An Integration of the Multidimensional Approaches

As illustrated above, commitment can be considered multidimensional both in its form and its focus. These two approaches to developing a multidimensional framework are not incompatible. Indeed, one can envision a two-dimensional matrix with different forms of commitment listed along one axis, and the different foci along the other. The various cells within this matrix then reflect the nature of the commitment an employee has toward each individual constituency of relevance to him or her. Note that this matrix should not be used to classify employees. Rather, each employee's commitment profile should reflect varying degrees of different forms of commitment to each of the different constituencies.

At this time, it is not clear how commitments within the various cells of this two-dimensional matrix might relate to one another. According to Lawler's (1992) nested-collectives theory, there might be some dependencies, particularly among the cells reflecting affective attachments. Moreover, following Lawler's logic, if strong affective attachments to nested subgroups within the organizations are accompanied by a lower level of attachment to the organization, an interesting situation is created. In order to maintain their membership in the smaller unit, employees must remain in the larger organization, in spite of relatively low levels of affective commitment. This 'need' to remain might reflect what Allen and Meyer (1990b; Meyer & Allen, 1991) called continuance commitment. Consequently, there may be dependencies across both focus and form of commitment. Although the findings of Yoon, Baker, and Ko (1994) did not provide strong support for Lawler's theory, they too suggested a complex set of relations among commitments.

Combining the two multidimensional perspectives creates a potentially very complex model of commitment that becomes virtually impossible to test, or use, in its entirety. Nevertheless, acknowledging the complex multidimensional structure of commitment should serve to raise awareness of the fact that, in trying to understand how employees' commitment develops and relates to behaviour, we must frame our research questions more precisely than we have in the past. That is, we must specify clearly the form of commitment, and the constituency to which it is directed.

 
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