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The Future of Workplace Commitment


Call for abstracts

EAWOP Small Group Meeting on: ‘The Future of Workplace Commitment’


This Small Group Meeting (SGM) will bring together European work and organizational psychologists to continue to develop ideas on the future of workplace commitment. Despite declarations of irrelevance and conceptual redundancy (e.g., Baruch, 1998; Cappelli, 2000), commitment in the workplace has continuously drawn the attention of work and organizational psychologists over the past 25 years (see overview in figure 1). Key to this is the recognition of the changes in the workplace by commitment researchers. An active field of commitment researchers has identified limitations, criticised and contributed to the conceptual developments of workplace commitment (Solinger, van Olffen, & Roe, 2008). Over the past decade, the Commitment Conferences organised by Howard Klein (2005, 2010, 2014 and 2017) have been a central meeting place to this development, resulting in significant contributions to the field (e.g., Klein, Becker & Meyer, 2009; Special issue HRMR 2013, special issue JOB forthcoming). There are, however, indications of commitment in a European work context to be different from a Northern American context (Meyer et al, 2002). 

The field of workplace commitment is alive (Klein, 2013) and is undertaking many attempts to develop knowledge of workplace commitment, to stay appropriate to contemporary workplaces. For example, it has been recognised the boundaries of organisations to become more and more permeable, with employees developing commitment to multiple targets (Becker, 1992; Becker & Billings, 1993; Cohen, 2003). This notion was further developed into recognition of both internal and external targets that emerge as employees work within and across organizational boundaries (Coyle-Shapiro, 2006; Klein et al., 2009). Now, the majority of commitment research in contemporary work settings follows this “target-free” conceptualization of commitment, which permits the assessment of interplay between multiple, simultaneously held commitments, and assumes commitment to be consistently applicable across workplace targets (Klein et al., 2013). 

However, for the field of workplace commitment to stay relevant it is necessary to look beyond what is currently daily practice and to envision what may be. In this SGM we would like to debate and anticipate how the future of work may look like and how workplace commitment may change. For this SGM we have selected two broad themes representing the changing nature of the way people work (Cappelli and Keller, 2013), (1) ‘Boundaryless work’, and (2) ‘Temporary work’. The themes provide a framework for the SGM, however the structure of the program allows for other directions to be explored. After all, nobody can predict the future.

  • “Boundaryless work” 

With work increasingly taking place beyond the boundaries of the organisation, the organisation often cannot and should not be the primary target of commitment (Meyer, 2009; Reichers, 1985). In cross-boundary contexts employees frequently interact with a multitude of agents such as clients, other professionals and teams (Swart and Kinnie, 2014). Employees’ capacity to form commitments to multiple targets seems unlimited (Klein et al., 2013), particularly in contemporary work settings employees are found to have high levels of commitment to a large set of workplace targets (Morin et al., 2011; Swart et al., 2014). A variety of competing theories and models are used to reveal the nature of interactions between commitment to multiple targets, including field theory (Lewin, 1943; 1952) in the salience hypothesis (Vandenberghe et al., 2004), the target similarity framework in the compatibility hypothesis (Cheng et al., 2003), and the supervisor effect (Eisenberger et al., 2002). Studies on workplace commitment are only starting to unpack the potential conflicts, synergy, interactions, and substitution between commitments to multiple targets.

In this SGM we would like to encourage the discussion of some of the questions key in relation to the theme. The following are examples of issues that may be discussed: 

  • If the organisation discontinues being a central target of commitment in a cross-boundary work setting, can organisations still influence commitment? Is commitment relevant in ‘boundaryless’ a work setting?
  • Is employees’ capacity to form commitments to multiple targets unlimited? How and why do employees develop commitment to multiple targets? What is the underlying mechanism of developing commitment to multiple targets and how is it different to developing commitment to one target?
  • In what situations do commitments complement each other or are there synergy effects? Is commitment ‘transferrable’ between targets? 
  • What is and how do employees experience a conflict between commitments? Under which circumstances does this conflict occur? Between which targets? What are causes and effects? What happens when employees substitute commitments?
  • Is the employer of the future looking for committed employees? Or is commitment seen as superfluous? Do employers exist that not looking for employees to develop commitment? Can commitment in some conditions hinder or limit employees’ work behaviours?


  • “Temporary Work” 

Relevant to the European debate on commitment are the contrasts in changes in work between Europe and the United States, where a significant part of commitment studies is conducted. Part-time work increasing relatively rapidly in Europe, where as temporary employment is usually equated with fixed-term contract employment (Brewster et al., 1997). Contingent work is a term for a temporary, fixed term work arrangement, which is characterised as insecure and contingent on short-term business needs (Capelli & Keller, 2013).

Studies on commitment in temporary employment show indications of the limitations of common theories of social exchange in these settings. Temporary employees found only target specific training (internal to the client) to lead to reciprocation in affective commitment to this target (Chambel, Sobral, Espada, & Curral 2015). External or general training does not lead to commitment to the target offering the training. In addition, de Jong (2014) found commitment of temporary workers to be dependent on the attribution of the organisation motives to hire externally, finding a difference in commitment between employees perceiving anticipatory support motives of employers versus reactive support motives. Initial studies are starting to uncover the effects of employees’ motivations for accepting temporary work, rejecting the assumption that volition may have favourable psychological correlates including commitment (De Cuper & De Witte, 2008). Again, studies on workplace commitment are only starting to unpack what it means for employees to work in temporary work settings in relation to workplace commitment. 

Examples of questions to discuss in the SGM in relation to commitment in temporary work include:

  • To what extend can employees develop commitment in temporary work settings? What is a minimum condition needed (time, resources, support) to develop commitment? Can employees work without commitment?
  • Why would employees commit in temporary work settings? How are underlying processes of developing commitment different? What are temporary employees committed to?
  • With work becoming more temporal, will employees in general show lower levels of commitment? Are there types / targets of commitment that will eventually become extinct? Are other forms or types of commitment substitute? 
  • What are the effects on employees of work becoming more temporal? Are employees expected to build and disband commitments more quickly and frequently? Who are coping well, who are benefitting and who are suffering? 
  • Is there such thing as "fear of commitment" in the workplace? Are some employees reluctant or unable to commitment to working one particular work setting, seeking to work in temporary settings?


The purpose of the SGM is to bring together (European) researchers to explore and discuss how employees may develop commitments in the workplace of the future. We aim for 20-25 participants whose submissions will be grouped into six incubator sessions. The two general themes identified will be general themes of the day. A conventional setup of keynotes and paper presentations would not fit the purpose and theme of this SGM, therefore variety of activities will included in the program aiming to maximize sharing of ideas, brainstorm, interaction and critical discussion of ideas. 

Each day starts with a ‘future of workplace commitment’ presentation followed by a brain writing exercise which will support identifying issues and directions by all participants for further discussion during the day. It is the role of the facilitator of the brain writing session to remind the SGM of these ideas during the day. Then three ‘incubator sessions’ will start with a short presentation of the submissions by participants (non-authors). The role of the facilitator of the session is to include three idea generation techniques in the discussion of the submissions: (1) questioning assumptions, (2) worst ideas, and (3) wishing. The final session will bring together and discuss further ideas developed during the day.


Abstracts of a paper, research idea or research direction (up to 500 words) should be submitted by Friday 15th of April 2016 to Participants will be notified about the acceptance of their submission by Monday 2th of May, 2016. Working papers up to 3000 words may be developed and submitted by Monday 12th of September 2016 and will be shared with all participants before the meeting. 

Small group meeting 

The small group meeting will take place 23 – 24 September 2016, at the School of Management, University of Bath. Bath is centrally located and easy accessible with direct train and bus connections from Bristol airport and all London Airports. Participation fees of the meeting will be £75 for the two day event, which will include materials, lunches and dinners. PhD students will receive a discount of £25. This event is sponsored by the EAWOP, the University of Bath’s 50th anniversary conference fund, the School of Management research committee and the ‘Future of Work’ research centre. 

Publication and further development of papers

The SGM benefits from a connection with the Commitment conference series organised by Howard Klein. This outstanding researcher of workplace commitment (Klein, Becker, & Meyer, 2009; Klein, 2013; Klein, Molloy, & Brinsfield, 2012; Cooper, Stanley, Klein, & Tenhiälä, 2014) is supporting this SGM by taking on an advisory role in the organisation of the event, facilitating two sessions and running the program committee. 

Papers developed from this event are invited to be submitted to the 2017 Commitment Conference, 13-15 October 2017, Ohio State University, Ohio. However, we expect not all participants to follow this route. We are currently looking into opportunities for a special issue and a position paper to be written following this meeting. To explore opportunities there will be an allocated slot in the program of the meeting in which we will discuss possibilities for collaboration and publishing

Organisation of the SGM

The SGM will be organised by Yvonne van Rossenberg, who will take care of local arrangements. For the organisation of this international event she will be assisted by (1) Prof. Howard Klein, (2) the Future or Work research Centre, and (3) the University of Bath, School of Management. Howard Klein is guiding and supporting the organiser in this process, drawing on his comprehensive experience with organising meetings of this kind1. Particularly, this SGM will benefit from the distribution of the call for papers through the network of the active community connected to the commitment conferences.

This SGM will be integrated in the activities of the Future of Work Research Centre, which is an initiative by Matthijs Bal to collaborate and develop research on this theme in the University of Bath, School of Management. Themes in the centre include how current trends in society affect the experience of work, how people may shape new types of work, and how people find new avenues to give work a meaning. This SGM will benefit from the support and experience of the members of this research centre in organising this event, particularly involved in this will be Matthijs Bal, Rob Briner, Katharina Chudzikowski and Juani Swart. 

In addition, this meeting has received support from a set of scholars in the field of workplace commitment and related areas, who would like to champion this SGM. These scholars have confirmed to support this SGM by distribution of the call for papers of the SGM, by reviewing and selecting submissions, and by facilitating sessions at the meeting. 

These are:

Rolf van Dick Goethe University Frankfurt

Omar Solinger VU University Amsterdam

Aaron Cohen University of Haifa

Kathleen Bentein L'Université du Québec à Montréal

Franck Bietry University of Caen

Jordan Creusier University of Caen

Steven Kilroy Queens University Belfast


Provisional program

Thursday 22nd September

17:00 – 19:00 Program committee meeting 

Friday 23th September

9:00 – 9:15 Opening, aim SGM and procedures 

9:15 – 10:15 ‘The future of workplace commitment’ presentation 1: Howard Klein 

  • “Boundaryless work” 

10:15 – 10:45 Ideas from the brain writing facilitator: Matthijs Bal

10:45 – 11:00 Coffee

11:00 – 12:30 Incubator session 1a: facilitator Kathleen Bentein

12:30 – 13:30 Lunch

13:30 – 15:00 Incubator session 1b: facilitator Franck Bietry

15:00 – 15:30 Afternoon Tea

15:30 – 17:00 Incubator session 1c: facilitator Rob Briner

17:00 – 18:00 Discussion and future directions: Omar Solinger     

19:30 Conference dinner

Saturday 24th September

9:00 -  10:00 ‘The future of workplace commitment’ presentation 2: Howard Klein

  • “Temporary work” 

10:00 – 10:30 Ideas from the brain writing facilitator: Steven Kilroy

10:30 – 11:00 Coffee

11:00 – 12:30 Incubator session 2a: facilitator Juani Swart 

12:30 – 13:30 Lunch

13:30 – 15:00 Incubator session 2b: facilitator Jordan Creusier

15:00 – 15:30 Afternoon Tea

15:30 – 17:00 Incubator session 2c: facilitator Katharina Chudzikowski

17:00 – 18:00 Discussion of possibilities for development of papers, special issue, future events, and future directions: Aaron Cohen

20:00 Conference dinner 



Baruch, Y. (1998). The rise and fall of organizational commitment. Human System Management, 17(2), 135 – 143.

Becker, T. E. (1992). Foci and bases of commitment - are they distrinctions worth making. Academy of Management Journal, 35(1), 232-244.

Becker, T. E., & Billings, R. S. (1993). Profiles of commitment - An empirical test. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 14(2), 177-190.

Brewster, C., Mayne, L., & Tregaskis, o. (1997). Flexible staffing in Europe. Journal of World Business, 32(2), 133-151.

Cappelli, P. and Keller, J.R. (2013). ‘Classifying work in the new economy’. Academy of Management Review, 38: 4, 575–596. 

Chambel, M. J., Sobral, F., Espada, M., & Curral, L. (2015).  Training, exhaustion, and commitment of temporary agency workers: A test of employability perceptions European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 24(1), 15 -30.

Cohen, A. (2003). Multiple commitments in the workplace: An integrative approach: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Cooper, J. T., Stanley, L. J., Klein, H. J., & Tenhiälä, A. (2014). Profiles of commitment in standard and fixed-term employment arrangements: Implications for work outcomes, European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, DOI: 10.1080/1359432X.2014.990443

Coyle-Shapiro, J. A.-M., Morrow, P. C., and Kessler, I. (2006). Serving two organizations: Exploring the employment relationship of contracted employees. Human Resource Management, 45(4), 561-583.

De Jong, J. (2014). Externalization motives and temporary versus permanent employee psychological well-being: A multilevel analysis European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 23(6), 803-815.

De Cuper, N., & De Witte, H. (2008). Volition and reasons for accepting temporary employment: Associations with attitudes, well-being, and behavioural intentions. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 17(3), 363-387. 

Klein, H. J., Becker, T., & Meyer, J. (2009). Commitment in Organizations:Accumulated Wisdom and New Directions, Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.

Klein, H. J., Cooper, J. T., Molloy, J. C., & Swanson, J. A. (2013). The Assessment of Commitment: Advantages of a Unidimensional, Target-Free Approach. Journal of Applied Psychology, Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0034751.

Klein, H. J., Molloy, J. C., & Brinsfield, C. T. (2012). Reconceptualizing workplace commitment to redress a stretched construct: Revisiting assumptions and removing confounds. Academy of management review, 37(1), 130-151.

Meyer, J. P., Stanley, D.J. & Herscovitch (2002). Affective, continuance, and normative commitment to the organization: A meta-analysis of antecedents, correlates, and consequences. Journal of Vocational Behaviour 61(1), 20 – 52. 

Morin, A. J. S., Morizot, J., Boudrias, J. S., & Madore, I. (2011). A multifoci person-centered perspective on workplace affective commitment: A latent profile/factor mixture analysis. Organizational Research Methods, 14(1), p.58-91.

Solinger, O., van Olffen, W., & Roe, R. (2008). Beyond the three-component model of organizational commitment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93(1), 70-83.

Solinger, O. N., van Olffen, W., Roe, R. A., & Hofmans, J. (2013). On Becoming (Un)Committed: A Taxonomy and Test of Newcomer Onboarding Scenarios. Organization Science, 24(6), 1640-1661.

Swart, J., and Kinnie, N. (2012). Committed to Whom? Professional knowledge worker commitment in cross-boundary organizations. Human Resource Management Journal, 22(1), 17.

Swart, J., & Kinnie, N. (2003). Knowledge-intensive firms: the influence of the client on HR systems. Human Resource Management Journal, 13(3), 37 – 55. Human Resource Management Journal, 13(2), 60-75.

Swart, J., & Kinnie, N. (2014). Reconsidering boundaries: human resource management in a networked world. Human Resource Management, 53(2), 291-310.

Swart, J., Kinnie, N., Rossenberg, Y., & Yalabik, Z. (2014). Why should I share my knowledge? A multiple foci of commitment perspective. Human Resource Management Journal, 24(3), 241 - 254.

Yalabik, Z., van Rossenberg, Y. G. T., Swart, J., & Kinnie, N. (2015). Engaged and committed? The relationship between employee engagement and commitment in Professional Service Firms. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 26(12), 1602 – 1621.