Organizational Commitment Among Knowledge Workers: A Review


This paper presents a series of literature review on organizational commitment among knowledge workers and discusses other factors which influences organizational commitment but are usually given little attention to. Despite of all the studies that have been conducted in the past decade, researchers have yet to come to an agreement on the characteristics of organizational commitment and how it develops among employees. With that in mind, it is necessary to define organizational commitment clearly and how it plays a role in retaining employees as well as augmenting organization performance. This paper includes a figure that encompasses of the antecedents of organizational commitment among knowledge workers. These antecedents were categorized into five categories; specifically, personal characteristics, job satisfaction, organizational justice, role states and employee perceptions. Thus, this paper proposes to function as a modern review, analysis and synthesis of the organizational commitment. Along with that, this paper intends to prepare a foundation for future researchers and practitioners studying organizational commitment among knowledge workers.

Keywords: Knowledge workersaffective commitmentnormative commitmentcontinuance commitmentorganizational commitment


For the past 20 years, the concept of organizational commitment has gained popularity in the literature of industrial/ organizational psychology and organizational behaviour (Cohen, 2003; Mathieu & Zajac, 1990). Over the years, various researchers have proposed various definitions of organizational commitment. For instance, O'Reilly and Chatman (1986) defined organizational commitment as a voluntary action by employees to remain loyal to their organisation and willingness to work hard in order to achieve organizational goals. Miller (2004) on the other hand delineated organizational commitment as employees’ willingness to remain in an organization as they are in line with the organization objectives and values. In most studies, researchers adopted the definition that was delineated by Meyer and Allen (1991). In accordance to Meyer and Allen (1991) organizational commitment is the psychological state which determines employees’ relationship with their organization and in turn affects their decision to either remain or leave the organization. Organizational commitment (OC) is categorized into three dimensions specifically, affective commitment (AC), normative commitment (NC) and continuance commitment (CC) (Meyer & Allen, 1997). Affective commitment signifies emotional commitment of an employee to the organization and recognition along with it. On the other hand, continuance commitment is when employees stay in the organization due to the ‘non-transferable” investments between them and organization. Lastly, normative commitment is the sense of responsibility possessed by employees to remain in the organization (Allen & Meyer, 1990).

Problem Statement

It is imperative to fully understand the concept of organizational commitment as the implication of organizational commitment encompasses individual, organizations and society as a whole (Mowday, Steers, & Porter, 1982). Higher degree of organizational commitment among employees are beneficial as the probability of them getting extrinsic (wages and benefits) and psychological (job satisfaction and relationship between co-workers) benefits are higher. As for organizations, high degree of organizational commitment would lead towards a lower rate of employee turnover. In terms of society, high degree of organizational commitment would be able to augment a nation’s economic performance as well as boosting work quality (Mowday et al., 1982). The development of the modern world is highly attributed to a group of individuals in the society that is the knowledge workers (Foley & Leahy, 2010). Knowledge workers play an essential role as they ensure that the modern society would be able to function smoothly. Due to their contribution to the society, employers are constantly seeking for ways to manage, motivate and most importantly to retain them (Perry, Hunter, & Currall, 2016). Typically, the degree of organizational commitment among employees can be used as a tool to predict absenteeism, performance, turnover, perceived job alternatives, intention to search, intention to leave as well as other behaviours (Jehanzeb, Rasheed, & Rasheed, 2013; Newman, Thanacoody, & Hui, 2011; Sow, 2015). Regardless, there is yet an agreement on the characteristics of organizational commitment and how it develops. Thus, this work intends to address this concern by providing a modern review, analysis and synthesis of organizational commitment.

Research Questions

The research questions for this study are: i) What are the factors which influences knowledge workers degree of organizational commitment? ii) How does organizational commitment develop among employees?

Purpose of the Study

The primary purpose of this paper is twofold: (i) to determine the antecedents of organizational commitment; and (ii) to understand how organizational commitment develops.

Research Methods

Articles reviewed in this paper were obtained through comprehensive article search from several databases specifically, EMERALD, ScienceDirect, SpringerLink, Taylor and Francis Online, Wiley Online Library as well as Google Scholar. Literature search yields 22 articles which presented empirical findings. In addition to that, this review paper would be solely based on the occupation of respondents that is the knowledge workers. Figure 1 demonstrates the antecedents of organizational commitment which has been categorized into appropriate categories.

Figure 1: Antecedents of organizational commitment
Antecedents of organizational commitment
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It was observed that all papers that have been selected for reviewing employed a survey method and cross-sectional. In addition to that, there are various methods to conduct statistical test which includes ANOVA (t-test), MANOVA (F-test), Pearson product moment correlation, path analysis, multivariate regression analysis, Spearman rank correlation, bivariate correlations, and chi-square test. The p-value is employed to clarify the statistical significance of obtained results. In this study, p-values are denoted by *p < 0.05 and **p < 0.01 where *p < 0.05 signifies a statistically significant relationship whereas **p < 0.01 represents a highly statistically significant relationship. In most cases, p-value that is less than or equal to 0.01 is used to show whether there is a strong confirmation against the null hypothesis. Statistical significance represents that the obtained result from the study is unlikely to happen by chance, but it is due to an explicit reason. Additionally, the plus sign (+) signifies a positive relationship between the two variables where both variables changes coherently.


Antecedents of Organizational Commitment

Organizational commitment can be classified into five categories; namely, personal characteristics, job satisfaction, organizational justice, role states, and employee perceptions (Chughtai & Zafar, 2006; Mathieu & Zajac, 1990; Meyer & Allen, 1997).

Table 1 -
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As depicted in Figure 1 , antecedents of organizational commitment have been classified into five main categories specifically, personal characteristics, job satisfaction, organizational justice, role states and employee perceptions. The categorization of antecedents of organizational commitment have been proposed by several researchers in the past (Chughtai & Zafar, 2006; Mathieu & Zajac, 1990; Meyer & Allen, 1997; Meyer, Stanley, Herscovitch, & Topolnytsky, 2002; Mowday et al., 1982; Steers, 1977).

Muthuveloo and Rose (2007) conducted a study to determine the plausible factors which contributes towards Malaysian engineers’ degree of organizational commitment. Through their study, it was concluded that when employees have a positive perception towards their job, role and organization, it would lead towards higher organizational commitment. In addition to that, it was found that employees’ personal characteristics does influence the degree of organizational commitment. Typically, high degree of organizational commitment is favourable as it would lead positive and beneficial organizational outcomes.

In another study on professionals, Perry et al. (2016) employed the theory on dual allegiance to various targets of commitment to determine the factors which influences organizational as well as professional commitment among innovators particularly scientist and engineers. Findings from this study showed that scientists and engineers’ individual innovation orientation are positively related to both organizational and professional commitment. However, the relationship between individual innovation orientation and organizational and professional commitment is moderated by two factors which are organizational productivity in late-stage technology transfer as well as innovators perceived role significance.

Zin (2004) also conducted a study towards Malaysian professional engineers to examine the correlation between perceived presence of quality of work life (QWL) circumstances and organizational commitment. Perceived presence of quality of work life was represented by seven variables namely, growth and development, participation, physical environment, supervision, pay and benefit, social relevance as well as workplace integration. The results showed that growth and development, pay and benefits, participation and integration have a positive influence towards organizational commitment. These studies appear to suggest that professionals such as engineers’ organizational commitment can be influenced by their perceptions i.e. how engineers view various aspects of their jobs.

Personal characteristics such as age, gender, self-efficacy was also found to be influential towards employees’ organizational commitment. For instance, Arya, Sharma, and Singh (2012) carried out a study to understand the correlation between organizational commitment and self-efficacy with gender role orientation as the moderator. Similar to aforementioned researches, this study investigated this relationship among knowledge workers in Jaipur, India. The result demonstrated that there is a positive relationship between organizational commitment and self-efficacy. Additionally, it was found that although self-efficacy is positively related to organizational commitment, but the relationship is insignificant. On the contrary, gender role orientation has a negative but significantly related to organizational commitment.

Senthilkumar and Soundararajan (2013) attempted to determine factors which influence organizational commitment among engineers in Chennai. In their study, they examined the influence of age, gender and marital status on the degree of organizational commitment. It was concluded that, gender does have a positive but insignificant impact towards organizational commitment. On the flip side, it was established that age does have a significant influence towards organizational commitment where senior engineers are found to be more committed towards their organization. However, in a study, by Ramakhula-Mabona (2014), the author investigated the correlation between organizational commitment and turnover intention among civil engineers in Lesotho. In this study, the author also investigated the influence of employees’ personal characteristics which comprises of gender, age, status, qualification, job tenure and academic background towards organizational commitment. It was found that only gender has a significant impact towards organizational commitment whereas other dimensions of personal characteristics have an insignificant impact towards organizational commitment. This finding contradicts the findings by Senthilkumar and Soundararajan (2013). This shows that there is inconclusive relationship between gender and organizational commitment, as well as between age and organizational commitment.

Apart from personal characteristics and employees’ perception, the review of literature also revealed that organizational practices such as HRM practices can contribute to organizational commitment. For example, in Govindasamy’s work, the author investigated the influence of organizational practices on affective commitment among Malaysian knowledge workers. Govindasamy (1999) pinpointed the five factors of organizational practices specifically, knowledge sharing activities, task orientation, fairness of performance management and promotion, training and development prospects as well as compensation. The author found that affective commitment among Malaysian knowledge workers are influenced by knowledge sharing practices, task orientation, training and development as well as compensation system. Paul and Anantharaman (2004) attempted to investigate the relationship between human resource management (HRM) practices and organizational performance relying upon intervening process. HRM practices adopted in their study comprises of selection, induction, training, job design, work environment, performance appraisal, compensation, career development and incentives. On the other hand, intervening processes includes employee competence, teamwork, organizational commitment and customer orientation. Surprisingly, it was found that HRM practices are not correlated to an organization’s financial performance. On the contrary, it was found that among the HRM practices, it was found that employee ownership has a direct causal relationship to all operational performance parameters specifically, employee retention, employee productivity, product quality, speed of delivery as well as operating cost.

Coetzee, Mitonga-Monga, and Swart (2014) acknowledged the importance of HRM practices within in an organization as it plays an important role in augmenting an organization’s performance. In this study, they investigated the relationship between HRM practices and organizational commitment. Their results demonstrated that affective commitment was influenced by job satisfaction, training and development as well as rewards and remuneration. Normative commitment was found to be positively correlated with leadership, rewards and remuneration and training and development. Lastly, continuance commitment is positively correlated with human resource policies and procedures.

Nazir, Shafi, Qun, Nazir, and Tran (2016) examined the relationship between extrinsic, intrinsic and social rewards and organizational commitment among employees from public and private sector in China. Additionally, they examined the implication of organizational commitment towards employees’ turnover intention. Findings from the study demonstrated that extrinsic, intrinsic and social rewards were significantly correlated to organizational commitment particularly, affective and normative commitment. When employees are satisfied with their extrinsic benefits – supervisor support, co-worker support, autonomy, training and participation in decision making process, they would possess higher degree of affective and normative commitment. In line with previous studies, this research too reaffirmed that affective commitment and normative commitment have a negative relationship with turnover intention.

Benson (2006) investigated the correlation between participation in training practices, on-the-job training and tuition reimbursement classes, and organizational commitment as well as intention to leave. The results demonstrated that on-the-job training have a positive and significant relationship to organizational commitment. However, company training programs and tuition-reimbursement classes have no relationship with organizational commitment. It was surprising that employees whom took part in tuition reimbursement classes are more likely to have higher intention to stay. In contrast, employees who attended on-the-job training are found to have a lower intention to stay.

In a study conducted by Yap, McGuire, Holmes, Hannan, and Cukier (2010), it was shown that employees whom perceives diversity training favourably, they are found to be more committed and satisfied with their job. Respondents of this study includes managers, professionals and executives employed in large companies in Canada. One study by Joo (2010) examined the influence of perceived organizational learning culture and leader-member exchange (LMX) quality towards organizational commitment as well as turnover intention. Joo (2010) highlighted that both dimensions mentioned have a positive influence on organizational commitment which in the long run will help to reduce employees’ turnover intention.

In a study by Jayasingam and Yong (2013), they set out to determine the influence of pay satisfaction and career management on affective commitment among knowledge workers. It was reported that when knowledge workers are satisfied with their pay, they are found to possess higher degree of affective commitment. Furthermore, skill enhancement prospects and mentoring relationship have no significant influence on affective commitment among knowledge workers.

Kim and Choi (2014) explored the influence of HRM practices towards organizational commitment as well as innovation in the software engineering sector. Their study established that developmental appraisal, externally or equitable reward, and training comprehensiveness will augment employees’ affective commitment and in the long influences their innovative behaviours positively. Karlsson (2008) researched the influence of employees’ work-related attitudes towards their turnover intention and behaviours . The results showed that there are five factors specifically, mental work and stimulation, work performance, locked-in and job offers, act as the predictor of employees’ turnover intention and behaviours.

Cheng (2013) conducted a study to determine the relationship between performance appraisal practices, perception of organizational justice and organizational commitment. Respondents of Cheng’s study are employees in manufacturing organizations in Taiwan. From this study, the findings showed that employment of performance appraisal practices is significantly related to perception of organizational justice. Further, perceived organizational justice is also significantly correlated with employees’ degree of organizational commitment.

Vijaya and Hemamalini (2011) investigated the relationship between organizational climate, role ambiguity, with organizational commitment. Findings showed that organizational climate and role ambiguity are correlated with organizational commitment. It was established that a negative relationship exists between affective commitment and role ambiguity as well as role conflict. Concurrently, affective commitment and organizational climate demonstrates a positive relationship. Senthamil and Palanichamy (2011) devised a research to determine the implication of transformational and transactional leadership styles towards organizational commitment. The result showed that organizational commitment is correlated with transformational leadership instead of transactional leadership. In a research conducted by Lee (2005), the author combined the behavioural and relational perspectives of leadership and determine if the integrated leadership dimension influences employees’ organizational commitment. The study showed that transformational leadership has a positive influence towards both leader-member exchange (LMX) and organizational commitment.

Additionally, LMX quality was found to play a mediating role in the relationship between leadership and organizational commitment. Also, in the LMX relationship, transformational leadership is more important compared to transactional leadership. Similar to studies conducted by Lee (2005) and Senthamil and Palanichamy (2011), Walumbwa, Orwa, Wang, and Lawler (2005) conducted a similar study but in a different setting. Again, in this study, it was pointed out that transformational leadership has a significant and positive relationship towards organizational commitment as well as job satisfaction. Fard, Seyedyousefi, and Tohidi (2016) studied the relationship between perceived organizational support and job satisfaction towards organizational commitment among bank employees in Iran. The outcome of this study showed that perceived organizational support is significantly and positively correlated with organizational commitment and the latter is also related to occupational satisfaction.

Giauque, Resenterra, and Siggen (2010) studied the impact of HRM practices to organizational commitment among knowledge workers in Swiss SMEs. The results obtained showed that employees’ organizational commitment is significantly influenced by organizational support, procedural justice as well as the reputation of the company. On the other hand, it was found that being able to participate in decision making, skill management or the degree of job satisfaction have no influence on employees’ organizational commitment. Overall, the review of the literature has shown that most past studies have focused on organizational factors as the antecedent for organizational commitment.


Personal characteristics comprises of age, gender, job tenure, religion, race, academic background, country of graduation, individual innovation orientation and self-efficacy. It was observed that age affects both affective and continuance commitment positively and significantly (Horri & Afzalipoor, 2013; Muthuveloo & Rose, 2007; Ramakhula-Mabona, 2014; Senthilkumar & Soundararajan, 2013). Meyer and Allen (1984) proposed that older employees would possess higher commitment as they are contented with their job (Yahaya & Ebrahim, 2016). Additionally, older employees realize that it is riskier for them to leave than to stay as they might not be able to secure a new job (Parasuraman & Nachman, 1987; Yahaya & Ebrahim, 2016).

Over the years, past studies generated conflicting outcomes on the role of gender as an antecedent of organizational commitment. For instance, it was found that gender plays an imperative role in determining level of organizational commitment. Senthilkumar and Soundararajan (2013) on the other hand, argued that gender does not have a significant role in predicting employees’ organizational commitment. In a study by Muthuveloo and Rose (2007), it was observed that gender have a positive relationship towards affective commitment only.

Typically, employees who have worked with an organization for a long time would be more committed as they are well conversed with the organization objectives and would be willing to retain in the organization for longer period (Muthuveloo & Rose, 2007; Ramakhula-Mabona, 2014). It is interesting to note that Muthuveloo and Rose (2007), studied the religion and race dimension and found that those two dimensions have a positive and significant relationship towards affective and continuance commitment. Religious employees are more committed as they abide by their religion which teaches the sense of duty, loyalty, responsibility and values which encourages commitment towards their organization (Farrukh, Wei, Ying, & Abdallah Ahmed, 2016). On the contrary, Wening and Choerudin (2015) found that religion does not influence an employee degree of organizational commitment.

Past studies showed mixed results on the relationship between academic background and organizational commitment (Muthuveloo & Rose, 2007; Ramakhula-Mabona, 2014). Although Muthuveloo and Rose (2007) found that academic background has an impact on organizational commitment, it is imperative to acknowledge that there are other factors which might influence commitment more than academic background alone. Apart from academic background, Muthuveloo and Rose (2007) included country of graduation as one of the possible antecedents of organizational commitment. Surprisingly, it was found that country of graduation does have a positive impact towards affective and continuance commitment.

In a study by Perry et al. (2016), it was observed that a highly significant and positive relationship exist between individual innovation orientation and organizational commitment. This relationship occurs when employees believe that their job is highly significant and that they are working in a prolific organization. The last dimension under the personal characteristics is self-efficacy. Arya et al. (2012) pointed out that there is a positive relationship between self-efficacy and organizational commitment which is in line with previous studies done by Gundlach, Martinko, and Douglas Douglas (2003) and Chan (2004), Gundlach et al. (2003), Meyer et al. (2002), and Schyns and von Collani (2002). When employees have a positive outlook on self-efficacy, they would be more confident in carrying out their task which indirectly augments their level of organizational commitment.

The second antecedent which affects organizational commitment is job satisfaction. One of the factors which influences organizational commitment is extrinsic rewards. Extrinsic rewards imply the financial rewards provided by the organization in terms of basic salary, pay raises, bonuses, benefits among others (Nazir et al., 2016; Newman & Sheikh, 2012). When employees receive extrinsic rewards, they would feel that their contribution, capabilities and efforts for the organization are being appreciated and thus, leading towards a higher degree of organizational commitment (Coetzee et al., 2014; Govindasamy, 1999; Kim & Choi, 2014; Nazir et al., 2016; Paul & Anantharaman, 2004; Zin, 2004;).

There is a myriad of dimensions under HRM practices, however, the one dimension that receives the most attention is the training and development practices. Employees particularly knowledge workers, perceive training programs as a platform for them to improve their knowledge and skills as they would like to remain competitive (Drucker, 1999; Govindasamy, 1999). This explains the findings by Benson (2006), Coetzee et al. (2014), Govindasamy (1999), Jayasingam and Yong (2013), Kim and Choi (2014), Nazir et al. (2016), Paul and Anantharaman (2004), and Yap et al. (2010) whom found that training and organizational commitment have a positive and significant relationship.

Positive social relationships in workplace often lead towards a higher degree of organizational commitment among engineers (Karlsson, 2008; Paul & Anantharaman, 2004; Zin, 2004). Constructive relationships between colleagues (supervisors, subordinates and friends) would often increase organizational commitment as it helps them to cope better with their job when difficulties occur (Madsen, Miller & John, 2005). Howell (2012) studied the relationship between knowledge sharing and organizational commitment and concluded that a weak but significant relationship exists between the knowledge sharing behaviours and organizational commitment. In his study, Howell (2012) categorized knowledge donating and knowledge collecting as the behaviours of knowledge sharing. An employee with higher commitment level is more likely to share his knowledge with his colleagues as he believes that the action of sharing knowledge is appreciated by the organization.

It has been established that a developmental appraisal system would be able to boost employees’ level of organizational commitment (Kim & Choi, 2014; Paul & Anantharaman, 2004). A good appraisal system which assimilates informal method and genuine interest in the development of employees would trigger higher commitment among employees as they feel treasured by the organization (Van den Hooff & De Ridder, 2004).

Organizational justice entails three constructs, specifically, distributive justice, procedural justice and interactional justice (Adams, 1963). Findings by Cheng (2013) clearly depicted that each construct of organizational justice has a positive and significant relationship towards organizational commitment. This is justifiable as when employees feel that the organization is being fair in terms of reward distribution (distributive justice), fairness in the process and procedures in reaching to a decision (procedural justice) and the interpersonal treatment employees received during the execution of the procedures (interactional justice) would be more committed to their organization (Rai, 2013; Chang & Dubinsky, 2005).

Researchers suggested that when an employee faces role conflict or role ambiguity, they their level of commitment towards the organization will be reduced (Judeh, 2011; Yongkang, Weixi, Yalin, Yipeng, & Liu, 2014). In a study by Vijaya and Hemamalini (2011), it was observed that indeed role ambiguity and role conflict have a significant negative relationship towards affective and continuance commitment. However, role ambiguity was found to have a positive but insignificant relationship towards normative commitment. Similarly, it was found that role conflict has a negative but insignificant relationship towards normative commitment. Role ambiguity and role conflict have been labelled as the antecedents of job stress. When employees are unable to cope with the amount of stress that they are facing this will leave a negative implication on their level of organizational commitment.

It was observed that transformational style positively and significantly impacts organizational commitment (Lee, 2005; Senthamil & Palanichamy, 2011; Walumbwa et al., 2005). Transformational leaders initiate an environment that would help employees to align their personality and values with the objectives and principles of the organization (affective commitment) and inculcate respect and loyalty sentiment (normative commitment) by paying attention to their employee needs (Gillet & Vandenberghe, 2014). Studies demonstrated a positive and significant relationship between perceived organizational support and affective commitment (Fard et al., 2016; Giauque et al., 2010; Karlsson, 2008). When employees perceive that their organization values their contribution and look out for their well-being, they would feel thankful and in return they would demonstrate a stronger affective commitment to their organization (Giauque et al., 2010).


This paper discusses various antecedents which influence organizational commitment among knowledge workers. Based on the reviews, some recommendations for future studies are developed. First, the religion dimension should be investigated in a different context for instance the western context. Secondly, it was noted that the number of studies on relevance of job is highly scarce. The relevance of job is an important dimension which relates to organizational commitment because when employees believe that their contribution is significant and is crucial to the organization performance, they should possess a higher degree of organizational commitment. Third, future research should include job characteristics as it is plays a big role in influencing employees motivation and thus, determining their organizational commitment. Lastly, it is also imperative for future researchers to consider role states and organizational justice.


The authors would like to thank the Faculty of Management, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia for supporting and sponsoring this publication.


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23 September 2019

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Leen, M. W. E., Rahman, R. H. A., & Yusof, H. M. (2019). Organizational Commitment Among Knowledge Workers: A Review. In N. S. Mat Akhir, J. Sulong, M. A. Wan Harun, S. Muhammad, A. L. Wei Lin, N. F. Low Abdullah, & M. Pourya Asl (Eds.), Role(s) and Relevance of Humanities for Sustainable Development, vol 68. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 1-14). Future Academy.