The Three Component Model of Commitment

Improving Commitment and Engagement

The Three Component Model of Commitment - Improving Commitment and Engagement

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People who love their jobs are positively committed to their organizations.

Why do people commit to your organization?

Some people are committed to their jobs because they love what they do, or because their goals align with those of the company. Others might stay because they fear what they could lose if they leave. Still others might stay because they feel obligated to the company, or to their manager.

Clearly, some of these types of commitment can have a negative effect on a person's well-being, self-respect, and job satisfaction. So, how can you avoid this, but still help team members feel committed to your team, or organization, in a positive way?

In this article we'll explore three common types of commitment, how they impact your team members' motivation, and what changes you can make to improve team member engagement and loyalty in an effective and positive way.

About the Model

John Meyer and Natalie Allen developed their Three Component Model of Commitment and published it in the 1991 "Human Resource Management Review." The model explains that commitment to an organization is a psychological state, and that it has three distinct components that affect how employees feel about the organization that they work for. [1]

The three components are:

  1. Affection for your job ("affective commitment").
  2. Fear of loss ("continuance commitment").
  3. Sense of obligation to stay ("normative commitment").

You can use this model to increase commitment and engagement in your team, while also helping people to experience a greater feeling of well-being and job satisfaction.

Let's look at each of Meyer and Allen's three types of commitment in greater detail.

Affection for Your Job (Affective Commitment)

Affection for your job occurs when you feel a strong emotional attachment to your organization, and to the work that you do. You'll most likely identify with the organization's goals and values, and you genuinely want to be there.

If you're enjoying your work, you're likely to feel good, and be satisfied with your job. In turn, this increased job satisfaction is likely to add to your feeling of affective commitment.

Those who truly love what they do will likely be more motivated to progress within their organization, think creatively, and experiment with new ways of working.

Fear of Loss (Continuance Commitment)

This type of commitment occurs when you weigh up the pros and cons of leaving your organization. You may feel that you need to stay at your company because the loss you'd experience by leaving it is greater than the benefit you think you might gain in a new role.

These perceived losses, or "side bets," can be monetary (you'd lose salary and benefits); professional (you might lose seniority or role-related skills that you've spent years acquiring); or social (you'd lose friendships or allies).

The severity of these "losses" often increases with age and experience. You're more likely to experience continuance commitment if you're in an established, successful role, or if you've had several promotions within one organization.

Fear of losing your job may motivate you to finish your work on time and work well with others. But it can also hinder your motivation to learn and develop. For example, you might shy away from trying new things or thinking outside the box for fear of slipping up. Or you may stop going after promotions or new projects in case you rub people the wrong way and damage your reputation.

Sense of Obligation to Stay (Normative Commitment)

This type of commitment occurs when you feel a sense of obligation to your organization, even if you're unhappy in your role, or even if you want to pursue better opportunities. You feel that you should stay with your organization because it's the right thing to do.

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This sense of obligation can stem from several factors. You might feel that you should remain with your organization because it has invested money or time in your training. Or perhaps it provided a reward in advance, such as paying for your college tuition.

This obligation can also result from your upbringing. For instance, your family might have stressed the importance of loyalty, above all else.

However, loyalty alone is not enough to motivate you to do a good job. You may lack drive to help your organization achieve its long-term goals. Or you might struggle to maintain strong relationships with co-workers because you resent them for keeping you from furthering your career.


These three types of commitment are not mutually exclusive. You can experience all three, or two of the three, in varying degrees.

Applying the Model

By applying the Three Component Model, you can help your team develop greater positive, affective commitment. By doing this, your people with likely feel more positive and+ motivated; and experience greater job satisfaction.

It's important to do your best to grow affective commitment, and reduce your team's reliance on continuance and normative commitment, so that you're leading a team of people who feel passionate for their roles.

Team members with only continuance and normative commitment may feel bored and unmotivated, and no leader wants a team with those attitudes! These team members might also block enthusiastic employees, or even lower the morale of the group.

Help people find purpose in their work. Make sure that you're linking people's goals with those of the team or organization, using an approach like Management by Objectives. If appropriate, see whether you can better align your team members' roles with their skills and interests, using techniques such as Job Crafting.

Remember that people are more likely to develop affective commitment if they experience positive emotions at work. Doing what you can to help people flourish is a great way to encourage people to thrive, and to enjoy the work that they're doing. Make sure that you give praise regularly, and create a healthy workplace, so that people are happy and productive.

Managing Continuance and Normative Commitment

In addition to helping people experience greater affective commitment, you can also use the model to carefully manage the amount of continuance and normative commitment that people may feel.

You can reduce the dependency on continuance and normative commitments by being a better leader, by working on your general team management skills, and by thinking carefully about how your actions might influence your team members.

Clearly, it doesn't make sense to try to reduce continuance or normative commitment, however you should try not to rely on it, even if you're unable to achieve affective commitment at first. You should work on ways to ensure that team members become happy and enjoy their work, without making them feel uncomfortable during the process.

Bear in mind, however, that people will likely experience continuance commitment at some point in their careers, because they'll feel that they need to stay in their job to receive pay and benefits. And some people will likely feel a sense of normative commitment if their organization has invested a lot in their training and development, for example. These types of commitment aren't something to fear, however, they're a bonus and not something you should seek to create!

Key Points

John Meyer and Natalie Allen developed the Three Component Model of Commitment, and published it in the 1991 "Human Resource Management Review." The model defines the three types of commitment as follows:

  1. Affection for your job (affective commitment).
  2. Fear of loss (continuance commitment).
  3. Sense of obligation to stay (normative commitment).

You can use the model to help your people experience greater affective commitment, thereby boosting their motivation and job satisfaction. But it's vital not to misuse continuance and normative commitment to keep people tied to your team or organization. Your team will function best, and thrive, if you use your energy to grow affective commitment.

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Comments (3)
  • Over a month ago Michele wrote
    Hi patanjali,

    I couldn't agree more. Employee engagement is fundamentally about the relationship an employee has with the organization. And, with their immediate manager.

    Mind Tools Team
  • Over a month ago patanjali wrote
    Quite agree with your observation and liked the connect that you could make of the relevance of this model to relationships.
    End of the day, employee engagement is all about a person's relationship with the organisation. Therefore the parallel that you could see. The same offers itself to extension to interpersonal relationships too.
    - Patanjali
  • Over a month ago Midgie wrote
    When I read about the three models (affection, fear and obligation), I thought that this could be applied to relationships as well and why people stay in relationships! Yet saying that, the tools and techniques described after that might not quite be applicable to relationships!!

    I do believe that being aware of individual's commitment to their jobs and understanding where they are coming from can help you manage them, motivate them and incentivize them more effectively.

    What do others think of this model?