Journal of Vocational Behavior 64 (2004) 47–71
Aﬀective commitment to the
organization, supervisor, and work
group: Antecedents and outcomes
Christian Vandenberghe,* Kathleen Bentein,
and Florence Stinglhamber
Psychology Department, Universite Catholique de Louvain, Place Cardinal Mercier 10,
Louvain-la-Neuve B-1348, Belgium
Received 10 May 2002
Three longitudinal studies investigated the usefulness of distinguishing among employeesÕ
aﬀective commitments to the organization, the supervisor, and the work group. Study 1, with
199 employees from various organizations, found that aﬀective commitments to these entities
were factorially distinct and related diﬀerentially to their theorized antecedents. Study 2, with
a diversiﬁed sample of 316 employees, showed that organizational commitment (a) had an
indirect eﬀect on turnover through intent to quit, (b) partially mediated the eﬀect of commit-
ment to the supervisor on intent to quit, and (c) completely mediated the eﬀect of commitment
to the work group on intent to quit. Study 3, with matched data collected from 194 nurses and
their immediate supervisors, determined that (a) commitment to the supervisor had a direct
eﬀect on job performance and (b) organizational commitment had an indirect eﬀect on job
performance through commitment to the supervisor. However, Study 3 failed to show any
eﬀect of commitment to the work group on performance. These ﬁndings are interpreted in
light of the relative salience of commitment foci with regard to the outcome under study.
Ó 2003 Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.
Keywords: Multiple commitment; Intent to quit; Turnover; Job performance
E-mail address: email@example.com (C. Vandenberghe).
0001-8791/$ - see front matter Ó 2003 Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.
48 C. Vandenberghe et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 64 (2004) 47–71
Recent research has emphasized the value of distinguishing among multiple foci of
employee commitment in the workplace (Becker, 1992; Becker & Billings, 1993; Bec-
ker, Billings, Eveleth, & Gilbert, 1996; Clugston, Howell, & Dorfman, 2000; Greger-
sen, 1993; Siders, George, & Dharwadkar, 2001). Commitment foci represent those
individuals, groups, or entities to which an employee is attached. Research has shown
that just as employees develop aﬀective attachments to the global organization, they
may feel committed to their supervisor (Becker, 1992; Becker & Billings, 1993; Becker
et al., 1996; Clugston et al., 2000; Siders et al., 2001) and to their work group or team
(Bishop & Scott, 2000; Bishop, Scott, & Burroughs, 2000; Ellemers, de Gilder, & van
den Heuvel, 1998; Lawler, 1992; Yoon, Baker, & Ko, 1994; Zaccaro & Dobbins,
1989). Whatever the foci of interest, aﬀective commitment to a given entity may be
broadly deﬁned as an attachment characterized by an identiﬁcation to and involve-
ment in the target entity (Meyer & Allen, 1991; Meyer & Herscovitch, 2001).
Researchers have begun to examine the incremental value of the multiple foci per-
spective on commitment in inﬂuencing work outcomes (e.g., Becker, 1992; Becker
et al., 1996; Bishop et al., 2000; Siders et al., 2001). Meyer and Herscovitch (2001)
went a step further and developed a general model of workplace commitment in
which commitment is deﬁned as a mind set that binds an individual to a course of
action that is of relevance to a particular target. Along this line, Herscovitch and
Meyer (2002) found that commitment directed to a speciﬁc target was a better pre-
dictor of behavior relevant to that target than was the more general organizational
commitment. Actually, they found commitment to an organizational change to be a
stronger predictor of behavioral support to the change than was organizational com-
mitment. The speciﬁc behavior one wants to predict also determines the level of anal-
ysis of relevance to the relationship between commitment and the outcome. For
example, if one chooses to examine commitment to the supervisor, outcomes that
are relevant to that entity will be more easily explained. This issue is a question of
both proximality or salience of behavior (Lewin, 1943) and matched levels of analysis
in the commitment–behavior relationship. The present research examined this issue.
We recognize that employee behavior reﬂects multiple commitments that are not
totally independent, and may have either direct or indirect eﬀects. Based on their rel-
evance to organizations, three commitment foci were addressed in the present re-
search: the global organization, the supervisor, and the work group. We examined
whether aﬀective commitments to these speciﬁc foci could be distinguished from
one another and whether they related diﬀerentially to theorized antecedent variables
(Study 1). The validity of these measures was further examined by determining how
the commitments inﬂuenced major work outcomes such as intent to quit and turn-
over (Study 2) and job performance (Study 3). All three studies were longitudinal.
The speciﬁc contribution of this research was thus to propose a thorough exam-
ination of the validity of measures of aﬀective commitments to the organization, the
supervisor, and the work group, and to assess (a) their unique relationships with
presumed antecedents and (b) their speciﬁc role in the withdrawal process and the
generation of job performance.
C. Vandenberghe et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 64 (2004) 47–71 49
2. Study 1: Development of measures and relationships with antecedents
A prerequisite to construct validity is the ability of measures to capture diﬀeren-
tially what they are supposed to tap (Hinkin, 1995). Several arguments plead for the
distinctiveness of aﬀective commitments to the organization, the supervisor, and the
work group. First, employees have been shown to engage in separate exchange
relationships with their organization and with their supervisor (Aryee, Budhwar,
& Chen, 2002; Settoon, Bennett, & Liden, 1996; Wayne, Shore, & Liden, 1997), sug-
gesting that they may feel diﬀerentially committed to these two foci. In a similar vein,
LawlerÕs (1992) choice-process theory states that employees develop separate com-
mitments to the ‘‘distal’’ organization and to the more ‘‘proximate’’ work group
because they attribute to these foci a diﬀerent ability to generate positive emotions.
Third, because the formal status of the work group (co-workers) and of the supervi-
sor is likely to be diﬀerent (Eisenberger, Stinglhamber, Vandenberghe, Sucharski, &
Rhoades, 2002), commitments to these foci should diﬀer as well. Finally, on empir-
ical grounds, there is some evidence that measures of aﬀective commitment to the
organization, the supervisor, and the work group are distinguishable (Becker,
1992; Clugston et al., 2000). We thus hypothesize the following:
Hypothesis 1a: Aﬀective commitments to the organization, the supervisor, and the
work group are factorially distinct.
An important antecedent of aﬀective commitment to the organization should be
perceived organizational support (POS). POS reﬂects the global beliefs employees
develop concerning the extent to which their organization values their contribution
and cares about them (Eisenberger, Huntington, Hutchison, & Sowa, 1986). POS
should lead to stronger aﬀective organizational commitment because organizational
support theory suggests that, by virtue of the reciprocity norm (Gouldner, 1960), em-
ployees who feel supported by their organization will attempt to repay their debt
through aﬀective commitment (Settoon et al., 1996). Although this relationship
has been documented in previous research (Eisenberger, Armeli, Rexwinkel, Lynch,
& Rhoades, 2001; Settoon et al., 1996; Wayne et al., 1997), it has never been dem-
onstrated that POS speciﬁcally and uniquely contributes to aﬀective commitment
to the organization and does not simultaneously reinforce aﬀective commitment to
the supervisor and to the work group. Because POS and aﬀective organizational
commitment involve an exchange relationship with the organization, POS should
not contribute to commitment to the other two foci.
Hypothesis 1b: POS relates uniquely and positively to aﬀective organizational
Social exchange interpretations of employee–organization relationships have also
been used to explain the exchange processes involving employees and their supervi-
sor. For example, when compared with POS, the quality of leader–member ex-
changes (LMX) has been found to be uniquely related to such favorable outcomes
as in-role performance and citizenship behavior (Settoon et al., 1996; Wayne
et al., 1997). Relatedly, Gerstner and Day (1997) reported the corrected meta-ana-
lytic correlation between LMX and satisfaction with the supervisor to be stronger
than the corresponding correlation between LMX and organizational commitment
50 C. Vandenberghe et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 64 (2004) 47–71
(r ¼ :71 vs. r ¼ :42). The latter suggest that LMX should be primarily related to em-
ployee attitudinal outcomes that speciﬁcally beneﬁt the supervisor. In other words,
LMX should be uniquely related to aﬀective commitment to the supervisor, but
not to aﬀective commitment to the organization and to the work group.
Hypothesis 1c: LMX relates uniquely and positively to aﬀective commitment to
Research on self-directed teams has shown that perceived team support and sat-
isfaction with co-workers related more strongly to team commitment than to orga-
nizational commitment (Bishop & Scott, 2000; Bishop et al., 2000), while the
strength of the relationship involving perceived task interdependence did not diﬀer
across these outcomes (Bishop & Scott, 2000). The latter ﬁnding may be explained
by the fact that the responsibility for creating interdependence among tasks within
teams is partly shared by the organization and the work group. Although the gener-
alizability of the above ﬁndings to more traditional work groups remains uncertain,
these results suggest anyway that variables that are speciﬁcally linked to the group
interpersonal dynamics may be critical to predict attachment to the group. In this
regard, Wech, Mossholder, Steel, and Bennett (1998), using a cross-level design, re-
ported perceived group cohesiveness to signiﬁcantly contribute to organizational
commitment. Should they have added aﬀective commitment to the work group as
a dependent variable, one could reasonably hypothesize that group cohesiveness
would have been more strongly correlated with it than with organizational commit-
ment. As group cohesiveness reﬂects the quality of work-related interactions within
the group (Hackman, 1992), employeesÕ aﬀective commitment to the work group
should be one of its primary consequences (Heﬀner & Rentsch, 2001).
Hypothesis 1d: Perceived work group cohesiveness relates uniquely and positively
to aﬀective commitment to the work group.
2.1.1. Sample and procedure
A random sample of 710 French-speaking Alumni who graduated from a Belgian
university between 1990 and 1999 was selected for this study. Measures were taken at
two points in time, separated by a 6-month interval. First, prospective participants
received a survey questionnaire including measures of POS, LMX, and work group
cohesiveness. Six months later, those who responded at Time 1 received a second
questionnaire comprising the commitment measures. Questionnaire packets, sent
to the subjectsÕ private address, contained a cover letter explaining the purpose of
the study and providing assurances of conﬁdentiality, the survey, and a postage-paid
return envelope. Two weeks after survey delivery, we mailed follow-up letters to non-
responders stressing the value of the survey and the importance of their participa-
tion. Questionnaires were coded so as to allow researchers to match responses at
the two measurement occasions.
Out of the 710 prospective participants, 301 provided usable returns (42.4%) at
Time 1, of which 212 (70.4%) also responded at Time 2, for an overall response rate
of 29.8%. Excluding the incomplete questionnaires, 199 responses were usable for
C. Vandenberghe et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 64 (2004) 47–71 51
conducting the analyses. This ﬁnal sample of subjects averaged 30.7 years ðSD ¼ 5:0Þ
in age and had been employed by their organization for an average period of 4.0
years ðSD ¼ 3:7Þ at Time 1. Among participants, 56.0% were male. Respondents
worked in industries (13.5%), banking and insurance (14.5%), consulting (8.8%),
computer science (9.8%), teaching (4.1%), construction (.5%), public administration
(18.7%), transportation and communication (2.1%), trade (3.1%), environmental
agencies (1.6%), leisure and sports (3.6%), media and advertising (5.2%), research
(6.2%), or were unclassiﬁed (8.3%).
Because the study was conducted in a French-speaking environment, all measures
previously developed in English (POS, LMX, group cohesiveness, and organiza-
tional commitment) were translated into French using a standard translation-
back-translation procedure (cf. Brislin, 1980). Minor discrepancies among original
and back-translated versions were observed and were solved by a short discussion
POS. We used the shortened 8-item version of POS developed by Eisenberger,
Cummings, Armeli, and Lynch (1997) to assess employeesÕ perception that the orga-
nization valued their contribution and cared about their well-being. A typical item is
ÔMy organization really cares about my well-being.Õ Previous research has reported
good reliability for this scale (CronbachÕs a ¼ :90 in Eisenberger et al., 1997).
LMX. We used the multidimensional LMX scale developed by Liden and Maslyn
(1998). This scale captures four dimensions of LMX: (a) aﬀect, deﬁned as ‘‘the mu-
tual aﬀection members of the dyad have for each other’’ (3 items; e.g., ÔMy supervisor
is a lot of fun to work withÕ), (b) loyalty, deﬁned as the ‘‘expression of public sup-
port’’ from the superior to the employee (3 items; e.g., ÔMy supervisor would come
to my defense if I were ‘‘attacked’’ by othersÕ), (c) contribution, referring to the per-
ceived work-related eﬀorts put forth by the employee toward the goals of the dyad
(2 items; e.g., ÔI do work for my supervisor that goes beyond what is speciﬁed in
my job descriptionÕ), and (d) professional respect, deﬁned as the perceived reputation
and excellence of the superior (3 items; e.g., ÔI respect my supervisorÕs knowledge of
his/her jobÕ) (Liden & Maslyn, 1998, p. 50). Liden and Maslyn (1998) reported reli-
abilities of .90, .78, .59, and .89 for the aﬀect, loyalty, contribution, and professional
respect sub-scales, respectively. In this study, the 4-factor model of LMX yielded a
good ﬁt to the data, v2 ð38Þ ¼ 58:54, p < :05, GFI ¼ .96, AGFI ¼ .94, TLI ¼ .99,
and CFI ¼ .99.
Perceived work group cohesiveness. The 6-item scale developed by Wech et al.
(1998) was used to measure the extent to which members have positive attitudes to-
ward each other as well as spirit of teamwork among co-workers. A typical item is
ÔMembers of my work group take a personal interest in one another.Õ Wech et al.
(1998) reported an a coeﬃcient of .81 for this scale.
Commitment. For measuring commitment to the organization, we relied on a
revised version of Meyer, Allen, and SmithÕs (1993) aﬀective commitment scale that
was elaborated for international replication (Meyer, Barak, & Vandenberghe, 1996).
This scale has shown a reasonable reliability of .82 in previous work conducted in
52 C. Vandenberghe et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 64 (2004) 47–71
French-speaking environments (Vandenberghe, Stinglhamber, Bentein, & Delhaise,
2001). For measuring commitment to the supervisor (6 items) and to the work group
(6 items), we adapted somewhat the organizational commitment items, based on
their suitability to these targets as evaluated by 20 interviewees from various occu-
pations and organizations. Commitment to the supervisor items addressed the feel-
ing of pride in working with, and appreciation of, the supervisor, while commitment
to the work group items captured the feeling of belongingness and emotional attach-
ment to the work group.
For all variables, a 5-point Likert-type scale was used for measuring respondentsÕ
level of agreement with each statement (1, strongly disagree; 5, strongly agree).
2.2. Results and discussion
2.2.1. Conﬁrmatory factor analysis
We conducted a series of conﬁrmatory factor analyses using the LISREL 8.3
package (J€reskog & S€rbom, 1993) to determine the distinctiveness of aﬀective
commitments across foci. We tested, successively, a null model in which all items
were constrained to independence, a 1-factor model, three alternative 2-factor mod-
els in which commitment foci were combined on a two-by-two basis, and the hypo-
thesized 3-factor model. As some items were identical across commitment foci, with
only the referent target being changed, the error terms for these items were likely to
be correlated. Hence, we allowed the estimated error terms of these items to freely
covary (Clugston et al., 2000; Markel & Frone, 1998; Mueller & Lawler, 1999).
To examine which model was the best ﬁt to the data, we used v2 diﬀerence tests
for comparing lower factor models with the next higher factor model in which they
were nested (Bentler & Bonnett, 1980).
Table 1 shows the results of these analyses. As can be seen, ﬁt improves signiﬁ-
cantly along the sequence of models as one moves from the null to the 3-factor mod-
el. Of major interest, the 3-factor model displays signiﬁcant improvement over the
best lower factor model (a 2-factor model), Dv2 ð2Þ ¼ 225:51, p < :001. Although
the absolute GFI, AGFI, and TLI values for the 3-factor model are below the con-
ventional standard of .90, the value for the CFI which is particularly suited for the
comparison of theoretical models (Medsker, Williams, & Holahan, 1994) reaches the
.90 criterion. A check at the modiﬁcation indices provided in the LISREL output for
this model also indicated that only 3 items had signiﬁcant expected cross-loadings on
non-hypothesized factors. Moreover, these cross-loadings were far less sizeable than
their corresponding loadings [diﬀerences between loadings and expected cross-load-
ings were .53 (item 3), .65 (item 10), and .49 (item 14)]. Thus, the 3-factor model was
the best ﬁt to the data, lending support to Hypothesis 1a. The item loadings for the
3-factor model appear in Table 2.
2.2.2. Relationships with antecedents
Descriptive statistics and correlations for the study variables appear in Table 3. Re-
liability coeﬃcients were reasonably high for all variables. Of greatest interest, among
hypothesized antecedent variables, the strongest correlation with organizational
C. Vandenberghe et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 64 (2004) 47–71 53
Study 1: Conﬁrmatory factor analysis ﬁt indices for aﬀective commitment models
Model v2 ðdf Þ GFI AGFI TLI CFI Model Dv2 ðDdf Þ
1. Three-factor 363.53Ã (126) .82 .76 .87 .90 1 vs. 3 225.51Ã (2)
2. Two-factor 775.53Ã (128) .64 .51 .66 .72 2 vs. 5 402.19Ã (1)
AC-SUP ¼ 1 factor)
3. Two-factor 589.04Ã (128) .72 .63 .76 .80 3 vs. 5 588.68Ã (1)
AC-GR ¼ 1 factor)
4. Two-factor 829.69Ã (128) .60 .47 .63 .69 4 vs. 5 348.03Ã (1)
AC-GR ¼ 1 factor)
5. One-factor 1177.72Ã (129) .51 .35 .45 .54 5 vs. 6 1247.65Ã (24)
6. Null 2425.37Ã (153) .29 .20 — — — —
Note. N ¼ 199. AC-ORG, aﬀective organizational commitment; AC-SUP, aﬀective commitment to the
supervisor; and AC-GR, aﬀective commitment to the work group. GFI, goodness-of-ﬁt index; AGFI,
adjusted goodness-of-ﬁt index; TLI, Tucker and Lewis index; and CFI, comparative ﬁt index.
p < :001.
Study 1: Conﬁrmatory factor analytic item loadings
Item AC-ORG AC-SUP AC-GR
1. This organization has a great deal of personal meaning for me .87
2. I really feel a sense of ‘‘belonging’’ to my organization .83
3. I am proud to belong to this organization .74
4. I do not feel emotionally attached to my organization (R) .61
5. I really feel as if my organizationÕs problems are my own .58
6. I do not feel like ‘‘part of the family’’ at my organization (R) .56
7. I feel a sense of respect for my supervisor .89
8. I appreciate my supervisor .89
9. I feel proud to work with my supervisor .88
10. My supervisor means a lot to me .86
11. I am not really attached to my supervisor (R) .83
12. I feel little admiration for my supervisor (R) .73
13. I really feel a sense of ‘‘belonging’’ to my work group .89
14. I feel proud to be a member of my work group .79
15. My work group means a lot to me .74
16. I do not feel emotionally attached to my work group (R) .64
17. I do not feel like ‘‘part of the family’’ in my work group (R) .60
18. I do not feel a strong sense of ‘‘belonging’’ to my work group (R) .59
Note. N ¼ 199. (R), reverse scored. All loadings are standardized.
commitment involved POS, the strongest correlation with commitment to the super-
visor involved two LMX dimensions, aﬀect and professional respect, while commit-
ment to the work group was most strongly associated with perceived work group
54 C. Vandenberghe et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 64 (2004) 47–71
Study 1: Descriptive statistics and intercorrelations among variables
Variable M SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1. AC-ORG 3.21 .86 .84
2. AC-SUP 3.18 1.09 .38ÃÃ .94
3. AC-GR 3.34 .87 .41ÃÃ .25ÃÃ .86
4. Perceived organizational 2.72 .85 .40ÃÃ .30ÃÃ .22ÃÃ .90
5. LMX: aﬀect 3.18 1.19 .35ÃÃ .70ÃÃ .16Ã .35ÃÃ .93
6. LMX: loyalty 3.35 1.12 .36ÃÃ .46ÃÃ .12 .26ÃÃ .61ÃÃ .93
7. LMX: contribution 3.49 .94 .19ÃÃ .17Ã .12 .24ÃÃ .21ÃÃ .35ÃÃ .69
8. LMX: professional 3.21 1.20 .29ÃÃ .61ÃÃ .07 .28ÃÃ .67ÃÃ .54ÃÃ .17Ã .95
9. Perceived work group 3.47 .89 .16Ã .27ÃÃ .41ÃÃ .29ÃÃ .35ÃÃ .36ÃÃ .19ÃÃ .29ÃÃ .89
Note. a coeﬃcients are reported on the diagonal. LMX, leader–member exchange.
p < :05.
p < :01.
These linkages were further examined by regressing hypothesized antecedents on
commitment variables. As can be seen from Table 4, POS was the single signiﬁcant
predictor of aﬀective organizational commitment, providing support to Hypothesis
1b. Similarly, only LMX was signiﬁcantly associated with aﬀective commitment to
the supervisor, though its eﬀect was attributable solely to the aﬀect and professional
respect dimensions. Hypothesis 1c was thus supported. Finally, work group cohe-
siveness was the unique predictor associated with aﬀective commitment to the work
group, lending support to Hypothesis 1d.
Overall, these results indicate that the proposed antecedents of commitment vari-
ables relate diﬀerentially and in the expected direction with their attitudinal out-
comes, hence further substantiating the results obtained from the conﬁrmatory
factor analysis of commitment scales.
Study 1: Regression analysis for aﬀective commitment variables
Variable AC-ORG AC-SUP AC-GR
Perceived organizational support .35 .07 .13
LMX: aﬀect .03 .49Ã .11
LMX: loyalty .04 .04 ).06
LMX: contribution .08 .01 .03
LMX: professional respect .09 .26Ã ).13
Perceived work group cohesiveness ).01 ).04 .37Ã
Note. Entries are standardized regression coeﬃcients. For AC-ORG, F ð6; 193Þ ¼ 7:26Ã ; for AC-SUP,
F ð6; 193Þ ¼ 36:00Ã ; and for AC-GR, F ð6; 190Þ ¼ 6:84Ã .
p < :001.
C. Vandenberghe et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 64 (2004) 47–71 55
3. Study 2: Relationships with intent to quit and turnover
Field theory (Lewin, 1943) asserts that individualsÕ behavior is primarily inﬂu-
enced by those elements from the environment which are perceived as being proxi-
mal and salient (Mathieu, 1991; Mathieu & Hamel, 1989). Along this line, it is
likely that the notion of salience is determined by the type of behavior one is willing
to predict. For example, the organization focus may be viewed by an employee as
salient when it comes to predict turnover behavior. This is because turnover is the
kind of behavior for which cognitive deliberations about the viability of oneÕs mem-
bership in the organization are activated (Hom, Caranikas-Walker, Prussia, & Griﬀ-
eth, 1992). In order to decide to pursue or to stop organizational membership, the
employee will primarily evaluate the current status of his/her relationship with the
organization, hence his/her level of commitment to the organization. In contrast,
it is likely that the nature of relationships with, and level of commitment to, other
foci (e.g., supervisors or work groups) will be less relevant for predicting turnover.
The match among entities for determining the strength of the commitment–behavior
relationship is thus critical. We suggest that the old conception of LewinÕs (1943)
proximality/salience of behavior corresponds to what current scholars more com-
monly consider to be a levels-of-analysis issue. Indeed, as shown by Meyer and Hers-
covitch (2001), if the level captured by the commitment construct does not ﬁt the
level which is tapped by the behavior, the strength of the relationship is likely to
Consistent with this point of view, organizational commitment has been repeat-
edly reported to relate negatively to intended and actual turnover (Mathieu & Zajac,
1990; Tett & Meyer, 1993). As evidenced by the turnover literature, its inﬂuence on
turnover behavior is largely mediated by turnover intentions (Hom et al., 1992; Hom
& Griﬀeth, 1991; Price & Mueller, 1986; Sager, Griﬀeth, & Hom, 1998; Tett &
Meyer, 1993). Conversely, and as mentioned above, due to the fact that supervisors
and work groups address a diﬀerent level of analysis, we do not expect commitment
to the supervisor and to the work group to be as inﬂuential on the employee with-
drawal process from the organization. We thus posit the following:
Hypothesis 2a: Aﬀective organizational commitment has a signiﬁcant indirect ef-
fect on actual turnover through intent to quit.
The tenets of ﬁeld theory (Lewin, 1943) suggest that the elements from the envi-
ronment that are not salient and proximal to the individualÕs action will not aﬀect
his/her behavior directly (Mathieu, 1991). As far as organizational turnover is con-
cerned, such foci as the supervisor and the work group may not be so psychologically
salient as the organization because it remains possible to maintain membership in the
organization when commitment to these foci is low. For example, in case of low
commitment, the employee may wish to change supervisors or work groups, or avoid
being too much in contact with these target entities (Eisenberger et al., 2002;
Malatesta, 1995). Support for this contention can be found in several studies. First,
re-analyzing BeckerÕs (1992) data, Hunt and Morgan (1994) found support for a
key-mediating construct model in which commitment to constituencies that are
‘‘cognitively distant’’ from the organization, such as the supervisor, the work group,
56 C. Vandenberghe et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 64 (2004) 47–71
and top management, exerted its inﬂuence on work behavior through organizational
commitment. As Hunt and Morgan (1994) noted, their ﬁndings may be due to the
fact that the outcomes of interest were mainly directed toward the organization
(e.g., intent to quit and organizational citizenship behavior). That is, these outcomes
referred to a level to whom organizational commitment is naturally tied. Similarly,
Wayne et al. (1997) found organizational commitment to be more strongly related to
intentions to quit than LMX, a variable thought to lead to aﬀective commitment
to the supervisor. Finally, Bishop et al. (2000) reported organizational commitment
to be more strongly linked with intended turnover than team commitment. All these
arguments suggest that commitments to the supervisor and to the work group may
(a) have less direct inﬂuence on turnover than organizational commitment and (b)
mainly exert their eﬀect indirectly, through commitment to the global organization.
This leads us to hypothesize that:
Hypothesis 2b: Aﬀective commitment to the supervisor and to the work group
has a signiﬁcant indirect eﬀect on intent to quit through aﬀective organizational
3.1.1. Sample and procedure
A random sample of 704 Alumni from a Belgian university who graduated be-
tween 1990 and 1996 was selected. Note that this sample was independent from
the sample used in Study 1. As part of a larger survey, respondents received a ques-
tionnaire including, among others, the three-foci commitment and intent to quit
measures. Questionnaires were sent directly to the subjectsÕ private addresses. A cov-
er letter accompanying the questionnaire explained the objective of the study, as-
sured that responses would be conﬁdential, and asked participants to send back
their completed questionnaire to the researchersÕ oﬃce using a pre-stamped enve-
lope. This letter also mentioned that questionnaires were coded so as to allow re-
searchers to send a reminder memo to non respondents after a 2-week period, and
to track respondentsÕ organizational membership status after 18 months. In total,
408 subjects responded to the survey. Excluding the incomplete questionnaires,
397 responses were usable for conducting the analyses (a 56.4% response rate).
Among respondents, 353 could be contacted 18 months later to determine if they
voluntarily left their organization during that time lag. Because we were interested in
voluntary turnover, we excluded from the analysis 37 respondents who were laid oﬀ,
leaving a ﬁnal sample of 316 employees. As respondents were asked to report the
name of their organization, we were able to contact their employer in order to verify
the accuracy of their membership reports. We did so for a random subset of 50 em-
ployees. No discrepancy was detected between employeesÕ reports of their member-
ship and reason of turnover (voluntary vs. involuntary) if any, and the
corresponding employersÕ views.
The ﬁnal sample of respondents had an average age of 29.5 years ðSD ¼ 4:6Þ and
an average organizational tenure of 3.5 years ðSD ¼ 4:3Þ at Time 1. Among partic-
ipants, 67.4% were male and 92.0% were employed full-time. Respondents worked in
C. Vandenberghe et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 64 (2004) 47–71 57
banking and insurance (16.7%), industries (13.1%), research (11.2%), consulting
(8.7%), public administration (8.3%), computer science (7.4%), public health
(6.7%), transportation and communication (3.8%), law (2.9%), environmental agen-
cies (2.6%), advertising (1.9%), construction (1.6%), trade (1.3%), teaching (1.0%),
media and real-estate (.6%), leisure and sports (.3%), or were unclassiﬁed (11.9%).
Commitment. Aﬀective commitment to the organization, the supervisor, and the
work group was measured using the same scales as in Study 1.
Intent to quit. We measured intent to quit with two items: ‘‘I often think about
quitting this organization’’ and ‘‘I intend to search for a position with another em-
ployer within the next year.’’ These items were adapted from Hom and Griﬀeth
(1991) and Jaros (1997), respectively.
Turnover. Stayers were rated as 1 while voluntary leavers were rated as 2. The
turnover rate in the sample was 20.0%.
3.2. Results and discussion
Data were analyzed using the structural equations modeling approach using the
LISREL 8.3 package (J€reskog & S€rbom, 1993). The dichotomous nature of the
turnover variable violated a key assumption of standard structural equation model-
ing procedures which presume interval-level scaling of variables. To circumvent this
statistical problem, we followed BollenÕs (1989) recommendations and used, as input
for model estimation, a matrix of polychoric correlations and its associated asymp-
totic covariance matrix in place of the traditional covariance matrix of observed vari-
ables, and analyzed the data by the weighted-least-squares method of estimation.
A similar approach for correcting data for noninterval scaling has been used in prior
turnover research (Jaros, Jermier, Koehler, & Sincich, 1993; Sager et al., 1998).
Table 5 presents the descriptive statistics and the correlations among latent vari-
ables in the conﬁrmatory factor analytic model. As can be seen, intent to quit was
more strongly associated with aﬀective organizational commitment than with com-
mitments to the supervisor (r ¼ À:71 vs. ).56, t½313 ¼ À4:11, p < :01) and to the
work group (r ¼ À:71 vs. ).55, t½313 ¼ À7:66, p < :01). Likewise, turnover was
Study 2: Descriptive statistics and intercorrelations among latent variables
Variable M SD 1 2 3 4 5
1. AC-ORG 3.18 .90 .89
2. AC-SUP 3.41 .90 .57Ã .88
3. AC-GR 3.37 .81 .72Ã .63Ã .83
4. Intent to quit 2.40 1.19 ).71Ã ).56Ã ).55Ã .82
5. Turnover 1.20 .40 ).15Ã ).06 ).23Ã .47Ã —
Note. N ¼ 316. a coeﬃcients are reported on the diagonal. For Turnover, stayers were coded as 1 and
leavers as 2. All intercorrelations are estimated by LISREL.
p < :001.
58 C. Vandenberghe et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 64 (2004) 47–71
more strongly tied to intent to quit than to commitment to the organization (r ¼ :47
vs. ).15, t½313 ¼ 6:47, p < :01), to the supervisor (r ¼ :47 vs. ).06, t½313 ¼ 5:81,
p < :01), and to the work group (r ¼ :47 vs. ).23, t½313 ¼ 7:79, p < :01).
Fit indices for structural models are presented in Table 6. The Hypothesized mod-
el, which proposes organizational commitment to be indirectly related to turnover
via intent to quit (Hypothesis 2a) and commitments to the supervisor and to the
work group to inﬂuence intent to quit through organizational commitment (Hypoth-
esis 2b), yielded a good ﬁt to the data, as evidenced by its sizeable GFI, AGFI, TLI,
and CFI values. Although not hypothesized in this study, signiﬁcant bivariate rela-
tionships between commitments to the supervisor and to the work group and intent
to quit have been reported in previous research (Becker et al., 1996), leaving the pos-
sibility that these attitudes could also have direct eﬀects on intent to quit. In order to
test these plausible connections, we estimated two models in which the paths from
these constructs to intent to quit were alternatively freed (cf. Table 6). Alternate
model 1, which added a direct eﬀect of commitment to the supervisor on intent to
quit, was a signiﬁcant improvement over the Hypothesized model, Dv2 ð1Þ ¼ 58:80,
p < :001, indicating that this eﬀect was not trivial. In contrast, Alternate model 2,
which added a path from commitment to the work group on intent to quit, did
not diﬀer signiﬁcantly from the Hypothesized model, Dv2 ð1Þ ¼ 2:73, ns, signaling
that the path of interest was not signiﬁcant. Finally, in order to test whether the path
from organizational commitment to intent to quit was of the same magnitude than
the path from commitment to the supervisor to intent to quit, we estimated a model
in which these paths were constrained to equality (Alternate 3, cf. Table 6). Contrast-
ing this model with the Alternate model 1 resulted in a signiﬁcant decrease in ﬁt,
Dv2 ð1Þ ¼ 19:20, p < :001, revealing that the paths in question were not equal.
The standardized weighted-least-squares estimates of the structural parameters
for the retained Alternate model 1 are reported in Fig. 1. As can be seen, aﬀective
commitment to the supervisor (b ¼ :12, p < :001) and to the work group (b ¼ :68,
p < :001) were signiﬁcantly related to organizational commitment which in turn in-
ﬂuenced intent to quit (b ¼ À:57, p < :001), with the latter being signiﬁcantly asso-
ciated with turnover (b ¼ :38, p < :001). Although not hypothesized, commitment to
Study 2: Fit indices for structural models
Model v2 ðdf Þ GFI AGFI TLI CFI Model Comparison Dv2 ðDdf Þ
Hypothesized 987.34 (176) .97 .96 .96 .97 – –
Alternate 1 928.54Ã (175) .97 .96 .96 .97 Hypothesized vs. 58.80Ã (1)
Alternate 2 984.61Ã (175) .97 .96 .96 .97 Hypothesized vs. 2.73 (1)
Alternate 3 947.74Ã (176) .97 .96 .96 .97 Alternate 1 vs. 19.20Ã (1)
Note. N ¼ 316. GFI, goodness-of-ﬁt index; AGFI, adjusted goodness-of-ﬁt index; TLI, Tucker and
Lewis index; and CFI, comparative ﬁt index.
p < :001.
C. Vandenberghe et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 64 (2004) 47–71 59
Fig. 1. Study 2: Standardized path coeﬃcients for Alternate model 1. For the sake of parsimony, param-
eters for the measurement portion and disturbance terms are not presented. *p < :001.
the supervisor had also a signiﬁcant direct eﬀect on intent to quit (b ¼ À:26,
p < :001).
The estimation of direct eﬀects was supplemented by the calculation of the indi-
rects eﬀects predicted by Hypotheses 2a and 2b. We used the technique recommended
by Sobel (1982, 1986) to estimate the indirect eﬀects of organizational commitment
on turnover (Hypothesis 2a) and of commitment to the supervisor and to the work
group on intent to quit (Hypothesis 2b). The indirect eﬀect of organizational commit-
ment on turnover was ).25 ðSE ¼ :03Þ, and its 95% conﬁdence interval ().19/).31)
did not contain zero. This indicates that the eﬀect was signiﬁcant, which supports Hy-
pothesis 2a. Similarly, the indirect eﬀect of commitment to the supervisor on intent to
quit was ).09 ðSE ¼ :02Þ and its 95% conﬁdence interval ().05/).13) did not contain
zero. Finally, the indirect eﬀect of commitment to the work group on intent to
quit was ).42 ðSE ¼ :03Þ and its 95% conﬁdence interval ().36/).48) did not contain
zero. The latter results lended support to Hypothesis 2b. Worth of noting also is that
the three commitment variables exerted a signiﬁcant indirect eﬀect on turnover [).16
ðSE ¼ :02Þ for commitment to the supervisor, ).17 ðSE ¼ :02Þ for commitment to the
work group, and ).25 ðSE ¼ :03Þ for commitment to the organization].
In brief, the results of this study demonstrated that (a) aﬀective organizational
commitment exerted the strongest direct eﬀect on intent to quit, (b) aﬀective commit-
ment to the supervisor had both a direct and indirect eﬀect on intent to quit, and that
(c) aﬀective commitment to the work group exerted an indirect eﬀect on quitting in-
tentions. The fact that the impact of organizational commitment was stronger than
that of commitment to the supervisor suggests that the organization was psycholog-
ically more relevant in the eyes of employees when they were to generate their mem-
4. Study 3: Relationships with job performance
Prior research regarding the ability of organizational commitment to predict
job performance has provided mixed results (Cohen, 1991; Mathieu & Zajac,
60 C. Vandenberghe et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 64 (2004) 47–71
1990; Randall, 1990). In his quantitative review of the relevant literature, Riketta
(2002) reported a true correlation of .20 between attitudinal organizational commit-
ment and performance. He also found that the way commitment was measured (via
the ACS or the OCQ) did not inﬂuence the strength of the relationship. Thus, the
reasons for such a weak relationship must be searched elsewhere than in diﬀerences
in conceptualization and/or measurement of commitment. Among these, the nature
of performance as well as the foci of commitment seem to be important ones. As far
as in-role activities are concerned, it seems that organizational commitment is not
strongly related to performance (Becker & Kernan, 2001; Bishop et al., 2000; Elle-
mers et al., 1998; Keller, 1997; Settoon et al., 1996). In contrast, when organizational
citizenship behavior is used as criterion, organizational commitment appears to have
a more powerful inﬂuence (Organ & Ryan, 1995; Riketta, 2002). This diﬀerential re-
lationship may be due to the fact that the performance of in-role activities is more
dependent on regular interactions with, and feedback from, proximal entities such
as the work group and supervisor (Becker et al., 1996), these foci being psycholog-
ically more salient and relevant than the distal organization for such purposes. In
contrast, organizational citizenship behavior is concerned with behavior that beneﬁts
the organization as a whole, hence renders the organization a more salient entity to
As supervisors have the formal responsibility to monitor, direct, and provide feed-
back to, employees in the performance of their in-role duties (Eisenberger et al.,
2002), supervisors facilitate the acceptance of performance norms by employees
(Becker et al., 1996; Siders et al., 2001). Due to these interactions, the supervisor
should represent the most salient commitment focus when prediction of job perfor-
mance is at stake. Support for this contention has been provided by Becker et al.
(1996) and Becker and Kernan (2001) who found that commitment to the supervisor
was more strongly associated with performance than was overall commitment to the
organization. Similarly, in traditional work settings, commitment to the work group
may also be less important than commitment to the supervisor for predicting job
performance. This is because co-workers are not formally in charge of monitoring,
guiding, and rewarding employee performance. Note that this may not be the case
in self-directed work teams, in which the completion of tasks and responsibility
for end products are collectively shared by the team (Bishop & Scott, 2000; Bishop
et al., 2000). To summarize, the supervisor should be a more salient and relevant
commitment focus than the organization and the work group when job performance
is the outcome of interest.
Hypothesis 3a: Aﬀective commitment to the supervisor has a signiﬁcant direct
eﬀect on job performance.
The role of aﬀective commitments to the organization and to the work group in
the prediction of job performance should be indirect. Indeed, they may act on per-
formance through commitment to the supervisor, the latter representing the person
who is formally responsible for driving employees in performing competently on the
job. The organization is a more distant entity in this case because it provides the
more general rules and strategic orientation within which the actions of individual
employees should take place. Similarly, the work group is psychologically less salient
C. Vandenberghe et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 64 (2004) 47–71 61
because co-workers may only provide informal aid in the performance of duties.
However, we could expect aﬀective commitment to the organization to be more
strongly related to commitment to the supervisor than commitment to the work
group would be, because supervisors are representatives of the organization toward
employees (Eisenberger, Fasolo, & Davis-LaMastro, 1990; Eisenberger et al., 1986)
while co-workers do not possess such formal status and prestige (Eisenberger et al.,
2002). Consequently, the indirect eﬀect of organizational commitment on job perfor-
mance should be stronger than the corresponding indirect eﬀect of commitment to
the work group.
Hypothesis 3b: Aﬀective commitments to the organization and to the work
group have a signiﬁcant indirect eﬀect on job performance via commitment to
Hypothesis 3c: The indirect eﬀect of aﬀective commitment to the organization on
job performance is stronger than the corresponding indirect eﬀect of commitment to
the work group.
4.1.1. Sample and procedure
We obtained the formal agreement of the nursing director of a Belgian hospital to
conduct an attitude survey among its nursing staﬀ. As part of a larger study, all
nurses received a questionnaire including the measures of aﬀective commitment to
the organization, to the supervisor and to the work group. A cover letter accompa-
nying the questionnaire explained the objective of the study, assured that responses
would be kept conﬁdential, and asked participants to return their completed
questionnaire to the researchersÕ oﬃce using a pre-stamped envelope. The letter also
mentioned that questionnaires were coded in order to match responses with supervi-
sor-rated performance appraisals. Nurses voluntarily completed the survey during
their regularly scheduled work hours.
Of the 530 nurses who were contacted, 278 returned their questionnaire to the
researchers, with 270 of them providing usable returns, for a 50.9% response rate.
Six months later, head nurses were contacted to provide performance ratings for
their ward nurses on a 4-item scale designed by the researchers. Due to missing
data on commitment measures ðN ¼ 19Þ and performance ratings (2 head nurses
for 23 nurses) as well as turnover among nurses ðN ¼ 34Þ, the number of valid
commitment-performance pairings was reduced to 194. These responses involved
performance assessments by 32 head nurses, for an average number of perfor-
mance ratings per unit of 6.06 (range ¼ 1–16). In the ﬁnal sample of nurses, aver-
age age was 35.4 years ðSD ¼ 8:3Þ and average organizational tenure was 10.3
years ðSD ¼ 6:7Þ. Among respondents, 82.9% were female and 58.0% worked
Commitment. Aﬀective commitment to the organization, the supervisor, and the
work group were measured using the same scales as in the ﬁrst two studies.
62 C. Vandenberghe et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 64 (2004) 47–71
Performance. Supervisor-rated performance appraisals were obtained 6 months
after Time 1 data collection. Based on a panel discussion with the nursing manage-
ment staﬀ, four criteria were selected as being central aspects of nursesÕ job in this
hospital. Head nurses rated the performance of their staﬀ on the following criteria:
(a) quality of care, (b) quality of contacts with patients, (c) work-related helping be-
havior directed toward colleagues, and (d) work-related helping behavior directed
toward the head nurse. Ratings were provided using a 10-point scale anchored ‘‘ex-
tremely poor’’ (1) and ‘‘outstanding’’ (10). Performance data were submitted to a
principal components analysis. Results suggested a single factor, as indicated by a
strong loading of items on the ﬁrst factor (mean loading: .85), accounting for
71.5% of the total variance, a clear break in the scree plot, and eigenvalues less than
1.0 for the remaining potential factors. We thus combined the items to create a single
score of performance for each nurse. In addition, as head nurses assessed the perfor-
mance of several nurses (range ¼ 1–16), we standardized the performance ratings
within raters, i.e., subtracting the mean of each unit from the score of any particular
nurse. These standardized performance ratings were then used as input in the LIS-
REL analyses. Such a procedure allowed us to control for any potential response
bias in supervisor ratings.
4.2. Results and discussion
The relationships among commitment variables and job performance were ana-
lyzed using the structural equations modeling approach with the LISREL 8.3 pack-
age (J€reskog & S€rbom, 1993). The covariance matrix of observed variables was
used as input for model estimation through maximum likelihood. Table 7 displays
the descriptive statistics and the intercorrelations among latent variables in the con-
ﬁrmatory factor analytic model. Of greatest interest, aﬀective commitment to the su-
pervisor was signiﬁcantly associated with job performance (r ¼ :24, p < :01).
Fit indices for structural models are presented in Table 8. The Hypothesized mod-
el yielded a good ﬁt to the data, as indicated by a TLI of .89 and a CFI of .91,
these indices being particularly suited for the comparison of competing models
(Medsker et al., 1994). As some studies have reported signiﬁcant relationships
between organizational commitment and performance (Angle & Lawson, 1994;
Study 3: Descriptive statistics and intercorrelations among latent variables
Variable M SD 1 2 3 4
1. AC-ORG 2.79 .89 .79
2. AC-SUP 3.29 .94 .46ÃÃ .87
3. AC-GR 3.67 .84 .36ÃÃ .32ÃÃ .83
4. Job performance 7.63 1.14 .05 .24Ã .11 .86
Note. N ¼ 194. a coeﬃcients are reported on the diagonal. All intercorrelations are estimated by
p < :01.
p < :001.
C. Vandenberghe et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 64 (2004) 47–71 63
Study 3: Fit indices for structural models
Model v2 ðdf Þ GFI AGFI TLI CFI Model Comparison Dv2 ðDdf Þ
Hypothesized 372.51Ã (199) .84 .80 .89 .91 —
Alternate 1 372.17Ã (198) .84 .80 .89 .91 Hypothesized vs. .34 (1)
Alternate 2 372.46Ã (198) .84 .80 .89 .91 Hypothesized vs. .05 (1)
Note. N ¼ 194. GFI, goodness-of-ﬁt index; AGFI, adjusted goodness-of-ﬁt index; TLI, Tucker and
Lewis index; and CFI, comparative ﬁt index.
p < :001.
Mayer & Schoorman, 1992; Meyer, Paunonen, Gellatly, Goﬃn, & Jackson, 1989)
and between team commitment and performance (Bishop & Scott, 2000; Ellemers
et al., 1998), we tested for such possibilities by relaxing the corresponding paths in
the Hypothesized model. Alternate model 1, which freed the path from organiza-
tional commitment to performance, did not improve over the Hypothesized model,
Dv2 ð1Þ ¼ :34, ns, nor did Alternate model 2, which relaxed the path from work group
commitment to performance, Dv2 ð1Þ ¼ :05, ns (cf. Table 8).
Fig. 2 presents the standardized parameter estimates for the Hypothesized model.
As can be seen, organizational commitment (b ¼ :40, p < :001) and work group
commitment (b ¼ :18, p < :05) were signiﬁcantly related to commitment to the su-
pervisor, with the latter being signiﬁcantly associated with performance (b ¼ :25,
p < :01), hence providing support to Hypothesis 3a.
We estimated the indirect eﬀects of aﬀective commitments to the organization and
to the work group on job performance using the procedure outlined by Sobel (1987).
The indirect eﬀect of organizational commitment on performance was .08 ðSE ¼ :03Þ
and its 95% conﬁdence interval (.02/.14) did not contain zero, suggesting that the
eﬀect was signiﬁcant. The indirect eﬀect of commitment to the work group on
Fig. 2. Study 3: Standardized path coeﬃcients for Hypothesized model. For the sake of parsimony,
parameters for the measurement portion and disturbance terms are not presented. Ã p < :05; ÃÃ p < :01;
and ÃÃÃ p < :001.
64 C. Vandenberghe et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 64 (2004) 47–71
performance was .04 ðSE ¼ :02Þ, with its 95% conﬁdence interval (.00/.08) including
zero, hence revealing that the eﬀect was not signiﬁcant. The latter results lended only
partial support to Hypothesis 3b. Finally, Hypothesis 3c asserted that the indirect
eﬀect of organizational commitment on performance would be stronger than the cor-
responding eﬀect of commitment to the work group. Although there is no statistical
test that permits to directly compare the relative strength of indirect eﬀects, the fact
that the 95% conﬁdence intervals for the indirect eﬀects of organizational commit-
ment (.02/.14) and work group commitment (.00/.08) did overlap suggests that their
magnitude cannot be said to diﬀer. Hypothesis 3c was thus rejected.
As one item of the performance scale that we used contained an explicit reference
to behaviors beneﬁtting the supervisor (i.e., ‘‘work-related helping behavior directed
toward the head nurse’’), it could have artifactually inﬂated the relationship between
commitment to the supervisor and performance. To check for this possibility, we
excluded that item and rerun the analyses using a 3-item, rather than the original
4-item, scale of performance. This shortened scale had a reliability of .82. Results
remained the same. The Hypothesized model yielded a good ﬁt to the data,
v2 ð179Þ ¼ 343:18, TLI ¼ .89, and CFI ¼ .91, and the Alternate models 1 and 2 did
not improve over the Hypothesized model (Dv2 ð1Þ ¼ :02, ns, and Dv2 ð1Þ ¼ :00, ns,
respectively). These results rule out the explanation of our ﬁndings being biased
by the inclusion in the measure of commitment to the supervisor of an item referring
to helping behavior beneﬁtting the supervisor.
As a whole, the results of this study were consistent with the view that the psycho-
logical salience and relevance of the supervisor with respect to issues related to per-
forming well in oneÕs job made commitment to this target more critical in explaining
job performance. On the other hand, the reduced salience of the organization and
work group foci rendered the eﬀect of commitment to these entities on performance
only indirect, if any.
5. General discussion
Three longitudinal studies are reported demonstrating that aﬀective commitments
to the organization, the supervisor, and the work group can be reliably distinguished,
have distinct antecedents, and inﬂuence turnover in a diﬀerent manner than they im-
pact job performance.
The results associated with Study 1 provide convergent evidence that employees
do engage in separate exchange relationships with the organization to which they
belong, the supervisor who is in charge of monitoring their performance, and the
co-workers with whom they interact in the completion of their tasks. The data sug-
gest that the perceptions of being supported by the organization, of having a con-
structive and quality exchange relationship with oneÕs superior, and of working in
a cohesive work group, foster employee commitment speciﬁcally directed toward
these entities. That is, POS contributed uniquely to aﬀective organizational com-
mitment, LMX was uniquely related to aﬀective commitment to the supervisor,
whereas perceived group cohesiveness was the sole signiﬁcant predictor of aﬀective
C. Vandenberghe et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 64 (2004) 47–71 65
commitment to the work group. By using a longitudinal design and involving all
predictors of interest in the same regression equation, this study improved over
In line with LewinÕs (1943) ﬁeld theory, work commitment foci are likely to vary
in their level of psychological salience to employees. A basic tenet of ﬁeld theory is
that the most salient foci will have the strongest eﬀect on individual behavior (Mat-
hieu, 1991; Mathieu & Hamel, 1989). When organization-relevant variables such as
intent to quit and turnover are at stake, employees will thus primarily evaluate the
current state of their relationship with the organization, hence the organization will
be the most salient entity to their mind. Consequently, attitudes towards the organi-
zation (e.g., commitment to the organization) will more directly inﬂuence employee
turnover whereas the inﬂuence of commitments to the supervisor and to the work
group will be mainly indirect. These predictions are also in line with a levels-of-anal-
ysis interpretation of the commitment-outcome relationship. That is, if both commit-
ment and the outcome address the same level (the organization, the supervisor, or
the work group), then their relationship will be stronger. That is what we found in
Study 2. More speciﬁcally, by including aﬀective commitments to the organization,
to the supervisor, and to the work group together in the same model as potential pre-
dictors of turnover intentions and actual turnover, we were able to tease out their
direct and indirect eﬀects on withdrawal.
Given this, aﬀective organizational commitment was found to have a signiﬁcant
indirect eﬀect on turnover through intent to quit and commitments to the supervisor
and to the work group exerted indirect eﬀects on intent to quit through organiza-
tional commitment. Of interest, commitment to the supervisor had also an unex-
pected direct eﬀect on intent to quit (b ¼ À:26, p < :001). The added value of the
present ﬁnding is that the signiﬁcant eﬀect of supervisor commitment was observed
while accounting for the inﬂuence of organizational commitment, which previous re-
search has not done. This should encourage researchers to revise their turnover mod-
els by including commitment to foci other than the global organization as additional
predictors of voluntary departure. Indeed, our ﬁndings highlight the importance of
the three commitment variables in explaining turnover, as all of them exerted a sig-
niﬁcant indirect eﬀect on actual turnover.
The ﬁnding of a signiﬁcant eﬀect of supervisor commitment on intent to quit may
be explained by the fact that supervisors are formal representatives of the organiza-
tion toward employees (Eisenberger et al., 2002) and that if the employee cannot
change supervisors in case of low commitment to him/her, this would result in the
willingness to leave the organization. Although the eﬀect of organizational commit-
ment on intent to quit was stronger than the eﬀect of commitment to the supervisor
(cf. Table 6), future research should examine whether the relative strength of these
eﬀects is moderated by the ease of intra-organizational mobility (McElroy, Morrow,
& Mullen, 1996; Todor & Dalton, 1986). Indeed, if the employee is not provided with
the opportunity to work for another supervisor when commitment to this target per-
son is low, the single remaining option would be to leave. In other words, it is plau-
sible that when there are few opportunities for intra-organizational mobility, the
negative eﬀect of aﬀective commitment to the supervisor on leaving would be
66 C. Vandenberghe et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 64 (2004) 47–71
strengthened. Though an alternative to leaving would be to reduce the number of in-
teractions with the supervisor (Malatesta, 1995), this may have a detrimental eﬀect
on job performance because the supervisor is formally responsible for orienting em-
ployeesÕ on-the-job behavior. The employee may not aﬀord such a situation and de-
cide to leave anyway.
Another explanation for the signiﬁcant direct eﬀect of commitment to the super-
visor on intent to quit relates to the nature of the sample involved in Study 2. In-
deed, the sample was composed of young employees with relatively short tenure
(average age was 29.5 years and average tenure was 3.5 years), all having a master
degree. These employees, more than others, may enter organizations with the ex-
pectation that their supervisor will oﬀer them lots of personal development oppor-
tunities. In case this expectation is not met, these employees may reduce their
aﬀective commitment to the supervisor, hence more readily decide to leave the
Study 3 showed with a sample of 194 hospital nurses that commitment to the su-
pervisor had a signiﬁcant direct eﬀect on job performance and that organizational
commitment signiﬁcantly aﬀected job performance through supervisor commitment.
This ﬁnding furthers Becker et al.Õs (1996) and Becker and KernanÕs (2001) results
that commitment to the supervisor is more strongly associated with performance
than is overall commitment to the organization. Because the supervisor has the for-
mal responsibility to monitor and direct employees in the performance of their in-
role duties (Becker et al., 1996; Eisenberger et al., 2002; Siders et al., 2001), this entity
becomes particularly salient to employees when they have to direct their eﬀorts at
work. Consequently, aﬀective commitment to the supervisor represents the attitude
which more directly predicts employee performance. In contrast, because the orga-
nization has less direct relevance in this context, the inﬂuence of commitment to
the organization on performance has been found to be only indirect in this study.
Probably that, in order to perform well on the job, employees will ﬁnd more energy
from the emotional bond they have created with their supervisor than with their
organization. The employeeÕs relationship with the organization as assessed via
his/her level of aﬀective organizational commitment, provides just a Ôfavorable
ground,Õ that needs however to be more focused in order to more directly inﬂuence
The fact that work group commitment did not exert a signiﬁcant indirect eﬀect on
performance despite its being a signiﬁcant predictor of supervisor commitment
(b ¼ :18, p < :05) may be due to the very nature of the nursing occupation. Nurses
are usually recognized as being deeply trained and competent in the performance of
their in-role duties (Kramer, 1981). This level of expertise and the ability to achieve
oneÕs job competently plausibly underlies the sense of autonomy valued by nurses as
well as by most professionals (Kerr, Von Glinow, & Schriesheim, 1977). Conse-
quently, interactions with colleagues in performing oneÕs job may not be crucial
for nurses. In contrast, this may not be the case for interactions with the head nurse
whose role in monitoring care quality to patients and in transmitting physiciansÕ di-
rectives to ward nurses is more critical, hence the strong inﬂuence of supervisor com-
mitment on job performance.
C. Vandenberghe et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 64 (2004) 47–71 67
5.1. Limitations and future perspectives
A strength of our set of studies was their longitudinal nature, and for two of them,
the use of data obtained from an external source. However, as any other research,
the present one has a number of limitations. First, the relationships between commit-
ments and the target outcomes were based on predictors being measured at the same
time. So, even though we relied on the structural equations modeling approach for
testing our hypotheses for Studies 2 and 3, one should be cautious about drawing
causality inferences concerning relationships among commitments to the organiza-
tion, the supervisor, and the work group. In the future, it might be worthwhile to
use panel designs in which commitments and their antecedents/outcomes would be
measured at more than one occasion. This type of design would provide stronger ev-
idence for causal relationships among commitments and their presumed antecedents/
outcomes than is aﬀorded when variables are measured simultaneously (Finkel,
1995). However, panel designs also have limitations, namely because they test sub-
stantive relationships while auto-correlations among variables across measurement
occasions are accounted for. This might be overly conservative when auto-correla-
tions are high.
Second, in both Studies 2 and 3, commitment to the work group did not exert a
direct eﬀect on work outcomes. This does not mean that its consideration was use-
less. For example, using SobelÕs (1982, 1986) recommendations for the computation
of indirect eﬀects in Study 2, commitment to the work group had actually a signif-
icant indirect eﬀect on both intent to quit ().42; SE ¼ :03; 95% conﬁdence inter-
val ¼ ).36/).48) and turnover ().17; SE ¼ :02; 95% conﬁdence interval ¼ ).13/
).21). However, future investigations should be conducted in organizational settings
that make the work group a more salient focus of commitment (e.g., self-directed
work teams, cf. Bishop & Scott, 2000; Bishop et al., 2000) with respect to some work
outcomes, or to identify aspects of work behavior that might be more intrinsically
tied to commitment to the work group (e.g., mutual aid among co-workers that
are not explicitly rewarded; cf. McNeely & Meglino, 1994).
The third study reported in this research has been conducted in the nursing staﬀ of a
general hospital. This type of population may display peculiarities that warrant com-
ments. First, in contrast to the samples of university Alumni used in Study 1 and 2, the
nurse sample was predominantly female. Although it is unclear how such characteris-
tic may aﬀect relationships between commitments and job performance, future re-
search is nonetheless needed to examine this issue more closely. Second, and may be
more importantly, the correlations between commitments to the organization, to
the supervisor, and to the work group were lower in the nurse sample from Study 3
(cf. Table 7) than in the samples used in Study 1 (cf. Table 3) and in Study 2 (Table
5). This may be explained by the fact that hospitals have more diﬀerentiated structures
than other types of organizations, hence inner entities tend to be more distinct than in
other contexts. Consequently, nurses may be more capable of diﬀerentiating their level
of commitment to the organization, to the supervisor, and to the work group.
Also, it might be argued that the three studies lack overall comparability. For ex-
ample, the fact that Studies 1 and 2 relied on samples of Alumni makes it diﬃcult to
68 C. Vandenberghe et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 64 (2004) 47–71
determine whether employees from these samples diﬀer on some important organi-
zational, group or supervisor characteristics. Although this bias is undetermined,
the large variety of industries represented in the samples makes it unlikely that a sys-
tematic bias aﬀects the ﬁndings. Indeed, no industry was particularly overrepre-
sented. So, if a bias does exist, it is probably more of a random than of a
systematic one. Moreover, as our analyses involved individual attitudes and behav-
iors rather than aggregate phenomena, systematic ﬂuctuations in contexts may be
less relevant for the purposes of this study. However, this should not undermine
the need for more research addressing how characteristics of organizations, groups,
and supervisors aﬀect commitment–behavior relationships.
This research did not consider potential moderators of the relationships between
commitments to the organization, to the supervisor, and to the work group, and
work outcomes. For example, it might be that the ease of intra-organizational mo-
bility aﬀects the strength of the relationship between commitment to the supervisor
and to the work group and intent to quit (Todor & Dalton, 1986). Similarly, the ex-
tent to which the supervisor is perceived as representing the organization (cf. Eisen-
berger et al., 2002) may moderate the relationship between commitment to the
supervisor and intended or actual turnover. Also, the relationship between work
group commitment and job performance could be stronger when team performance
is rewarded by the organization (Bishop & Scott, 2000). Finally, other forms of com-
mitment might be worth investigating across foci. Incorporating both foci and forms
of commitment within a single model would enrich our understanding of how inter-
dependencies develop across them and aﬀect behavior.
We thank John P. Meyer, Thomas E. Becker, and Vicente Gonzales-Roma for
their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.
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