Asia Pacific Journal of Management

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 193–213 | Cite as

A multilevel model of affect and organizational commitment

  • Yan LiEmail author
  • David Ahlstrom
  • Neal M. Ashkanasy


This multilevel study investigates affective antecedents of organizational commitment. 230 individuals from 56 working groups were surveyed in eight mainland Chinese firms. The results showed that frequently experienced feelings of guilt and determination in organizations were positively related to increased organizational commitment. In addition, the increase of intragroup relationship conflict strengthened the negative association between chaotic emotions and organizational commitment. The findings suggest that the overall commitment to an organization is related to certain emotions in an organizational setting. This study, which employed a large sample from mainland China, proved consistent with past theory and empirical evidence from the West. A multilevel model of affective events theory with wide applicability is correspondingly proposed.


Emotion Organizational commitment Affective events theory Multilevel analysis China 


  1. Adams, J. S. 1965. Inequity in social exchange. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.). Advances in experimental social psychology, 2: 267–299. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  2. Ahlstrom, D. 2010. Publishing in the Asia Pacific Journal of Management. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 27(1): 1–8.Google Scholar
  3. Ahlstrom, D., & Bruton, G. D. 2002. An institutional perspective on the role culture in shaping strategic actions by technology-focused entrepreneurial firms in China. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 26: 53–69.Google Scholar
  4. Ahlstrom, D., Bruton, G. D., & Chan, E. S. 2001. HRM of foreign firms in China: The challenge of managing host country personnel. Business Horizons, 44(3): 59–68.Google Scholar
  5. Allen, N., & Meyer, J. 1990. The measurement and antecedents of affective, continuance, and normative commitment. Journal of Occupational Psychology, 63: 1–18.Google Scholar
  6. Amason, A. C., & Schweiger, D. 1997. The effects of past performance on top management team conflict in strategic decision making. International Journal of Conflict Management, 10: 340–359.Google Scholar
  7. Arthur, J. B. 1994. Effects of human resource systems on manufacturing performance and turnover. Academy of Management Journal, 37: 670–687.Google Scholar
  8. Ashkanasy, N., Zerbe, W., & Hartel, C. 2005. Research on emotion in organizations. Oxford: Elsevier Ltd.Google Scholar
  9. Atkinson, J. W. 1964. An introduction to motivation. Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand.Google Scholar
  10. Averill, J. 1980. A constructivist view of emotion. In R. Pluchik & H. Kellerman (Eds.). Emotion: Theory, research, and experience. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  11. Barker, R. G. 1968. Ecological psychology: Concepts and methods for studying the environment of human behavior. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Beal, D. J., Weiss, H. M., Barros, E., & MacDermid, S. M. 2005. An episodic process model of affective influences on performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90: 1054–1068.Google Scholar
  13. Becker, H. S. 1960. Notes on the concept of commitment. American Journal of Sociology, 66: 32–40.Google Scholar
  14. Bordia, P., Hobman, E., Jones, E., Gallios, C., & Calling, V. J. 2004. Uncertainty during organizational change. Journal of Business and Psychology, 18: 507–532.Google Scholar
  15. Brislin, R. W. 1970. Back translation for cross-cultural research. Journal of Cross-Cultural Research, 1: 185–216.Google Scholar
  16. Brockner, J., Davy, J., & Carter, C. 1985. Layoffs, self-esteem, and survivor guilt: Motivational, affective, and attitudinal consequences. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 36: 229–244.Google Scholar
  17. Brockner, J., Greenberg, J., Brockner, A., Bortz, J., Davy, J., & Carter, C. 1986. Layoffs, equity theory, and work performance: Further evidence of the impact of survivor guilt. Academy of Management Journal, 29: 373–384.Google Scholar
  18. Bronfenbrenner, U. 1977. The ecology of human development. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Brye, A. S., & Raudenbush, S. W. 1992. Hierarchical linear models: Application and data analysis methods. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  20. Cheng, Y. T., & Van de Ven, A. 1996. Learning the innovation journey: Order out of chaos. Organization Science, 7: 593–614.Google Scholar
  21. Cooper, R., & Burrell, G. 1988. Modernism, postmodernism and organizational analysis: An introduction. Organizational Studies, 9: 91–112.Google Scholar
  22. Cotton, J., & Tuttle, J. 1986. Employee turnover: A meta-analysis and review with implications for research. Academy of Management Review, 11: 55–70.Google Scholar
  23. Deci, E. L., Connell, J. P., & Ryan, R. M. 1989. Self-determination in a work organization. Journal of Applied Psychology, 74: 580–590.Google Scholar
  24. Ellsworth, P. C. 1991. Some implications of cognitive appraisal theories of emotion. In K. Strongman (Ed.). International review of studies on emotion: 143–161. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  25. Elsbach, K. D. 2003. Relating physical environment to self categorizations: Identity threat and affirmation in a non-territorial office space. Administrative Science Quarterly, 48: 622–654.Google Scholar
  26. Farrell, D., & Grant, A. J. 2005. China’s looming talent shortage. McKinsey Quarterly, 4: 70–79.Google Scholar
  27. Feldman, M. S. 2000. Organizational routines as a source of continuous change. Organization Science, 11: 611–629.Google Scholar
  28. Frijda, N. H. 1993. Moods, emotion episodes and emotions. In M. Lewis & J. M. Haviland (Eds.). Handbook of emotions: 381–403. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  29. George, J. M., & Zhou, J. 2007. Dual tuning in a supportive context: Joint contributions of positive mood, negative mood, and supervisory behaviors to employee creativity. Academy of Management Journal, 50: 605–622.Google Scholar
  30. Gergen, K. J. 1999. An invitation to social construction. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  31. Gulati, R., & Westphal, J. D. 1999. Cooperative or controlling? The effects of CEO-board relations and the content of interlocks on the formation of joint ventures. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44: 473–506.Google Scholar
  32. Harman, H. 1967. Modern factor analysis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  33. Heckhausen, H. 1977. Achievement motivation and its constructs: A cognitive model. Motivation and Emotion, 1: 283–329.Google Scholar
  34. Heskett, J. L., Sasser, W. E., & Schlesinger, L. A. 1997. The service profit chain. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  35. Hofmann, D. A. 1997. An overview of the logic and rational of hierarchical linear models. Journal of Management, 23: 723–744.Google Scholar
  36. Hollenbeck, J. R., & Klein, H. J. 1987. Goal commitment and the goal-setting process: Problems, prospects, and proposals for future research. Journal of Applied Psychology, 72: 212–220.Google Scholar
  37. Hrebiniak, L., & Alutto, J. 1972. Personal and role-related factors in the development of organizational commitment. Administrative Science Quarterly, 17: 555–572.Google Scholar
  38. Huy, Q. N. 2002. Emotional balancing of organizational continuity and radical change: The contribution of middle managers. Administrative Science Quarterly, 47: 31–69.Google Scholar
  39. Jaros, S. J., Jermier, J. M., Koehler, J. W., & Sincich, T. 1993. Effects of continuance, affective, and moral commitment on the withdrawal process: An evaluation of eight structural equation models. Academy of Management Journal, 36: 951–995.Google Scholar
  40. Jehn, K. 1995. A multimethod examination of the benefits and detriments of intragroup conflict. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40: 256–282.Google Scholar
  41. Jehn, K. 1997. Affective and cognitive conflict in work groups: Increasing performance through value-based intragroup conflict. In C. K. W. De Dreu & E. Van de Vliert (Eds.). Using conflict in organizations: 87–100. Longdon: Sage.Google Scholar
  42. Jehn, K. A., & Chatman, J. A. 2000. The influence of proportional and perceptual conflict composition on team performance. The International Journal of Conflict Management, 11: 56–73.Google Scholar
  43. Jehn, K. A., & Mannix, E. A. 2001. The dynamic nature of conflict: A longitudinal study of intragroup conflict and group performance. Academy of Management of Journal, 44: 238–251.Google Scholar
  44. Jehn, K. A., Neale, M. A., & Nothcraft, G. B. 1999. Why differences make a difference: A field study of diversity, conflict, and performance in work groups. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44: 741–763.Google Scholar
  45. Judge, T. A., Thoresen, C. J., Pucik, V., & Welbourne, T. M. 1999. Managerial coping with organizational change. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84: 107–122.Google Scholar
  46. Kabanoff, B. 1991. Equity, equality, power and conflict. Academy of Management Review, 16: 416–441.Google Scholar
  47. Klein, H. J., Wesson, M. J., Hollenbeck, J. R., & Allge, B. J. 1999.Goal commitment and the goal-setting process. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84: 885–896.Google Scholar
  48. Kline, C., & Peters, L. 1991. Behavioral commitment and tenure of new employees: A replication and extension. Academy of Management Journal, 34: 194–205.Google Scholar
  49. Klinger, E. 1977. Meaning and void: Inner experience and the incentives in people’s lives. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  50. Klinger, E., Barta, S., & Maxeiner, M. 1980. Motivational correlates of thought content frequency and commitment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39: 1222–1237.Google Scholar
  51. Kunda, G. 1992. Engineering culture: Control and commitment in a high-tech corporation. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Larsen, R. J., & Diener, E. 1992. Promises and problems with the circumplex model of emotion. In M. S. Clark (Ed.). Review of personality and social psychology: Emotion, 13: 25–59. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  53. Lazarus, R. S. 1991. Progress on a cognitive-motivational-relational theory of emotion. American Psychologist, 46: 819–834.Google Scholar
  54. Lazarus, R. S., & Cohen-Charash, Y. 2001. Discrete emotions in organizational life. In R. L. Payne & C. L. Cooper (Eds.). Emotions at work: Theory, research and applications for management: 45–84. New Jersey: Wiley.Google Scholar
  55. Lazarus, R. S., & Smith, C. A. 1988. Knowledge and appraisal in the cognition-emotion relationship. Cognition and Emotion, 2: 281–300.Google Scholar
  56. Leana, C. R., & Barry, B. 2000. Stability and change as simultaneous experiences in organizational life. Academy of Management Review, 25: 753–759.Google Scholar
  57. Levine, R. V. 1998. A geography of time: The temporal misadventures of a social psychologist, or how every culture keeps time just a little bit differently. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  58. Levine, R. V. 2003. The power of persuasion: How we’re bought and sold. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  59. Li, Y. 2006. Emotion blends elicited by hurt and a holistic understanding integrating appraisal, culture and stereotypical pair gender effect. Paper presented at the Asia-Pacific Symposium on Emotion and Work Life, Melbourne, Australia. December.Google Scholar
  60. Li, Y. in press. Emotions and new venture judgment in China. Asia Pacific Journal of Management. doi: 10.1007/s10490-009-9145-4.
  61. Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. 1990. A theory of goal setting and task performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  62. Locke, E. A., Shaw, K. N., Saari, L. M., & Latham, G. P. 1981. Goal setting and task performance: 1969–1980. Psychological Bulletin, 90: 125–152.Google Scholar
  63. Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. B., & Leiter, M. P. 2001. Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52: 397–422.Google Scholar
  64. Mathieu, J. E., & Zajac, D. M. 1990. A review and meta-analysis of the antecedents, correlates, and consequences of organizational commitment. Psychological Bulletin, 108: 171–194.Google Scholar
  65. McAdams, D. P., Diamond, A., de St. Aubin, E., & Mansfield, E. 1997. Stories of commitment: The psychosocial construction of generative lives. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72: 678–694.Google Scholar
  66. McGee, G. W., & Ford, R. C. 1987. Two (or more) dimensions of organizational commitment: Reexamination of affective and continuance commitment scales. Journal of Applied Psychology, 72: 638–642.Google Scholar
  67. McKelvey, B. 1980. Organizational systematics. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  68. Meyer, J. P., & Allen, N. J. 1984. Testing the “side-bet theory” of organizational commitment: Some methodological considerations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 69: 372–378.Google Scholar
  69. Meyer, J. P., Paunonen, S. V., Gellatly, I. R., Goffin, R. D., & Jackson, D. 1989. Organizational commitment and job performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 74: 152–156.Google Scholar
  70. Meyer, J. P., Allen, N. J., & Gellatly, I. R. 1990. Affective and continuance commitment to the organization: Evaluation of measures and analysis of concurrent and time-lagged relations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 75: 710–720.Google Scholar
  71. Meyer, J. P. Stanley, D. J., Herscovitch, L., & Topolnytsky, L. 2002. Affective, continuance, and normative commitment to the organization: A meta-analysis antecedents, correlates, and consequences. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 61: 20–52.Google Scholar
  72. Morris, A., & Feldman, D. C. 1996. The dimensions, antecedents, and consequences of emotion labor. Academy of Management Review, 21: 986–1010.Google Scholar
  73. Oksenberg, M. 1970. Getting ahead and along in communist China: The ladder of success on the eve of the Cultural Revolution. In J. W. Wilson (Ed.). Party leadership and revolutionary power in China: 304–347. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  74. Oksenberg, M. (Ed.). 1973. China’s developmental experience. New York: Academy of Political ScienceGoogle Scholar
  75. O’Reilly, C. A., & Chatman, J. 1986. Organizational commitment and psychological attachment: The effects of compliance, identification, and internalization on prosocial behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology, 71: 492–499.Google Scholar
  76. Organ, D. W. 1990. The motivational basis of organizational citizenship behavior. Research in Organizational Behavior, 12: 43–72.Google Scholar
  77. Parkinson, B., & Manstead, A. S. R. 1992. Appraisal as a causal of emotion. In M. S. Clark (Ed.). Review of personality and social psychology, 13: 122–149. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  78. Pearson, A.W., Ensley, M. D., & Amason, A. C. 2002. An assessment and refinement of Jehn’s intragroup conflict scale. The International Journal of Conflict Management, 13: 110–126.Google Scholar
  79. Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., Lee, J. Y., & Podsakoff, N. P. 2003. Common method biases in behavioral research: A critical review of the literature and recommended remedies. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88: 879–903.Google Scholar
  80. Porter, L., Steers, R. M., Mowday, R. T., & Boulian, P. V. 1974. Organizational commitment, job satisfaction, and turnover amongst psychiatric technicians. Journal of Applied Personality, 59: 603–609.Google Scholar
  81. Powell, A., Galvin, J., & Piccoli, G. 2006. Antecedents to team member commitment from near and far: A comparison between collocated and virtual teams. Information Technology and People, 19: 299–322.Google Scholar
  82. Regan, R. W. 1971. Guilt, perceived injustice, and altruistic behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 18: 124–132.Google Scholar
  83. Reichers, A. E. 1985. A review and reconceptualization on organizational commitment. Academy of Management Review, 10: 465–476.Google Scholar
  84. Rentsch, J. R. 1990. Climate and culture: Interaction and qualitative differences in organizational meanings. Journal of Applied Psychology, 75: 668–681.Google Scholar
  85. Rhoades, L., Eisenberger, R., & Armeli, S. 2001. Affective commitment to the organization. Journal of Applied Pscyhology, 86: 825–836.Google Scholar
  86. Rizzo, J. R., House, R. J., & Lirtzman, S. I. 1970. Role conflict and ambiguity in complex organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 15: 150–163.Google Scholar
  87. Robinson, S. L., & O’Leary-Kelly, A. M. 1998. Monkey see, monkey do: The influence of work groups on the antisocial behavior of employees. Academy of Management Journal, 41: 658–672.Google Scholar
  88. Saavedra, R., & Kwun, S. 2000. Affective states in job characteristics theory. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 21: 131–146.Google Scholar
  89. Scherer, K. R. 1984. On the nature and function of emotion: A component process approach. In P. Ekman & K. Scherer (Eds.). Approaches to emotion: 293–317. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  90. Schneider, B. 1987. The people make the place. Personnel Psychology, 40: 437–453.Google Scholar
  91. Scholl, R.W. 1981. Differentiating organizational commitment from expectancy as a motivating force. Academy of Management Review, 6: 589–599.Google Scholar
  92. Scott, W. R. 2007. Institutions and organizations: Ideas and interests. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  93. Shaver, P., Schwartz, J., Kirson, D., & O’Connor, C. 1987. Emotion knowledge: Further exploration of a prototype approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52: 1061–1086.Google Scholar
  94. Sheldon, M. E. 1971. Investments and involvements as mechanisms producing commitment to the organization. Administrative Science Quarterly, 16: 143–150.Google Scholar
  95. Shore, L. M., & Wayne, S. J. 1993. Commitment and employee behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology, 78: 774–780.Google Scholar
  96. Simon, H. A. 1967. Motivational and emotional controls of cognition. Psychological Review, 1967, 74: 29–39.Google Scholar
  97. Simons, T. L., & Peterson, R. S. 2000. Task conflict and relationship conflict in top management teams: The pivotal role of intragroup trust. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85: 102–111.Google Scholar
  98. Staw, B. M., Sandelands, L. E., & Dutton, J. E. 1981. Threat-rigidity effects in organizational behavior: A multilevel analysis. Administrative Science Quarterly, 26: 501–524.Google Scholar
  99. Steers, R. M. 1977. Antecedents and outcomes of organizational commitment. Administrative Science Quarterly, 22: 46–56.Google Scholar
  100. Teece, D. J., Pisano, G., & Shuen, A. 1997. Dynamic capabilities and strategic management. Strategic Management Journal, 18: 509–533.Google Scholar
  101. Thayer, R. E. 1989. The biopsychology of mood and arousal. New York: Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  102. Watson, D., Clark, L., & Tellegen, A. 1988. Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(6): 1063–1070.Google Scholar
  103. Weber, M. 1947. The theory of social and economic organization. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  104. Weiss, H., & Beal, D. 2005. Reflections on affective events theory. In N. M. Ashkanasy, W. J. Zerbe & C. J. Hartel (Eds.). Research on emotion in organizations: The effect of affect in organizational setting, Vol. 1. Oxford: Elsevier Ltd.Google Scholar
  105. Weiss, H., & Cropanzano, R. 1996. Affective events theory: A theoretical discussion of the structure, causes and consequences of affective experiences at work. In B. M. Staw & L. L. Cummings (Eds.). Research in organizational behavior: 1–74. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  106. Wiener, Y. 1982. Commitment in organizations: A normative view. Academy of Management Review, 7: 418–428.Google Scholar
  107. Wu, J. B., Hom, P. W., Tetrick, L., Shore, L. M., Jia, L., Li, C., & Song, L. 2006. The norm of reciprocity: Scale development and validation in the Chinese context. Management and Organization Review, 2: 377–402.Google Scholar
  108. Yamagishi, T., Cook, K., & Watabe, M. 1998. Uncertainty, trust, and commitment formation in the United States and Japan. The American Journal of Sociology, 104: 165–194.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ManagementThe City University of Hong KongKowloonHong Kong
  2. 2.Department of Management, Faculty of Business AdministrationThe Chinese University of Hong KongShatinHong Kong
  3. 3.UQ Business SchoolUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

Personalised recommendations