Pentareddy, Sandhya R. “The role of job characteristics leadership complexity and psychological empowerment in building affective commitment.”


               Employees who are committed to their organizations take more initiative, engage in broader roles and contribute better.  When employees have an emotional attachment to and identify with the organization, they are said to have affective commitment.  It is the type of commitment that makes employees want to stay with an organization.  Affective commitment has many benefits including work performance and retention.  Therefore, it is very advantageous to understand how to elicit affective commitment.

               Knowledge workers seek challenge and opportunities for continuous learning in their jobs because it is through the development of expertise and honing of various skills that they grow.  Job content and job characteristics are very important in helping employees thrive and stay committed.  Hackman and Oldham conceived the job characteristics model (JCM) to explain how core job characteristics, including skill variety, challenge and task significance, lead to positive organizational outcomes.

               Employees with high levels of education and expertise often want discretion and autonomy in their jobs to do their work effectively.  On the other hand, when their work is riddled with unique challenges, they may need deeper guidance and help from their leaders.  Leadership challenges arise especially in the case of knowledge workers, as various situations call for different leadership roles.  The competing values framework (CVF) by Quinn and Rohrbaugh explains the contradictory needs of organizational environments and the different roles effective leaders balance.  Leaders who display leadership complexity by digging into a repertoire of leadership roles can be more influential in aiding knowledge workers succeed and reciprocate affective commitment.

               Psychological empowerment of employees, conceptualized by Thomas, Velthouse and other researchers, is also an important phenomenon in developing affective commitment.  Psychological empowerment helps employees navigate through the challenges and complexities of their jobs and ultimately grow affective commitment.  

               Prior research has shown that job characteristics lead to psychological empowerment and affective commitment.  Research also shows that various leadership styles such as transformational and servant leadership styles influence job characteristics, psychological empowerment and organizational commitment.  But studies that examine leadership complexity’s influence in building affective commitment are lacking.  The mediating role of psychological empowerment between job characteristics and affective commitment has also not been adequately examined.

               The aim of this research is to investigate the influence of leadership complexity and psychological empowerment in eliciting affective commitment when jobs are complex and challenging.

               A cross-cultural study is conducted using a sample of 548 knowledge workers from various sectors within four countries.  Psychological empowerment is tested as a mediator and leadership complexity as a moderator between job characteristics and affective commitment, using structural equation modeling. The major findings of this study are given below.

  1. Leadership complexity was found to enhance the positive impact of job characteristics on affective commitment. The effect of perceived job characteristics on affective commitment was found to be higher for the group with high leadership complexity (β = 0.544, p < 0.05) than the group with low leadership complexity (β = 0.346, p < 0.05).
  2. The presence of psychological empowerment was found to improve the positive influence of core job characteristics on affective commitment, among knowledge workers.  The total effect (β = 0.521, p < 0.05) was found to be greater than the direct effect (β = 0.252, p < 0.05) of job characteristics on affective commitment, establishing partial mediation.  
  3. Leadership complexity was found to enhance the combined influence of job characteristics and psychological empowerment on affective commitment.  

               As more companies and knowledge workers are operating across country borders, this study examines knowledge workers across four countries to take into account cultural differences. 

               The study also controls the effects of age, gender and country in statistical analyses, so that the impact of those variables doesn’t interfere with the integrity of hypotheses testing.

               The findings regarding the influence of leadership complexity add to the theoretical knowledge, and underscore the importance of balancing multiple leadership roles, for organizations.  The study shows that leaders who display high behavioral complexity can help employees make the best of their jobs, resulting in affective commitment.  It also shows that psychological empowerment plays an important role in deriving affective commitment.

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