An investigation of the British organizational commitment scale: A qualitative approach to evaluating construct validity

Ashman, Ian (2007) An investigation of the British organizational commitment scale: A qualitative approach to evaluating construct validity. Management Research News, 30 (1). pp. 5-24. ISSN 0140-9174

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Purpose – At a general level, this article is concerned with the mechanisms through which constructs important to organizational analysis are identified, operationalized and validated. Specifically, the purpose of this paper is to consider the construct of organizational commitment, investigating the validity of a popular tool for its measurement – the British Organizational Commitment Scale (BOCS).

Design/methodology/approach – Problems in defining organizational commitment are discussed before tracing the development of the BOCS from its American precursor (the Organizational Commitment Questionnaire) and linking it with more general criticisms of self-report measures. The BOCS is subjected to a qualitative evaluation drawing from 23 semi-structured interviews with employees from three organizations; the evidence from which suggests considerable doubts surrounding its construct validity.

Finding – The conclusion drawn is that the psychometric approach to construct validation may be inadequate on its own. A qualitative approach could form part of a more robust triangulation methodology.

Research limitations/implications – The conclusion drawn has to be treated with some care, as the nature and scale of the sample do not permit strong generalisation. However, there is enough evidence to recommend that the psychometric orthodoxy typical of organizational commitment research spanning the last 50 years needs reviewing.

Practical implications – The BOCS is used by a multitude of employers to evaluate the relationship between employees and organization. The evidence presented suggests they may not be attaining as clear an insight as they would wish.

Originality/value – The merits of the organizational commitment as a construct and the mechanisms for measuring are widely accepted. This paper presents what appears to be the first prima facie evidence to challenge its value.

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