reviewed prior empirical evidence of union commitment and concluded that four factors were associated with the union commitment construct: union loyalty, responsibility to the union, willingness to work for the union, and a belief in unionism. Other studies have also confirmed these four factors as the best fit for the concept (Iverson & Kuruvilla, 1995). The scales developed by Gordon et al. (1980) are the most frequently used measures of union commitment (Gordon & Ladd, 1990). All item responses are seven-point Likert-type scales, with "strongly agree" (7) and "strongly disagree" (1) as end-points. All items were coded so that higher scores reflected greater commitment. Sample items are 'I feel a sense of pride in being a part of this union' and 'I talk up this union to my friends as a great organization to be a member of. Cronbach's Alpha for this scale was .88. By developing these measures, we begin to understand the dynamics of commitment as a phenomenon in organizational life.

Data Analysis Technique

To empirically evaluate the interactive relationships between the two foci or types commitment (organizational commitment and union commitment.), the Spearman Rank-order Correlation Coefficient (also called Spearman's rho) was employed, using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). The analysis will consider the interactive influence of organizational commitment and commitment union. The Spearman Rank-order Correlation Coefficient is appropriate for our analysis because all the variables in this study are measured in ordinal scale. Furthermore, as indicated earlier, a multi-step, systematic content-analysis procedure, as well as basic descriptive statistical procedures, was used to analyze the data obtained in this study. Upon completion of each in-depth interview, the audio-tapes were transcribed verbatim. Interview summaries were prepared and sent to a sample of five participants, who confirmed that the transcription and interpretation of the data were accurate. This member checking strategy was utilized as an additional step to ensure validity. The transcribed account of each interview was reviewed several times, with themes and patterns emerging after the first few interviews. Based on these themes and the research questions, a start list of codes (Miles & Huberman, 1994) was developed. Phrases on each of the transcripts were then identified, coded and categorized. Phrases were deemed more appropriate than sentences for coding as sentences often contained more than one conceptual idea.

To improve validity, the researchers utilized the peer examination strategy suggested by Merriam (1988) by which a panel of four colleagues was asked for comments as items were coded, categories were delineated and findings were developed. This panel consisted of four individuals with different perspectives: two professors in the field of management and who are experienced in research methodology, a business associate with extensive human resource experience and a business manager with a Doctoral degree and extensive research experience. This panel independently reviewed overarching content themes in addition to the statements taken from the individual interview transcripts to determine the appropriate categorical placement for each. In the instances where items were questionable, the researchers pulled larger sections of the transcript and reviewed them with the panel to reach consensus. Related documents were used to verify and confirm the interview data. To assess the validity of the survey instrument, copies of the questionnaire were also given to this. They were allowed time to go through the questionnaire and make suggestions and/or were appropriate. These suggestions were noted by the researcher and used to modify the instrument. These experts also confirmed that sampling validity was adequately achieved in the organizations that were used for this study. Besides, the multiple data sources and collection methods were utilized to triangulate data; member checks (asking informants to review summaries of data and interpretations for plausibility) were conducted and peer examinations (requesting comments from colleagues as findings develop) were sought (Merriam, 1988).

To ensure reliability, three major steps were taken. First, data were triangulated by using multiple sources. Second, an audit trail was developed which detailed the data collection methods, how analysis categories were developed and how decisions throughout the study were made. Third, the basis for the informant selection process, the social context from which the data were collected and a description of the informants was all recorded (Merriam, 1988). Finally, the internal reliability of the survey instrument was assessed by means of Cronbach alpha coefficients, using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). Hence, only the items that returned alpha values of 0.7 and above were considered.


Three hundred and eighty two (382) sets of questionnaire were distributed to full-time members of staff in both managerial and non-managerial positions in the seven randomly major Oil companies in Nigeria. Out of this number, a total of two hundred and eighty eight sets of questionnaire were returned and hence utilized for the purpose of this study. This represent seventy five percent (75%) response rate.

Data, per se, cannot convey any significant meaning unless they are subjected to statistical test. Hence, our hypotheses will be subjected to statistical test using the data so collected. The study hypothesis sought to examine the relationship between organizational commitment and commitment to union. Hence, it was postulated that there will be no relationship between organizational commitment and commitment to union. This hypothesis was tested using the Spearman Rank correlation technique, the result of which is summarized in Table 1. The analysis of data revealed a positive and significant relationship between organizational commitment and commitment to union (Rho = 0. 727, P [less than or equal to] 0.05). The positive and significant relationship between organizational commitment and commitment to union is an evidence of the possibility of achieving dual commitment (commitment to both organization and union) among employees in the Oil industry.


One of the concerns of our time is whether unionization, and consequently commitment to the union, would result in diminished commitment to the organization. This concern sparked a series of studies on the concept of "dual commitment," namely commitment to both the organization and the union. Specifically, dual commitment refers to a worker's positive or negative attachment to both a union and an employing organization. Unilateral commitment describes a positive attachment to a union or to an employer, but not to both of these. Hence, the third hypothesis sought to examine the relationship between organizational commitment and commitment to union. Hence, it was postulated that there will be no relationship between organizational commitment and commitment to union. This hypothesis was tested using the Spearman Rank correlation Statistical technique. Data analysis of this study (See Appendix) revealed a positive and significant relationship between organizational commitment and commitment to union (Rho = 0.727, P [less than or equal to] 0.05). This finding is in line with the earlier findings of Angle and Perry, (1986); Beauvais et al., (1991); Fukami and Larson, (1984); Magenau et al., (1988); Snape and Chan, (2000) Reed, Young and McHugh (1994). These studies provide consistent and reliable evidence of workers' dual commitment and a significant and positive correlation between the two commitments, ranging from 0.17 to 0.61 (Gordon & Ladd, 1990). The notion of exchange (March & Simon, 1958) and the notion of industrial relations climate combined with theories of cognitive dissonance and role conflict can used to explain this finding.

First, the exchange theory, which is the common approach to the understanding of the mechanism of multiple commitments in general, and of organizational commitment in particular (Cohen, 2003) treats commitment as reflecting agreement to a contract or an effort-reward bargain. According to this explanation, if an organization serves as a vehicle for the use of an individual's abilities and satisfies his or her needs, the person reciprocates by commitment to the organization. If an organization fails to serve as such a vehicle, commitment to it is low. High dual commitment, then, should be related to a combination of variables reflecting a perception of a satisfying exchange relationship with both union and employer. On the other hand, unilateral union commitment should be related to a combination of the same variables, reflecting the perception of a satisfying relationship with the union and a less satisfying relationship with the employer. Unilateral employer commitment, the opposite of unilateral union commitment, should be related to a reverse set of conditions than those for unilateral union commitment. Simply put, when an organization provides what employees need, the likelihood of increasing commitment is apparently increased (Steers, 1977).

However, when the organization fails to provide employees with challenging and meaningful tasks, commitment level should diminish. In addition, Fiorito (2001) has recently argued that positive employer practices reduce the need for unionization and, thus, have served to undercut union support among employees. In other words, Fiorito maintains that organizations that treat their employees well send them a message that 'there is no longer any need for a union' (2001, p. 335). To buttress this point, Fukami and Larson (1984) suggested that commitment patterns between the organization and union depend on how satisfied individuals are after specific exchanges with each organization. Thus, dual commitment may exist if exchanges with both company and union are satisfactory, whereas unilateral commitment may result if people are more deeply involved with one side than the other (Stagner & Rosen, 1965; Magenau et al., 1988). The following studies (Barling et al., 1990; Deery et al, 1994; Snape & Chan, 2000) have tended to replicate the nature of these findings. These studies have found that company and union commitment share few common antecedents, and that they are caused by specific and different factors. The studies suggested that most of the variables associated with company commitment presented no relationship to union commitment. Clearly, the finding that there is a positive and significant relationship between commitment to union and organizational commitment underscores the reality in the industrial relations of Oil companies in this study i.e., unions have a considerable 'voice' in decision making and more importantly, are seen by members as being instrumental in making improvements affecting their working lives. On the other hand, the employees in this industry are about the highest paid set of workers in the country. They are given very attractive salaries, fringe benefits and incentive packages. To this end, the important issue of "bread and butter" is reasonably taken care of by good compensation practices. The companies also provide them training both locally and internationally. This result suggests the possibility articulated by several researchers that dual commitment (simultaneous commitment to both the organization and union) may be influenced by a harmonious industrial relations climate (e.g. Gordon & Ladd, 1990).

Similarly, the finding of this study can also be explained using the theories of Cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1957) and role conflict (Rizzo et al, 1970). Regarding the role-conflict theory, Angle and Perry (1986) claimed that workers would probably experience role dilemmas imposed by membership in conflicting systems (union and company), and suffer from divided loyalties in times of company-union conflict. In a context where union and management are adversarial, workers may feel role conflicts that would force them to opt for company or union. The cognitive dissonance theory predicts that employees who try to be loyal to two conflicting organizational systems will encounter considerable cognitive dissonance. It would be difficult for individuals to remain loyal to both employer and union when high levels of adversarial feeling exist between the two organizations. On the other hand, in situations where relative co-operation exists, dual commitment would flourish, even among individuals who are highly involved in one of the organizations.

Second, the most promising line of research suggests that dual commitment is a function of the climate of labour-management relations (Angle & Perry, 1986). The importance of climate as a facilitator of attitudinal changes has been emphasized in the field of organizational behaviour and climate research (Denison & Mishra, 1995; Gordon, 1985; Schneider, 1990; Verbeke et al., 1998). The climate approach to understanding individuals' attitudes suggests that changes in the organizational climate will lead to changes in job attitudes (Pritchard & Karasick, 1973; Lahiry, 1996). Because this approach may lend itself to certain attitudes relying on climate, researchers believe climate characteristics to be important in affecting individuals' attitudes. Workers' perceptions of the industrial relations climate (Angle & Perry, 1986) have, however, turned out to be one variable with a positive effect on both organizational and union commitment, though the results of empirical research on their impact on both company and union commitment have been diverse. Some studies (Angle & Perry, 1986; Beauvais et al, 1991; Magenau et al, 1988; Snape & Chan, 2000) found that workers' perceptions of a positive and co-operative industrial relations climate were positively associated with both forms of commitment. Other studies (e.g. Bemmels, 1995; Martin et al, 1986) presented the positive effect of a good labour-relations climate on unilateral employer, rather than unilateral union, commitment. Bemmels (1995) proposed that the different findings of empirical research that had studied the effects of workers' perceptions on dual commitment were due to diverse--co-operative or adversarial--industrial relations climates. For example, where the industrial-relations climate is co-operative, workers' perceptions of co-operative industrial relations would be an antecedent of dual commitment to company and union. By contrast, where the climate is adversarial, they would be an antecedent of unilateral commitment to the company but not the union. Based on this notion, the result of this finding can be explained by the fact that the Oil companies in this study are well known for maintaining co-operation between labor and management (Sonaike, 2003:245).

Most of the conflicts within the industry in recent times have actually been due to union protest against government policies such as deregulation, politics etc. Only on very few instances were these conflicts directly between the company management and their unions. Therefore, it is expected that dual commitment can be found in these companies because of its co-operative industrial relations climate. It should be emphasized, of course, that the result may simply reflect situational factors, peculiar to this industry or these companies but not to the industries and the country. To buttress this point, most of the earlier studies in America found that a positive labor-management relationship and a co-operative industrial relations climate were associated with dual commitment (Angle & Perry, 1986; Beauvais et al., 1991; Magenau et al., 1988). Some (Angle & Perry, 1986; Deery et al., 1994) argued that employees who perceived a co-operative climate of industrial relations were significantly more likely to be committed to both the company and the union. Similarly, Guest and Dewe (1991) suggested that dual commitment was more feasible in a co-operative and conflict free industrial relations context than in one that is hostile and adversarial. In the latter, workers may be forced to opt for either company or union, or else may display commitment to neither. Barling et a/.'s (1990) suggested that whether the industrial relations were co-operative or adversarial had an impact on the feasibility of dual commitment and that the American findings needed to be tested more widely elsewhere.

Our present finding however contradicts the findings of Deery et al., (1994) and Guest and Dewe, (1991) in regions where industrial relations were adversarial. For example, in Australia, Deery et al. (1994) found little evidence of dual commitment in a sample of white-collar workers, and concluded that commitment to the company and the trade union were unrelated (r = -0.02). Snape and Chan (2000) suggested that Deery et a/.'s (1994) finding seemed to reflect an adversarial industrial relations tradition in Australia.

In line with the findings and discussions above, the following conclusion was made: This study showed that contrary to expectation, it was possible to achieve dual commitment to both the organization and the union as far as there was a perception of cooperative, harmonious and peace industrial relations climate. Based on the notion of exchange, the findings in this study suggests that, if workers perceive the union and/or the company as instrumental in achieving valued goals, then their commitment to both/either company and/or union (dual commitment) may be enhanced. Workers are also assumed to commit to their company and union if there is a genuine sense of reciprocal obligation, in particular when the worker receives rewards. Hence, to achieve dual commitment (ie employee commitment to both the organization and the Union), efforts should be made to achieve and sustain a cooperative, harmonious and peaceful industrial relations climate and enterprise managers should continue to be instrumental in achieving valued goals.


A major limitation of quasi-experimental studies, such as this, is that the use of primary data is considered overly subjective and as such amenable to suspicious inferences and conclusions. It is true that opinions are a state of the individual and herein forced to make deduction; however, the authors have attempted to reduce this problem by the employment of reliability and validity tests described in the section on methodology and by carefully making sure that the right persons complete the questionnaire properly. It is thought, therefore, that the conclusions made in this paper would be reliable enough to explain the relationship between organizational commitment and union commitment in the Nigerian workplace.


The present work has focused on organization commitment and union commitment in the Nigerian workplace. The coverage included randomly selected major Oil companies in the country. It is recommended that the study be extended to other sectors of the economy such as the manufacturing, agricultural, services, and commercial sectors. In doing this, more evidences would be generated to give credence and boost to the inferences and conclusions regarding the relationship between organization commitment and union commitment in the Nigeria.


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Chinedu B. Ezirim

B. M. Nwibere

B. C. Emecheta

University of Port Harcourt

Chinedu B. Ezirim is a Professor of Finance, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. He is Member of the Academic Board of the European Business Competence * License that sits in Germany and Austria.

Barry M. Nwibere is a lecturer in the Department of Management, University of Port Harcourt. He is Certified International Trainer of the European Business Competence * License.

Bathlomew C. Emecheta is a lecturer in the Department of Management, University of Port Harcourt. He is Certified International Trainer of the European Business Competence* License.
Table 1
Nonparametric Correlations between Organizational Commitment
and Union Commitment

                                            TO UNION

Spearman's   COMMITMENT TO    Correlation   1.000
rho          UNION            coefficient


                              N             288

             ORGANIZATIONAL   Correlation   .727(**)
             COMMITMENT       coefficient

                              Sig.          .000

                              N             288


Spearman's   COMMITMENT TO    Correlation   .727(**)
rho          UNION            coefficient

                              Sig.          .000

                              N             288

             ORGANIZATIONAL   Correlation   100
             COMMITMENT       coefficient


                              N             288

** Correlation is significant at the .05 level (2-tailed).
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Author:Ezirim, Chinedu B.; Nwibere, B.M.; Emecheta, B.C.
Publication:International Journal of Business and Public Administration (IJBPA)
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:6NIGR
Date:Mar 22, 2011
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