Published Online:https://doi.org/10.5465/amd.2015.0073

This article introduces the concept of quondam commitments—commitments employees used to, but no longer have. A review of the literature reveals that this prevalent phenomenon has been overlooked and cannot be sufficiently understood from existing scholarship. We present an inductive study to begin exploring the nature of quondam commitments and the importance of addressing this oversight. Specifically, 420 employees from three organizations responded to open-ended survey questions asking them to describe a quondam commitment and explain why they no longer have that commitment. A variety of reasons for quondam commitment emerged from our content analysis, most of which are unique from established commitment antecedents. The reasons for quondam commitment are applicable across various prior commitment targets, but vary by target in noteworthy ways. We then discuss the implications of quondam commitment for management practice and scholarship. To facilitate future theory development and empirical research, we present a systematic roadmap and an initial process model proposing several antecedents and moderators of quondam commitment and its outcomes for individuals, teams, and organizations. The roadmap highlights numerous gaps in our understanding pertaining to construct development, testing the initial model, extending our current findings, opportunities for bridging micro–macro divides, and addressing study limitations.

Social scientists of this article offer a unique perspective on commitment research. Instead of asking what happens when employees are committed, Klein and his colleagues asked what happens when employees are no longer committed? What seems like a subtle shift in perspective provokes many new discoveries. First, scientists discovered a new commitment construct—quondam commitments—and defined the construct as those commitments that employees used to have, but no longer have. Second, the scientists discovered that previously known antecedents of organizational commitment, such as lack of reciprocation and negative perceptions of management, do not completely explain quondam commitments. Rather, changes in work circumstances, overcommitment, and even completion of projects do lead employees to stop commitments. Third, quondam commitments appeared to vary systematically across commitment targets. The discovery of how quondam commitments differs from earlier formulations of commitment serves to rejuvenate research on and interests in commitment. The insights gained from this study raise many more new research questions related to the measurement, outcomes, mechanisms, and boundary conditions of quondam commitment. We expect these questions to spur future theorizing and empirical research into “gone commitments.”

Soon Ang, Action Editor

Whiteboard Video Abstract

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