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Too-much-of-a-good-thing? The curvilinear relation between identification, overcommitment, and employee well-being

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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.

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    The data are available at the Open Science Framework at: https://osf.io/2nyfr/


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We are grateful to Lucia Sasso for her valuable assistance in the data collection.

Author information

All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection and analysis were performed by [Lorenzo Avanzi], [Lucia Savadori], [Valeria Ciampa] and [Franco Fraccaroli]. The first draft of the manuscript was written by [Lorenzo Avanzi and Rolf van Dick] and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Correspondence to Lorenzo Avanzi.

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On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

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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.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants implicitly by their voluntary participation in our study.

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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).

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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

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  • Organizational identification
  • Overcommitment
  • Curvilinear relations
  • Psychological distress
  • Job burnout