Factors that impact employee commitment

by L&D12 Sep 2016
These days it is becoming more and more common for older workers to report to younger supervisors.

But how do disparities in experience and education impact the employees commitment to their organisations?

A new study from the Naveen Jindal School of Management at UT Dallas sought to discover just that.

“Status incongruence” negatively impacted a transformational leaders' ability to "foster attachment" to the organisation among subordinates, according to Dr. Orlando Richard, associate professor of organisations, strategy and international management.

Status incongruence occurs when a subordinate is older or has more education or work experience than their supervisor.

"Transformational leadership is supposedly the best type of leadership to inspire followers," Richard said.

"But what happens when your boss is less experienced or younger than you?

“You are less likely to respond to their leadership style. It also affects the level of commitment you have to the organisation because you feel you are more qualified than they are."

The researchers looked at both the United States and Turkey, and found that status incongruence weakened the relationship between transformational leadership and affective commitment.

The study defined “transformational leadership” as “inspiring subordinates to work for the good of the organisation by motivating them through the leader's strategic vision, communication of the vision and commitment toward the vision”.

Affective commitment is an attachment that an employee would have toward an organisation, Richard said.

Companies want their employees to have a sense of loyalty, and commitment has implications for productivity, performance and retention rates.

"From an HR standpoint, I think it's important to make sure that you have the right leader in place because if employees feel that the wrong person is in charge, there could be negative consequences for the organisation down the road," Richard said.

"No one wants to work for someone who they feel doesn't have the credentials."

The study also looked at how the effects of a transformational leadership style and a supervisor's gender predict a subordinate's commitment.

In Turkey, the effect was stronger for men than women, while in the United States, the effect was stronger for women than men.

Men were penalised when they had less experience and education, and tried to display transformational leadership. When they were on par, their subordinates were more committed to them if they showed transformational leadership styles.

"These relationships in the U.S. context are important for women in leadership positions," Richard said.

"Women in management have to especially have the credentials in order to demand respect. If they do, and they display transformational leadership, they'll experience more commitment from their employees."

The study was published in the journal Personnel Psychology.