The current study adopts an innovative approach to the study of time and organizational commitment, examines commitment as a process that unfolds and changes over time, and illuminates how different components of organizational commitment operate both similarly and distinctly. Past research has found that, in a downsizing organization, employees will recall having experienced greater organizational commitment in the past than they had actually reported experiencing at the time (Kwong & Hamilton, 2004). In contrast, we examine employee recall of past organizational commitment in a growing organization. Further, we consider employee recall for three specific components of organizational commitment: affective, normative, and continuance. A randomly selected cohort of employees at a growing technology company reported their organizational commitment at Time 1. Then at Time 2, 36 months later, they recalled their past organizational commitment. Consistent with study hypotheses, at Time 2, employees recalled having had significantly lower overall organizational commitment than they reported at Time 1. Specifically, employees recalled significantly lower overall, affective, and normative organizational commitment. In contrast, and consistent with research findings in social cognition, participants accurately recalled their level of continuance commitment. Analyses of other variables supported the findings by indicating that continuance commitment was not the only aspect of work that could be accurately recalled, and by showing that other potential moderators, including participant age, sex, education, commitment to work and family life, and ability to balance commitments to work and family life, were not responsible for the results. Taken together, the robust findings suggest (1) that the growth trajectory of an organization (i.e., growing versus downsizing) may be a key moderator of employee recall of past organizational commitment and (2) recall of continuance commitment may act independently of recall of affective and normative commitment. Future directions and implications of the findings for organizational commitment theory and organizational attachment research more generally are discussed.


Pittinsky, Todd L., and Margaret J. Shih. "Glancing Back: Recalling Organizational Commitment in a Growing Organization." KSG Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP05-022, March 2005.