Organizational identification reflects the link between employees and their organization and it has been consistently found positively related to employee health and well-being (Steffens et al. 2017). However, recent reviews and initial empirical evidence questioned the assumption of a uniform linear relation. We propose a mediation model, in which identification will be non-linearly related to changes in overcommitment over time, which in turn, will be related to employee psychological distress and job burnout. We tested the potential adverse effect of over-identification in a two-wave study (N = 85) across 18 months of both blue-collar and white-collar employees in an Italian manufacturing firm. The results confirmed our hypotheses and revealed a curvilinear effect of identification on overcommitment as well as indirect effects for health and burnout. We outline implications for theory in the form of the too-much-of-a-good-thing notion, and we discuss practical implications for managers who should be conscious of these effects when designing interventions to increase identification.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
The data are available at the Open Science Framework at: https://osf.io/2nyfr/
Aguinis, H., Gottfredson, R. K., & Joo, H. (2013). Best-practice recommendations for defining, identifying, and handling outliers. Organizational Research Methods, 16, 270–301.
Alarcon, G. M. (2011). A meta-analysis of burnout with job demands, resources, and attitudes. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 79, 549–562.
Ashforth, B. E. (2016). Distinguished scholar invited essay: Exploring identity and identification in organizations: Time for some course corrections. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 23, 361–373.
Ashforth, B. E., & Mael, F. A. (1989). Social identity theory and the organization. Academy of Management Review, 14, 20–39.
Ashforth, B. E., Harrison, S. H., & Corley, K. G. (2008). Identification in organizations: An examination of four fundamental questions. Journal of Management, 34, 325–374.
Avanzi, L., van Dick, R., Fraccaroli, F., & Sarchielli, G. (2012). The downside of organizational identification: Relations between identification, workaholism and well-being. Work & Stress, 26, 289–307.
Avanzi, L., Balducci, C., & Fraccaroli, F. (2013). Contributo alla validazione italiana del Copenhagen burnout inventory (CBI) [contribution to the Italian validation of the Copenhagen burnout inventory (CBI)]. Psicologia della Salute, 2, 120–135.
Avanzi, L., Zaniboni, S., Balducci, C., & Fraccaroli, F. (2014). The relation between overcommitment and burnout: Does it depend on employee job satisfaction? Anxiety, Stress, & Coping: An International Journal, 27, 455–465.
Avanzi, L., Schuh, S. C., Fraccaroli, F., & van Dick, R. (2015). Why does organizational identification relate to reduced employee burnout? The mediating influence of social support and collective efficacy. Work & Stress, 29, 1–10.
Avanzi, L., Savadori, L., & Fraccaroli, F. (2018). Unraveling the organizational mechanism at the root of safety compliance in an Italian manufacturing firm. International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics 24, 52-61.
Bakker, A. B., Killmer, C. H., Siegrist, J., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2000). Effort–reward imbalance and burnout among nurses. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 31, 884–891.
Becker, T. E. (2005). Potential problems in the statistical control of variables in organizational research: A qualitative analysis with recommendations. Organizational Research Methods, 8, 274–289.
Bergami, M., & Bagozzi, R. P. (2000). Self-categorization, affective commitment and group self-esteem as distinct aspects of social identity in the organization. British Journal of Social Psychology, 39, 555–577.
Bergin, A. J., & Jimmieson, N. L. (2013). Explaining psychological distress in the legal profession: The role of overcommitment. International Journal of Stress Management, 20, 134–161.
Chen, M., Chen, C. C., & Sheldon, O. J. (2016). Relaxing moral reasoning to win: How organizational identification relates to unethical pro-organizational behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101, 1082–1096.
Clark, M. A., Michel, J. S., Zhdanova, L., Pui, S. Y., & Baltes, B. B. (2016). All work and no play? A meta-analytic examination of the correlates and outcomes of workaholism. Journal of Management, 42, 1836–1873.
Conroy, S., Henle, C. A., Shore, L., & Stelman, S. (2017). Where there is light, there is dark: A review of the detrimental outcomes of high organizational identification. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 38, 184–203.
Edwards, M. R. (2005). Organizational identification: A conceptual and operational review. International Journal of Management Reviews, 7, 207–230.
Goldberg, D. P. (1972). The detection of psychiatric illness by questionnaire. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Goodchild, M. E., & Duncan-Jones, P. (1985). Chronicity and the general health questionnaire. British Journal of Psychiatry, 146, 55–61.
Haslam, S. A. (2004). Psychology in organizations: The social identity approach (2nd ed.). London: Sage.
Haslam, S. A., Eggins, R. A., & Reynolds, K. J. (2003). The ASPIRe model: Actualizing social and personal identity resources to enhance organizational outcomes. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 76, 83–113.
Hayes, A. F., & Preacher, K. J. (2010). Quantifying and testing indirect effects in simple mediation models when the constituent paths are nonlinear. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 45, 627–660.
Hogg, M. A., & Terry, D. J. (2000). Social identity and self-categorization processes in organizational contexts. Academy of Management Review, 25, 121–140.
Kinman, G., & Jones, F. (2008). Effort-reward imbalance and overcommitment: Predicting strain in academic employees in the United Kingdom. International Journal of Stress Management, 15, 381–395.
Kristensen, T. S., Borritz, M., Villadsen, E., & Christensen, K. B. (2005). The Copenhagen burnout inventory: A new tool for the assessment of burnout. Work & Stress, 19, 192–207.
Kuper, H., Singh-Manoux, A., Siegrist, J., & Marmot, M. (2002). When reciprocity fails: Effort–reward imbalance in relation to coronary heart disease and health functioning within the Whitehall II study. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 59, 777–784.
Langer, E. J. (1975). The illusion of control. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32, 311–328.
Lee, E.-S., Park, T.-Y., & Koo, B. (2015). Identifying organizational identification as a basis for attitudes and behaviors: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 141, 1049–1080.
Li, Y., Fan, J., & Zhao, S. (2015). Organizational identification as a double-edged sword: Dual effects on job satisfaction and life satisfaction. Journal of Personnel Psychology, 14, 182–191.
Mael, F. A., & Ashforth, B. E. (1992). Alumni and their alma mater: A partial test of the reformulated model of organizational identification. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 13, 103–123.
Mark, G., & Smith, A. P. (2012). Effects of occupational stress, job characteristics, coping, and attributional style on the mental health and job satisfaction of university employees. Anxiety, Stress & Coping: An International Journal, 25, 63–78.
Mazzetti, G., Schaufeli, W. B., Guglielmi, D., & Depolo, M. (2016). Overwork climate scale: Psychometric properties and relationships with working hard. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 31, 880–896.
Morin, A., & Brault-Labbé, A. (2014). Vers une conceptualisation intégrée de l’engagement professionnel: Clarifications théoriques et présentation d’un modèle multimodal [Towards an integrated conceptualization of professional commitment: Conceptual clarifications and presentation of a multimodal model]. Revue Québécoise de Psychologie, 35, 3–22.
Ng, T. W. H. (2015). The incremental validity of organizational commitment, organizational trust, and organizational identification. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 88, 154–163.
Ng, T. W. H., & Feldman, D. C. (2008). Long work hours: A social identity perspective on meta-analysis data. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 29, 853–880.
Ng, T. W. H., & Feldman, D. C. (2010). The relationships of age with job attitudes: A meta-analysis. Personnel Psychology, 63, 677–718.
Piccinelli, M., Risoffi, G., Bon, M. G., Cunico, L., & Tansella, M. (1993). Validity and test-retest reliability of the Italian version of the 12-item general health questionnaire in general practice: A comparison between three scoring methods. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 34, 198–205.
Pierce, J. R., & Aguinis, H. (2013). The too-much-of-a-good-thing effect in management. Journal of Management, 39, 313–338.
Riketta, M., & van Dick, R. (2005). Foci of attachment in organizations: A meta-analytic comparison of the strength and correlates of workgroup versus organizational identification and commitment. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 67, 490–510.
Riva, S., & Chinyio, E. (2018). Stress factors and stress management interventions: The heuristic of “bottom up” an update from a systematic review. Occupational Health Science, (in press), (pp. 1–29).
Siegrist, J. (2008). Effort-reward imbalance and health in a globalized economy. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, Supplement, 6, 163–168.
Siegrist, J., & Li, J. (2016). Associations of extrinsic and intrinsic components of work stress with health: A systematic review of evidence on the effort-reward imbalance model. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13, 432.
Siegrist, J., Peter, R., Junge, A., Cremer, P., & Siedel, D. (1990). Low status control, high effort at work and ischemic heart disease: Prospective evidence from blue-collar men. Social Science & Medicine, 31, 1127–1134.
Siegrist, J., Starke, D., Chandola, T., Godin, I., Marmot, M., Niedhammer, I., & Peter, R. (2004). The measurement of effort-reward imbalance at work: European comparisons. Social Science & Medicine, 58, 1483–1499.
Smith, P., & Beaton, D. (2008). Measuring change in psychosocial working conditions: Methodological issues to consider when data are collected at baseline and one follow-up time point. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 65, 288–296.
Steffens, N. K., Haslam, S. A., Jetten, J., & van Dick, R. (2017). A meta-analytic review of social identification and health in organizational contexts. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 21, 305–335.
Tajfel, H. (1972). La catégorisation sociale (English trans.). In S. Moscovici (Ed.), Introduction à la psychologie sociale. Paris: Larouse.
Ullrich, J., Wieseke, J., Christ, O., Schulze, J., & Van Dick, R. (2007). The identity matching principle: Corporate and organizational identification in a franchising system. British Journal of Management, 18, 29–44.
Van Dick, R., & Haslam, S. A. (2012). Stress and well-being in the workplace: Support for key propositions from the social identity approach. In J. Jetten, C. Haslam, & S. A. Haslam (Eds.), The social cure: Identity, health, and well-being (pp. 175–194). Hove and New York: Psychology Press.
Van Dick, R., Ciampa, V., & Liang, S. (2018). Shared identity in organizational stress and change. Current Opinion in Psychology, 23, 20–25.
Whaley, C. J., Morrison, D. L., Payne, R. L., Fritschi, L., & Wall, T. D. (2005). Chronicity of psychological strain in occupational settings and the accuracy of the general health questionnaire. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 10, 310–319.
Wirtz, P. H., Siegrist, J., Rimmele, U., & Ehlert, U. (2008). Higher overcommitment to work is associated with lower norepinephrine secretion before and after acute psychosocial stress in men. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 33, 92–99.
We are grateful to Lucia Sasso for her valuable assistance in the data collection.
Conflict of Interest
On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.
Statement of Human Rights
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants implicitly by their voluntary participation in our study.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Parts of the data have been used in a previous publication (Avanzi et al., 2018). This publication is, however, based on a larger sample of N = 186 that was collected at time 1. It only presents cross-sectional analyses and does have a very different focus (relations between identification, support, safety climate and safety compliance) and partially different subjects (only blue-collar workers).
About this article
Cite this article
Avanzi, L., Savadori, L., Fraccaroli, F. et al. Too-much-of-a-good-thing? The curvilinear relation between identification, overcommitment, and employee well-being. Curr Psychol (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-020-00655-x
- Organizational identification
- Curvilinear relations
- Psychological distress
- Job burnout