The accelerating advances in information technology and the development in electronic
communication were essential precursors for the emergence of virtual organizations
and new work environments that rely primarily on electronic communication and
physical separation between the worker and the organization.
In a virtual work environment, the spatial barrier between the workers and the
organization could weaken their ties with the organization and could promote feelings
of isolation. Also, since virtual workers are invisible, research suggests that external
control and monitoring systems need to be reinforced with psychological linkages
which act as an internal control system for the behavior and beliefs of the virtual
workers (e.g. Wiesenfeld, Raghuram & Garud, 1999,2001).
Organizational commitment appears to be appealing to the virtual work environment
because it motivates the worker to go beyond the call of duty and develop a strong
internal belief in the organizational goals and values with a strong desire to maintain
membership in the organization. Also, research indicates that it is associated with
favorable behaviors by the organization such as low turnover, low absenteeism, job
satisfaction, job involvement, internal locus of control, extra roll behavior and higher
productivity (e.g. Mathieu & Zajac, 1990).
However, most of the research of organizational commitment was conducted in
traditional work environments and little attention was given to the study of
organizational commitment in virtual work environments.
This thesis examines the influence of various personal and work-related variables on
workers' organizational commitment in a virtual work environment. The thesis also
examines the differences between virtual and traditional workers on the level of their
organizational commitment and other perceptions.
But because of the lack of literature about organizational commitment in virtual work
environments, the empirical part of this thesis involved a preliminary qualitative study
based on in-depth interviews with workers involved in virtual working. The results of
the in-depth interviews indicated that there is a positive connection between affective
organizational commitment and virtual workers' perceptions about organizational
support, electronic communication and consideration leadership in a virtual work
Following the qualitative study, a questionnaire-based survey was conducted, which
involved a sample of 184 traditional and virtual workers taken from a large national
and international organization in Australia. The selection of variables in the
questionnaire survey was guided by the findings of the qualitative study as well as the
literature review. The questionnaire involved measures for the affective, continuance
and normative forms of organizational commitment as well as personal and work-related
The results of the questionnaire survey indicated that there is no significant difference
between traditional and virtual workers' affective, continuance and normative forms of
organizational commitment. Also, workers in a virtual work environment showed
higher affective occupational commitment than in traditional work environments as
well as higher self perceptions of personal attributes such as self-leadership, self-efficacy
and psychological empowerment.
In addition, results of regression analysis indicated that the supervisory communication
satisfaction, perceived organizational support, individualized personal consideration
dimension of transformational leadership and IT-self-efficacy have stronger positive
effect on workers' affective organizational commitment in a virtual work environment
than a traditional one. On the other hand, transactional leadership and continuance
occupational commitment showed a stronger positive effect on workers' continuance
organizational commitment in a virtual work environment than a traditional one.
Finally, perceived organizational support showed a stronger positive effect on worker's
normative organizational commitment in a virtual work environment than a traditional
one. However, trust in management showed a stronger positive effect on normative
organizational commitment in a traditional work environment than a virtual one.
The findings of this research have important implications in the organizational and
management studies and contribute to the work of a number of writers in the area of
virtual working (e.g. Raghuram, et al., 2001, 2003; Staples, Hulland & Higgins, 1999;
Wiesenfeld, Raghuram & Garud, 1999, 2001) and in the area of organizational
commitment (e.g. Meyer and Allen, 1991; Meyer, Herscovitch, 2001; Meyer, Stanley,
Herscovitch, Topolnytsky, 2002). Also, the findings of this thesis break a new ground
for designing effective virtual work programs and contribute to understanding the
human aspects of virtual working.