OSU Study Finds Out Why Old Work Commitments Linger

In a study of 420 employees representing a wide variety of occupations and work settings at three organizations, researchers found that commitments that workers no longer had were still lingering in their minds. While these effects could be positive or negative, the study revealed that many employees harbor negative feelings about long-gone obligations that their supervisors may not realize.

The research involved surveys of employees at a health care facility, a financial institution and a large, unionized manufacturing plant. As this was an exploratory study, the researchers asked employees just two questions: The first asked participants to describe in a few words a specific thing that they were committed to at work but were not anymore. The second asked them to say why they no longer had that commitment.

After reading the responses, the researchers sorted them into 11 broad reasons for why commitments ended. The most common was changes in work circumstances, which included about 30 percent of all responses. This could involve changed jobs or positions or shifted responsibilities.

The second most common reason, cited 16 percent of the time, was over-commitment. This included conflicting responsibilities or there simply not being enough time or capacity to fulfill all of one’s obligations.

The study appears online in the journal Academy of Management Discoveries.