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A critique of normative commitment in management research

Stephen Jaros (Southern University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA)

Management Research Review

ISSN: 2040-8269

Article publication date: 15 May 2017




The purpose of this paper was to critically evaluate the existing conception of normative commitment (NC; Meyer and Parfyonova, 2010) as having “two faces”, indebted obligation and moral duty. This paper proposes that NC should be unidimensional, and based on moral content.


Review and reevaluation of empirical research into NC and its fit with Meyer and Parfyonova's theory were conducted.


First, existing empirical research is inconsistent with Meyer/Parfyonova's theory of NC, as is their proposed motivational bases for NC having two dimensions.

Research limitations/implications

An important limitation is that NC is likely a culture-specific concept, so cross-cultural research will be essential to fully develop a universally valid concept of morals-based work commitment. A key implication is that despite the lack of construct validity of the currently used NC construct, morals-based commitment is surely a workplace phenomenon; meaning that steps should be taken to rehabilitate the construct, so it can be investigated in substantive research. Therefore, proposals for developing a unidimensional concept of NC that comports with morals-based forms of organizational attachment are developed.

Practical implications

Because of the lack of validity of the currently used NC concept, managers are advised to not rely on research using this concept to manage their employee's commitment, organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) or withdrawal behavior.

Practical implications

Organizational members often invest their actions at work with moral meaning. Explicating that meaning via a valid concept of NC could help management researchers understand employee support or lack of support for social responsibility initiatives.


NC is a key construct in the work commitment literature. This paper shows that the currently utilized construct is largely invalid, and develops steps to be taken to develop a valid concept of morals-based work commitment.



Jaros, S. (2017), "A critique of normative commitment in management research", Management Research Review, Vol. 40 No. 5, pp. 517-537.



Emerald Publishing LimitedBingley, United Kingdom

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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