Academics’ Organisational Identification and Commitment: Influences of Perceptions of Organisational Support and Reputation

Doctoral Thesis


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“Affective commitment” and “organisational identification” represent psychological relationships between employees and their organisations. These constructs are established predictors of turnover intentions, performance, and other desirable work outcomes. This study investigated the affective commitment and organisational identification of academics. It was argued that there is a strong need to understand how to nurture academics’ identification with, and commitment to, their institutions, since changes in the higher education sector have profoundly — and mostly adversely — impacted their work lives. Two specific status-related constructs are known to influence both identification and commitment: “perceived organisational support”, representing an informal status or internal respect, and “perceived external reputation”, a proxy for externally derived status. It was hypothesised that both these constructs would positively impact on affective commitment, and organisational identification, respectively. In addition to these direct effects, the study considered the mediation effects of organisational identification in the relationship between the two proposed predictors and affective commitment. Underpinned by social exchange theory, the social identity approach, as well as the group engagement model, the study contributes to research that seeks to understand how these theories complement each other and provide alternative mechanisms for explaining employee-organisation relationships. An explanatory sequential mixed methods design was used to answer the research questions. An online survey of permanent academics at one South African university generated 215 responses. This was followed by a qualitative phase, conducted with a subset of the survey respondents, comprising 15 semi-structured face-to-face interviews. Supporting the relevant hypotheses, perceived organisational support was found to influence affective commitment, both directly, and indirectly via organisational identification. However, contrary to expectations, perceived external reputation was found neither to impact on organisational identification, and nor on affective commitment in the presence of perceived organisational support. The qualitative insights revealed how each construct manifested in the context of the study, enriching the explanation of the results. Using the integrated findings, a new conceptual model of perceived organisational support, organisational identification, and affective commitment was proposed, incorporating potential influencing factors for each construct. It was suggested that university leadership would be well-advised to pay relatively more attention to the internal status that is conveyed to academics via perceptions of support from their institution, than to managing perceptions of the institution’s external reputation.