Read Employee commitment has long been a focus of study for those interested in the design and management of organizations text version

Antecedents of Commitment among Public Employees in China

Peter J. Robertson School of Policy, Planning, and Development University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA 90089-0626 Email: [email protected] Carlos Wing-Hung Lo Department of Management Hong Kong Polytechnic University Hunghom, Kowloon Hong Kong Email: [email protected] Shui-Yan Tang School of Policy, Planning, and Development University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA 90089-0626 Email: [email protected]

Presented at the Public Management Research Conference Georgetown University October, 2003 Please direct all correspondence to Shui-Yan Tang

Antecedents of Commitment among Public Employees in China Employee commitment has long been a focus of study for those interested in the design and management of organizations. Commitment has been found to be related to a variety of attitudinal and behavioral consequences among employees, for example, motivation level, organizational citizenship, and turnover rates (Meyer & Allen, 1997). In turn, the positive benefits of a committed workforce are recognized as important determinants of organizational effectiveness. Committed employees who are highly motivated to contribute their time and energy to the pursuit of organizational goals are increasingly acknowledged to be the primary asset available to an organization (Pfeffer, 1998). They provide the intellectual capital that, for many organizations, has become their most critical asset (Stewart, 1997). Furthermore, employees who share a commitment to the organization and their collective well-being are more apt to generate the social capital--found in relationships characterized by high levels of trust and shared values--that facilitates organizational learning. In the public administration literature, there has been a long tradition that emphasizes the importance of public officials' personal commitment to their profession as the foundation of administrative responsibility (Friedrich, 1940; Gaus, 1936; Miller, 2000). In a recent article, Miller (2000) demonstrates the inherent difficulties of resolving moral hazard problems in public agencies by the use of penalties and incentives alone. He reaffirms Gaus's argument that personal "commitment to professional standards" is the ultimate safeguard against "political opportunism" (p. 320). More generally, public employees' commitment to act in the interests of their organization and/or the members of the public being served by their organization has been recognized as important to the success of public organizations (Balfour & Wechsler, 1994; Perry & Wise, 1990; Romzek, 1990).


Considerable research has explored a wide variety of antecedents hypothesized to influence commitment levels. This topic has been addressed from at least two different perspectives, namely the organizational behavior (OB) and the rational choice (RC) perspectives (cf. Robertson & Tang, 1995). Literature from the OB perspective tends to support the notion that higher levels of commitment are generated by organizational practices that are congruent with employees' personal values (Balfour & Wechsler, 1994). Literature from the RC perspective tends to emphasize the importance of organizational practices that credibly reward performance with tangible benefits (Miller, 1992). While each of the two research perspectives has found evidence to support its respective arguments, most of it has been based on research in the United States. To what extent can these findings be generalized to other cultural and institutional contexts? Despite a recent increase in the volume of research exploring the dynamics of organizational commitment in other countries, the nature of any cross-cultural differences in terms of the conditions that influence employee commitment are not yet well-understood. More research is needed to ascertain how the various antecedents associated with the OB or the RC perspectives shape organizational commitment in other cultural and institutional settings. This study contributes to that agenda by investigating the antecedents of commitment among government employees in China, based on a survey of local environmental protection officials in three cities. Respondents were employed in the cities' municipal environmental protection bureaus, with the majority of them having regulatory enforcement responsibilities. Survey questions measured organizational commitment, six potential antecedents to commitment identified in the OB and RC literatures, and five demographic control variables. Results of regression analyses indicate that three of the antecedents--role fit, job challenge, and


management support--are significantly related to commitment in all three cities. Each of the other three antecedents--extrinsic rewards, belief in mission, and environmental consciousness--is significantly related to commitment in at least one of the three cities, but the pattern of findings for these variables varies among the cities. In the pages that follow, we first provide an overview of some of the relevant literature on commitment to describe the theoretical background of this study. We also consider findings from cross-cultural research on commitment, and discuss how the different cultural and institutional context of China might influence the pattern of antecedents that shape organizational commitment among Chinese public officials. We then describe the methods used to carry out the study. After a presentation of the findings, the paper concludes with a discussion of how this study contributes to a better understanding of the multi-faceted determinants of commitment in diverse public organizational contexts. Theoretical Background The extensive literature on commitment has explored different types or bases of commitment to an organization, as well as a wide variety of antecedent conditions hypothesized to influence commitment levels. For example, O'Reilly and Chatman (1986) suggested three different types of psychological bonds that provide the foundation for commitment, namely, compliance, identification, and internalization; Meyer and Allen (1991) distinguished between continuance, affective, and normative types of commitment; and Balfour and Wechsler (1994) identified the three dimensions of exchange, affiliation, and identification commitment. Research investigating the validity of these conceptual distinctions has suggested that, instead of three general types of commitment, two broad categories are more consistently verified empirically. In particular, a summary of the available evidence (Morrow, 1993)


indicates that organizational commitment can be differentiated between calculative/continuance and attitudinal/affective bases of commitment. The former is more instrumental in nature, reflecting a situation in which an employee remains with an organization because the benefits of staying and/or costs of leaving are greater than the benefits of leaving and/or costs of staying. The latter is rooted in a positive attitude towards and/or affective attachment to the organization, wherein an employee is committed because of the connection s/he feels to the organization, its mission or values, and/or its members. Calculative/continuance commitment is generally compatible with a rational choice perspective. It reflects a "side bets theory" (Becker, 1960) in which employees will maintain their membership in an organization if their sunk costs or personal investment in that organization outweigh the advantages of leaving. From this perspective, employees are engaged in an exchange relationship with the organization, and they make a rational evaluation of the inducements they receive in exchange for their contributions to the organization (March & Simon, 1958). Organizations build credible commitment that employees will meet their obligations only by providing sufficient rewards in exchange for their time and effort. Employees remain committed to this exchange relationship as long as they believe the exchange is reasonable or equitable. Attitudinal/affective commitment is generally compatible with the dominant orientation in the organizational behavior literature that views commitment as reflecting an employee's psychological attachment to an organization (cf. Meyer & Allen, 1991; Porter, Steers, Mowday, & Boulian, 1974). That attachment may be to other individuals in the organization (affiliation), to the organization as an entity (identification), or to its mission and/or values (internalization). The connection may be primarily emotional (affective), or it may derive from the individuals'


deeply-held beliefs (normative). Whatever the source, this type of commitment reflects a desire to be involved in the organization that goes beyond simply the lack of better alternatives. These two categories of commitment imply a focus on different types of antecedents to commitment. The RC orientation toward calculative commitment suggests that the most important antecedents are the benefits an employee accrues from participation in the organization and the investments or sunk costs s/he has in that organization that would be forfeited if s/he left. These would include most obviously the various extrinsic rewards that are received by the employee in the present, as well as the possibility of increased rewards (e.g., through promotion) in the future. It can also include organization-specific knowledge and skills that would lose their value if the employee left the organization. Thus, demographic characteristics such as age and tenure in the organization are also likely antecedents of this type of commitment. In addition to extrinsic rewards, many employees, especially those in professional ranks, desire interesting work that they find meaningful and challenging, as well as the opportunity to be involved in decisions that are relevant to the expectations, requirements, and outcomes of their job activities. Likewise, contemporary employees prefer managerial styles that provide necessary support and guidance while demonstrating respect for employees and their needs and interests. The absence of challenging work and/or management support could reduce the benefits or increase the costs of staying in an organization, thus reducing the level of continuance commitment. The focus on attitudinal commitment in the OB literature has included the exploration of a wide range of factors thought to serve as determinants of such commitment. Most of these focus on employees' perceptions of or attitudes toward various aspects of their work experience (Meyer & Allen, 1993). These include, for example, satisfaction with their pay, their jobs, and


their managers, thus reflecting some overlap with the likely antecedents of calculative commitment. Perceptions of broader organizational characteristics, such as structural dimensions and administrative processes, have also been considered. But what differentiates the OB perspective from the RC orientation most significantly is its focus on factors that influence the degree to which an employee feels as though s/he "fits" in the organization (cf. Chatman, 1989). The experience of fit is determined in part by the role the employee plays as part of the larger organizational system. Employees are likely to perceive a good fit to the extent that they get along well with their co-workers, understand the nature of their contribution to the organization, and have the opportunity to learn and grow (cf. Maslow's [1954] "higher order" social, self-esteem, and self-actualization needs). Perceptions of a good fit are also enhanced by an employee's belief in the importance of the organization's mission and by sufficient compatibility between the organization's and the employee's values (Chatman, 1989). Employees who perceive a better fit are more likely to display organizational citizenship behavior (Organ, 1988) that reflects their high levels of affective commitment. Given the two different types of commitment and their multiple antecedents, no straightforward conclusions can be drawn regarding which factors are most important as determinants of organizational commitment. Every person is unique, of course, and thus the factors that are most important to one person may be largely irrelevant to another. In other words, each employee has an idiosyncratic "psychological contract" with the organization that identifies what s/he wants, hopes, or expects from the organization in return for adequate role performance (Rousseau & Parks, 1993). When employees perceive that the organization has fulfilled its side of the contract, they are more likely to be committed; their commitment


dissipates when they feel that the conditions of the contract have not been met. This need for reciprocity is apparently relevant to both calculative/continuance and attitudinal/affective commitment. While individual differences inevitably exert some influence over the factors that shape organizational commitment, an interesting question is whether or not different factors play a more or less important role in different contexts. Most of the research on organizational commitment has studied employees in the United States or other western countries. Less information is available on the antecedents of commitment among employees in countries that constitute a significantly different institutional and cultural context. In particular, little is known about the determinants of organizational commitment among employees in China. Given the significant political, economic, and cultural differences between the United States and China, the latter provides an intriguing context in which to explore the conditions under which public employees are committed to their organization. Public organizations in China are structured and run differently from their U.S. counterparts, in terms of recruitment, promotion, work environment, and political expectations. As such, public employees in China may have different views and motivations towards their job. In addition, the cultural orientations of the two countries are quite dissimilar, with Chinese culture grounded in a Confucian ethic that is more collectivist in orientation. Given these differences, it is possible that the factors that influence organizational commitment of employees would be different in China as well. In the case of municipal environmental protection bureaus in China, loyalty to the partystate has traditionally been a major condition of employment. Individuals are recruited into the bureau often through their connections (guanxi) in the party-state establishment ­ in most cases,


political reliability is more important than administrative capability as a selection criterion. Political loyalty to the party-state continues to be an important pre-condition for career advancement within the bureau, as the Communist Party has maintained tight control over personnel matters in the bureau (Burns, 2001; Chan, 2003). While the basic salaries for employees in the bureau are relatively low compared with other professional jobs in the blooming business sector, bureau employees receive substantial fringe benefits in the form of housing, bonuses, medical services, traveling allowances, and most important of all, retirement schemes. Similar to other government officials, employees in local environmental protection bureaus generally expect to stay within the same bureaucratic establishment (xitong) ­ the environmental protection establishment ­ with few opportunities to move outside government or other bureaucratic establishments (Lieberthal, 1992). In general, government officials in China are seldom challenged directly by nongovernmental interests when exercising their authority. Yet in the case of environmental protection officials, it is not uncommon for them to face pressure from other party-state actors who may challenge their decisions regarding various economic and development interests (Tang, Lo, Cheung, & Lo, 1997). In recent years, there have been systematic efforts initiated by the central government to reform the bureaucracies towards more open recruitment, professionalism, merit-based recruitment and appraisal, and streamlined operation (Burns, 2001; Chan, 2003; Lam & Chan, 1996). Although there has been pressure for municipal environmental protection bureaus to gradually implement these reform measures, the progress has overall been quite limited. In addition to these institutional issues, cultural differences between China and western countries might also influence which antecedents to commitment are most important among


Chinese public employees. Most of the organizational research exploring cross-cultural differences has relied on the framework developed by Hofstede (1980; 1991). This framework specifies four dimensions of value orientations along which national cultures have been found to vary. Power distance refers to the extent to which a society accepts the fact that power in institutions and organizations is distributed unequally. Uncertainty avoidance reflects the extent to which a society feels threatened by and thus tries to avoid uncertain and ambiguous situations. The individualism-collectivism dimension distinguishes between cultures characterized by a loosely knit social framework in which people are supposed to take care of themselves and of their immediate families only as opposed to those characterized by a tight social framework in which people distinguish between in-groups and out-groups. Masculinity refers to the extent to which the dominant values in society are `masculine,' including assertiveness, the acquisition of money and things, and not caring for others, the quality of life, or people. Because of a concern that the survey on which this framework was originally based was biased towards western values, subsequent research intending to study Chinese cultural values (Chinese Culture Connection, 1987) identified a fifth cultural dimension which has been labeled Confucian dynamism (cf. Hofstede & Bond, 1988) or long-term orientation (cf. Newman & Nollen, 1996). This dimension distinguishes cultures with a future-minded mentality oriented towards persistence, ordering relationships by status, thrift, and having a sense of shame, from those cultures oriented toward the past and present with an emphasis on personal steadiness and stability, saving face, respect for tradition, and reciprocation of greetings, favors, and gifts. Limited research has explored the characteristics of Chinese culture, and most of the existing data come from research in Chinese societies (Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong) that are presumably more "westernized" than is the mainland. The evidence produced through this


research is not entirely consistent, which is not surprising given the ambiguity of the concept of national culture, the difficulty of trying to measure it, the variations among otherwise similar cultures, and the inevitable evolution of cultures over time. However, findings from various studies (e.g., Fernandez, Carlson, Stepina, and Nicholson, 1997; Hofstede & Bond, 1988; Huo & Randall, 1991; Newman & Nollen, 1996) indicate that Chinese culture reflects greater collectivism relative to the high individualism of the United States and other Anglo countries, as well as greater power distance and long-term orientation compared to western countries. Clearcut differences between Chinese and western cultures on the uncertainty avoidance and masculinity dimensions are harder to discern, given considerable variation across studies in terms of the relative rankings of these two value orientations among different Chinese and western samples (cf. Smith & Wang, 1996). The volume of research exploring the topic of organizational commitment in a variety of countries and cultural contexts has been increasing recently (Randall, 1993). However, there is not yet sufficient evidence to identify any cross-cultural differences in terms of the conditions that influence employee commitment. One of the most comprehensive studies to date (Palich, Hom, & Griffeth, 1995) explored how the four original Hofstede cultural dimensions moderated the effects of four antecedent variables on level of commitment. The research focused on determinants of commitment that are "widely supported in the research literature (Mathieu & Zajac, 1990; Mowday et al., 1982) and potentially moderated by culture" (Palich et al., 1995: 674; italics in original), namely, extrinsic rewards, job scope, participative management, and role clarity. The results indicated that the culture differences in their sample do not moderate the effects of these antecedents on commitment. However, all of the respondents in this study were managers from western European countries or Canada, employed by an American multinational


manufacturing firm. Thus, it remains unclear whether more significant cultural differences-- such as those between the West and the East--would demonstrate moderating effects on these or other potential antecedents. From the above discussions, it appears that the different institutional and cultural contexts of China may produce a different set of antecedents for commitment from those found in many western countries. Yet, given the complexities of these differences, it is difficult to form precise inferences as to how the antecedents ­ as discussed in the rational choice and organizational behavior literatures ­ may differ in the two contexts. In this exploratory analysis, we thus propose the following tentative hypothesis: Six antecedents--extrinsic rewards, management support, role fit, job challenge, belief in mission, and environmental consciousness--are related to organizational commitment among local environmental protection officials in China. Methods The data for this study were collected through the administration of a survey questionnaire to employees of the municipal environmental protection bureaus (EPBs) in three cities in China ­ Dalian, Chengdu, and Guangzhou ­ between April and November of 2000. The survey was administered with the endorsement and support of the leaders of all three EPBs, who assigned a specific department to be in charge of the survey. The respondents were from three areas within each EPB: (1) the administrative sections of the EPB, (2) its service organizations, including pollutant discharge supervision and management institutions, monitoring stations, environmental publicity centers, and research institutes, and (3) the subordinate district environmental protection offices (EPOs). Before the survey was administered, a briefing session was held with representatives


from all of the surveyed units. These representatives then distributed the questionnaires to employees in their units, collected completed questionnaires, and returned them to the department in charge of the survey. Responses were obtained from 1312 employees in the three EPBs and their district EPOs, out of 1465 distributed, providing an overall response rate of 90%. In Dalian, 368 out of 409 employees completed and returned usable questionnaires (90%); in Chengdu, a total of 444 out of 476 officials did so (93%); and in Guangzhou, 500 out of 580 were returned (86%). Given the Chinese regime's apprehension that survey results may be used as a basis for criticism of the government, it is typically difficult to collect survey data from public employees in China. It is impossible to conduct these surveys without the endorsement, support, and collaboration of the relevant government units. Hence, this survey provides a rare opportunity to examine Chinese public employees' perceptions of and reactions to various aspects of their organization and their work environment. There was no evidence that leaders in any of the three bureaus tried to influence the outcomes of the survey, and respondents were assured in the text of the questionnaire that all data were collected solely for academic purposes and would remain strictly confidential. Thus, it is reasonable to believe that the responses represent the true opinions of the respondents. In addition to asking questions about the respondents' demographic profiles and views on various operational features of their agency, the survey measured seven variables pertinent to this study, namely, organizational commitment as the dependent variable and six potential antecedents as independent variables. These antecedents reflect the factors discussed above as being relevant to the development of high levels of calculative/continuance and attitudinal/affective commitment. Three variables--extrinsic rewards, job challenge, and


management support--are associated with the rational choice perspective's focus on the benefits received from the organization, and the other three--role fit, belief in mission, and environmental consciousness--are related to the organizational behavior perspective's emphasis on psychological attachment to the organization. The survey items used to measure these seven variables are identified in Table 1. First, organizational commitment was measured with a scale comprised of eight items ( = .81), most of which were translated versions of questions used by Porter et al. (1974). Respondents assessed their degree of agreement with these statements (and those comprising the independent variables) using a five-point Likert scale ranging from "strongly disagree" (1) to "strongly agree (5). One negatively-worded item was reverse-scored prior to calculating the scale mean. __________________________________________________________________________ Insert Table 1 about here __________________________________________________________________________ The independent variables were measured with scales comprised of three, four or, in one case, eight items. Four of the scales (extrinsic rewards, management support, role fit, and belief in mission) have reliability coefficients greater than .70 (typically considered a baseline for adequate scale reliability). However, the coefficients for the other two are a bit lower than that ( = .64 for job challenge, = .67 for environmental consciousness), suggesting that results for these variables should be interpreted cautiously. Finally, the survey included five questions to ascertain demographic characteristics of the respondents (sex, age, education, years in unit, and years in environmental protection) that served as control variables in the analyses. The relationships between the antecedent variables and organizational commitment were assessed using regression analysis. Regressions were run for each city separately, as well as for


the sample as a whole. The next section presents the results of these analyses. Results Descriptive statistics and the correlation matrix for all the dependent and independent variables are presented in Table 2. Overall, the average level of commitment in this sample is relatively high (3.65) and the scores for all of the antecedent variables except for extrinsic rewards are above the midpoint of the scale, indicating that the employees in this sample have generally positive perceptions of the job and organizational conditions assessed in this study. The correlations between commitment and all six antecedent variables are significant, indicating that, individually, each of them is positively related to the level of commitment among the employees in this sample. There are also a number of significant correlations among the antecedent variables themselves, although non of these correlations are high enough to warrant any concern about multicollinearity in the multiple regressions. __________________________________________________________________________ Insert Table 2 about here __________________________________________________________________________ Regression results are included in Table 3. It is worth noting first that the adjusted R2 for each of the four regressions is .50 or greater, suggesting that this set of antecedent variables explains quite a bit of variance (57% overall) in the commitment levels of the Chinese public employees comprising this sample. The F-score for each regression is also significant at the .005 level. Looking at the results for the full three-city sample, coefficients for five of the six antecedents are significant (p < .01), with only belief in government role not demonstrating a positive relationship with commitment. __________________________________________________________________________


Insert Table 3 about here __________________________________________________________________________ Of the five significant antecedents, there seems to be a clear differentiation between three of them with coefficients greater than .20 and the other two with coefficients less than .10. The former ­ role fit, management support, and job challenge ­ are the only three variables to demonstrate a significant relationship with commitment in each of the three cities individually. Each of the other three antecedents is significantly related to commitment in at least one of the three cities, but the pattern of findings for these variables varies among the cities. Extrinsic rewards were a significant predictor in Chengdu and Dalian but not Guangzhou, while environmental consciousness was a significant predictor in Guangzhou but neither of the other two cities. Belief in mission, while not significant in the overall regression, was a significant predictor of commitment in Chengdu. In essence, while three antecedents were common to the public employees across the three cities, each city also had its own unique profile in terms of which other antecedents were positively related to organizational commitment. Finally, while sex, age, and education are unrelated to commitment level among the employees in any of these three cities, the two measures of tenure were significantly related to commitment among the Chengdu employees. The number of years they had worked in the environmental protection field was positively related to their commitment to their current organization. In contrast, however, the number of years they had been employed in their unit was negatively related to their level of commitment. Discussion The purpose of this study was to explore the antecedents of commitment among public sector employees in China. The antecedents included in the research were drawn from the


rational choice and organizational behavior literatures, with the goal of investigating the efficacy with which these two perspectives explain the conditions under which Chinese public employees are committed to their organization. Furthermore, the broader intent was simply to assess whether or not the determinants of commitment for Chinese employees are different from those for the employees in western countries who have comprised the samples for most of the research on commitment. While the findings do not yield conclusive data on this issue, some observations pertinent to these questions can be offered. First, both the RC and the OB perspectives appear to contribute to an understanding of commitment for these environmental protection officials. It is worth noting that extrinsic rewards were not the most important antecedent of commitment in this sample (and wasn't even a significant predictor in one of the three cities), in contrast to what might be predicted by rational choice theorists. However, significant relationships between commitment and both job challenge and management support in all three cities suggest that commitment among these employees is shaped primarily by the quality of their jobs and their managers. To the extent these officials view interesting work and supportive managers as basic expectations to be met by their employing organization, the presence or absence of these factors is likely to be weighted heavily in the employee's calculations regarding their desire to remain a loyal member of that organization and perform at a high level. This result may also be partly due to the fact that the environmental protection officials generally expect to stay in the same agency in their entire career, as is true of most government employees in China, and they understand that their pay, benefits, and promotion opportunities are quite rigidly defined. Thus what motivates them more to commit to their organization is rather their perception of job challenge and management support (and the pride derived from these).


Beyond these considerations, it is clear that the most important determinant of commitment among the employees in this sample is role fit. This suggests that these employees' felt attachment to their organization is greatly influenced by the extent to which they "fit in," as a member of a team and as a contributor to the organization. This feeling of fit is important above and beyond the employees' desire for good rewards, challenging work, and good managers. While these basic requirements might be thought of as the "necessary"conditions for organizational commitment, a good fit might approximate the kind of "sufficient" condition that could potentially compensate for inadequate levels of any of the other three factors. While the significance of fit as an antecedent of strong organizational attachment is compatible with the organizational behavior literature, the OB perspective's emphasis on a belief in the organization's mission and/or congruence between organizational and employee values received only limited support in this sample. The employees' environmental consciousness was a significant predictor of commitment only among the Guangzhou employees. Since extrinsic rewards were not related to commitment in this city, it appears that these officials, generally speaking, are committed to their organization more because of their desire to make a difference than because of what they are getting in return. This may be due in part to the fact that, at the time of the survey, a new bureau chief had just been appointed who was younger, better educated, more committed and determined, and trusted more by the municipal leadership. This new bureau chief provided stronger leadership and generated greater inspiration among the environmental protection workers by stressing the importance of tightening environmental regulation in the city and warning agency officials of having a lax attitude in their work. The net effect of this leadership may well have been to enhance the link between the employees' environmental consciousness and their commitment to the organization.


In Chengdu, commitment was significantly related to these officials' belief that government should place a priority on addressing environmental concerns, possibly reflecting the fact that this city has more pollution and less economic development than the other two, and the city government is viewed as more backward in terms of its environmental protection efforts. However, the level of commitment in this city was inversely related to the number of years the officials had been employed in their unit, suggesting that their organizational experiences, over time, are diminishing the intrinsic commitment that stems from their belief in the organization's mission. Alternatively, this could be due to the fact that, in an effort to streamline the bureaucracy as part of an administrative reform process in the environmental system, the number of staff in the agency had been reduced by retiring officials who were older, less educated, and underperforming. This may have served to reduce the level of commitment of the older employees who remained in the organization. A second conclusion to be drawn from the findings of this study is that there are no obvious differences between the factors that shape commitment among these Chinese public employees and those that shape commitment among employees in many other countries and contexts. A considerable amount of research on the antecedents of commitment has demonstrated that commitment is typically a function of a multitude of factors, at the individual, job, group, and organizational levels of analysis (Meyer & Allen, 1997; Morrow, 1993). Indeed, among the respondents comprising the present sample, issues at all of these levels have some bearing on their level of commitment. These employees are more committed when their jobs are challenging, when they fit in well with their organization and its members, and when their managers and the organization are supportive. Ultimately, there is nothing very notable in this profile, as it seems reasonably consistent with findings from a wide variety of employees around


the world. Yet this consistency may itself be pointing to an interesting finding, namely, a commonality across cultures that employees tend to be committed to their organization to the extent that they experience the organization as being committed to them (cf. Miller & Lee, 2001). Research in both the private and the public sectors supports the notion that organizational practices which take employee needs and interests into account are likely to generate higher levels of commitment. This may reflect a universal desire by employees to have positive organizational experiences, in return for which they will readily commit themselves to the organization. The extent to which an organization cares about the well-being of its employees is readily reflected in the myriad structural factors, social processes, and leadership activities utilized to accomplish the work of the organization. How these features are enacted in the organization is thus critical to the development of employee commitment (Robertson & Tang, 1995). A growing literature (e.g., Lawler, 1992; Pfeffer, 1998) is providing useful guidance to practicing managers regarding how to design and develop "commitment strategy" (Walton, 1985; Black, 1999) organizations that are supportive of their human resources. A high level of such "organizational commitment to employees" has been found to be related to such employee outcomes as more dedication and motivation, greater creativity and initiative, and a stronger sense of cooperation and community, and such organizational outcomes as improved quality, reduced turnover, and better financial performance (cf. Miller & Lee, 2001). The notion that employees are committed to their organization when they perceive that the organization is committed to them ultimately reflects an integration of the rational choice and organizational behavior perspectives on commitment. It captures an essential theme in the RC perspective that individuals are engaged in an exchange relationship with their employing


organization, and their commitment to that organization is largely a function of their satisfaction with the conditions of exchange. Their willingness to remain with the organization and to perform at a high level thus depends on the extent to which the organization provides them with sufficient inducements to warrant their continued contributions of time, energy, and expertise. Compatible with the OB perspective, however, a wide array of such "inducements" are important to people, such that extrinsic rewards are not usually the primary factor affecting their level of commitment. In fact, people appreciate the sense of belonging that comes with their perception that they fit well in the organization, and the resulting emotional attachment significantly influences their desire to remain with the organization and work hard to insure its success. This attachment can be undermined, of course, if the work is boring and/or management is not supportive, and these factors often play a more important role than extrinsic rewards in determining levels of employee commitment. Ultimately, this integrated perspective suggests the importance of reciprocity as an important condition underlying the development and maintenance of cooperative relationships (cf. Axelrod, 1984). To the extent that employees perceive that their commitment to the organization is reciprocated by the organization's commitment to them, they are more likely to engage in behavior patterns that are intended to benefit the organization. In order for organizations to establish "credible commitment" that employees will act in ways that further the organization's interests, it is imperative that organizations act in ways that further their employees' interests. Ironically, what employees often want from their organizations-- meaningful work, greater discretion, opportunities for growth and development, supportive managers--are not inherently costly to provide yet can yield direct benefits to the organization. Instead of assuming that organizational and individual interests are in conflict with each other,


this conclusion suggests that they may be better aligned than is frequently assumed (cf. Robertson, Trivisvavet, & Wang, 2003). It is interesting to find that similar dynamics appear to be operating among Chinese public officials. They seem to prefer essentially the same kind of organizational conditions as their western counterparts, which may be surprising given the different institutional and cultural forces that shape the values and expectations of people in China. If nothing else, these results suggest that contemporary organizational trends ­ for example, towards greater participation and empowerment, less autocratic and more facilitative managerial styles, and increased emphasis on person-organization fit ­ may be just as important and useful in such divergent cultures as China as they are in the western societies where they have become popularized. Whether or not such approaches can be successfully implemented in the Chinese institutional and cultural context remains a challenging question that should be addressed in future research in this area.


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Table 1 Scale Reliabilities and Survey Items: Organizational Commitment, Antecedents, and Control Variables

1. Organizational Commitment--average of the scores from 7 questions ( = .81) a. b. c. d. e. f. g. h. I am proud to tell others that I am part of this organization I find that my values and the organization's values are very similar I talk up this organization to my friends as a great organization to work for I am willing to put a great deal of effort beyond that normally expected in order to help this organization to be successful This organization really inspires the very best in me in the way of job performance For me this is the best of all possible organizations for which to work I would like to work for this organization for the long term I feel very little loyalty to this organization (reverse-scored)

2. Extrinsic Rewards-- average of the scores from 3 questions ( = .79) a. I am generally satisfied with the amount of pay and fringe benefits I receive b. I am paid fairly for what I contribute to this organization c. This organization provides me with a fair opportunity for advancement or promotion 3. Job Challenge-- average of the scores from 3 questions ( = .64) a. Generally speaking, my work is exciting and challenging b. I have a lot to say over what happens on my job c. The management of this organization usually seeks my input into decisions that directly affect my work 4. Management Support-- average of the scores from 4 questions ( = .75) a. My supervisor treats me with concern and respect b. My supervisor gives me the support and guidance I need to be effective in my work c. The management of this organization usually makes decisions without consulting knowledgeable employees (reverse-scored) d. Leadership in this organization has defined a clear mission for its employees


5. Role Fit-- average of the scores from 5 questions ( = .78) a. b. c. d. e. I can work independently I can see how my work contributes to the mission of the organization I get along well with my coworkers Good teamwork is essential for me to do the job well Doing my job is often a learning experience

6. Belief in Mission-- average of the scores from 3 questions ( = .72) a. Society must give priority to solving environmental problems b. Government must give priority to solving environmental problems c. Government should invest more money in environmental protection 7. Environmental Consciousness-- average of the scores from 8 questions ( = .67) a. b. c. d. e. f. g. h. We are approaching the limit for the number of people the earth can support The balance of nature is very delicate and easily upset When humans interfere with nature it often produces disastrous consequences To maintain a healthy economy we will have to develop a steady-state economy where industrial growth is controlled Humans must live in harmony with nature in order to survive The earth is like a spaceship with only limited room and resources There are limits to growth beyond which our industrialized society cannot expand Mankind is severely abusing the environment

8. Control variables a. b. c. d. e. sex age education years in unit years in environmental protection


Table 2 Descriptive Statistics and Correlation Matrix

Variable 2 3 city sample (N= 1013) 1. Org. Commitment 2. Sex 3. Age 4. Education 5. Years in Unit 6. Years in Field 7. Extrinsic Rewards 8. Management Support 9. Role Fit 10. Job Challenge 11. Belief in Mission 12. Env't Consciousness .016 . 3 .067 .093 4 -.047 .084 -.160 5 -.022 -.002 .455 -.145 6 .053 .026 .475 -.104 .726 7 .388 -.001 -.025 -.047 -.065 -.055 8 .589 -.008 .003 -.077 -.089 -.056 .472 9 .571 -.016 .081 -.024 .032 .061 .174 .300 10 .541 .077 .111 -.055 -.006 .050 .436 .532 .317 11 .243 -.012 .047 -.032 -.018 .000 .091 .172 .258 .103 12 .185 -.024 .048 .049 .051 .069 -.067 .077 .208 .018 .384 Mean 3.65 0.62 37.88 5.30 9.78 10.89 2.77 3.44 3.97 3.33 4.16 3.93 Standard Deviation 0.53 0.49 9.00 0.79 8.14 9.04 0.84 0.67 0.40 0.67 0.64 0.51

Note: All figures are Pearson correlations; boldface are significant at the p<.05 level


Table 3 Regressions Results: Organizational Commitment on Antecedent and Control Variables __________________________________________________________________________ 3-City Chengdu Dalian Guangzhou __________________________________________________________________________ Antecedent Variables Extrinsic Rewards Management Support Role Fit Job Challenge Belief in Mission Env'l Consciousness Control Variables Sex (0=male; 1=female) Age Education Years in agency Years in field Adjusted R2 F No. of respondents

.086*** .314*** .368*** .210*** .037 .070***

.114*** .339*** .348*** .174*** .086* .033

.113* .282*** .414*** .193*** -.016 .083

.031 .247*** .404*** .286*** .037 .093*

.009 -.002 -.002 -.061* .083** .565 119.851*** 1009

.037 .010 -.033 -.122* .119* .559 49.036*** 418

.001 -.008 .012 -.083 .096 .497 29.319*** 316

-.031 -.045 -.021 .086 .000 .605 39.123*** 275

__________________________________________________________________________ All entries are standardized coefficients * p < .05 ** p < .01 *** p < .005



Employee commitment has long been a focus of study for those interested in the design and management of organizations

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