Escalation of Commitment and Organizational Commitment
Posted on May 3, 2012 by Gail Danneman
Escalation of commitment occurs when we invest resources into a course of action that is failing. Resources can be time, money, energy, etc. that we continue to put into an investment because we do not want to appear to be inconsistent. Escalation of commitment fits well with the model of organizational commitment developed by Rusbult and Farrell (1983).
The organizational commitment model is comprised of three major components: investment, job satisfaction, and quality of alternatives. The investment component considers the amount that employees have invested into their organization. This component is similar to the escalation of commitment because although there are times when we should stop investing, we seem unable to stop. The same can be said about organizational commitment. Although we may not enjoy our job at a particular organization, if we feel that we have invested a lot into the organization, we are not likely to change organizations or jobs.
Job satisfaction, the second component relates to how we feel about our current job. Escalation of commitment fits nicely with job satisfaction because although we may not feel satisfied at a job, we may feel that if we invest more resources into the job, our satisfaction level may change.
Lastly, the model examines the quality of alternatives. This has to do with other jobs we may obtain at different organizations. If other opportunities are not considered good, we will likely stay at our current job for fear that the other opportunities may be worse than our current employment. The escalation of commitment plays a factor in how we view the quality of our alternatives. If the quality of alternatives is not high, we may feel that we should invest resources heavily into our current job because there are no other options. We do not want to appear inconsistent.
There are typically three reasons why we tend to escalate commitment to a course of action: perceptual biases, judgmental biases, and impression management. Perceptual bias refers to bias that we make when we confirm our existing decision with outside information such as falling prey to the confirmation bias. To reduce the likelihood of this occurring, we should look at both sides of the decision making process. That is, we should seek out information that may confirm and disconfirm our existing attitude.
Judgmental biases have to do with framing and the way that we make judgments based on arguments. Sometimes just the way that arguments are worded persuades us to make a particular decision although the decision may not be most appropriate. Before making a decision, we should consider both sides of the decision to reduce the likelihood of escalating our commitment.
Lastly, impression management refers to the way in which we make decisions. Often, we do not want to go against the grain from others around us. Therefore, we try to remain consistent and continue to put resources into actions (escalation of commitment). To prevent escalation of commitment from occurring in these types of situations, organizations should work to align employee values with organizational values in a way that promotes employees making better decisions.