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The improbable commitment: organizational commitment amongst South African knowledge workers

By Jeffrey Bagraim


Knowledge workers, who typically enjoy global labour mobility, are considered critical to economic growth in developing countries. The purpose of this dissertation was to examine the organizational commitment of South African knowledge workers, a commitment widely considered both improbable and unobtainable. In this study, a critical review of the organizational commitment literature, to ascertain its psychometric applicability to knowledge workers in South Africa, uncovered an unsystematic and fragmented body of research that has been imperfectly integrated in previous research models. A new definition of organizational commitment is therefore developed to account for current contextual complexities and theoretical advances in commitment research (e.g. multiple foci, variable duration, and changing intensities).\ud A mixed-method research design was used in all stages of the\ud investigation. To establish the construct validity and practical validity of the organizational commitment construct, a multidisciplinary explanatory model was developed based on the extant literature and focus group discussions with knowledge workers. To test the proposed model, a self-administered survey questionnaire was developed. A total of 637 usable questionnaires from knowledge workers employed in the accounting and information technology occupations in both the public and private sector were analysed using a variety of statistical techniques, primarily hierarchical regression analysis and structural equation modelling. Particular care was taken that appropriate and strict statistical criteria guided the analyses. The survey results were then presented to focus groups for discussion.\ud The results clearly evidence the widely accepted three-component structure of organizational commitment but provide new insight into the nature of the relationship between the commitment components. The veracity of a multiple foci approach is demonstrated and interaction effects between commitment bases and commitment foci are examined. The results are mixed concerning the proposed model, which required revision after the psychometric analyses. Overall, however, the results are both surprising and encouraging. Surprising given the evidence of high levels of organizational commitment amongst knowledge workers, and encouraging given the amount of variance explained in salient organizational outcomes such as turnover intentions (37%) and boosting behaviour (24%).\ud Analysis per employment sector showed no overall effect of sector in the regression models but further analyses showed different patterns of significant antecedents amongst knowledge workers employed in the public and private sectors.\ud The empirical findings and theoretical position of this study challenge prevailing assumptions about the organizational commitment of knowledge workers and provide refreshment to both scholars and practitioners faced with the development of new management approaches and insights

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