Work Opportunities and Organizational Commitment in International Organizations

Date01 May 2019
Published date01 May 2019
Work Opportunities and Organizational Commitment in International Organizations 343
Abstract: This article applies social exchange theory to investigate the relationships between work opportunities
and organizational commitment in four United Nations agencies. It demonstrates that international civil servants
who are satisfied with their altruistic, social, and extrinsic work opportunities are more likely to declare high levels
of organizational commitment. Furthermore, perceived organizational support mediates these relationships. The
empirical findings highlight the importance of considering the specificity of organizational features in explaining
international civil servants’ attitudes and behaviors. Their preferences for altruistic, social, and extrinsic work
opportunities are not similar to the motivational orientations and rewards valued by public or private sector employees,
confirming the hybrid characteristics of international organizations. Drawing on these original results, the research
identifies some practical implications for human resource management in international organizations.
Evidence for Practice
Organizational work opportunities may help shape organizational commitment in international
International organizations possess some hybrid characteristics that may impact employees’ organizational
Altruistic, social, and extrinsic work opportunities are important antecedents of organizational commitment
in international organizations.
Perceived organizational support is of great importance as well.
Studies comparing organizational features in
the public and private sectors have investigated
preferences for work opportunities, values,
and incentives (Rainey 1983; Rainey and Bozeman
2000). By contrast, administrative officials working
at the international level are not usually included
in comparative human resource (HR) management
studies. This situation is quite surprising, since
international organizations (IOs) are key players that
influence all societal fields and political levels (Devin
and Smouts 2011). Therefore, a better understanding
of IOs’ internal functioning is both socially and
politically relevant. Since IOs are first and foremost
composed of employees, understanding what sustains
employees’ organizational commitment and what
types of work opportunities are likely to meet their
expectations and allow them to perform meaningful
work is crucial.
IOs are a particularly suitable field of research for
organization scholars because of their distinctive
features. In terms of “publicness” (Antonsen and
Jorgensen 1997), IOs occupy an intermediary
position in comparison with private and public
organizations (Schemeil 2013). IOs are interesting
comparative cases for public administration (Ege
and Bauer 2013) and for business-oriented (Balding
and Wehrenfennig 2011) research perspectives.
Nevertheless, early calls to view them through an
organizational lens (Ness and Brechin 1988) have
only recently begun to be heeded (Balding and
Wehrenfennig 2011; Brechin and Ness 2013; Ellis
2010; Haack and Mathiason 2010). However, with
the exception of some notable contributions (see
several chapters in Reinalda 2013), IO employees
have been disregarded in this research agenda.
Although the HR management of the United Nations
(UN) is far from being a paragon of good practice
(Beigbeder 2004) and is permanently under reform
(Salomons 2004), little is known about the work
preferences of international civil servants and what
types of HR management practices sustain their
willingness to make a difference by working in their
organizations. To fill this gap, two research questions
inform this research: (1) What work opportunities
are related to the organizational commitment of
international civil servants? (2) Are these relationships
mediated by perceived organizational support?
David Giauque
University of Lausanne
Frédéric Varone
University of Geneva
Work Opportunities and Organizational Commitment in
International Organizations
Frédéric Varone is full professor of
political science at the University of Geneva.
His research interests include comparative
policy analysis, public administration,
program evaluation, interest groups, and
political elites. He is coauthor of The
Public Policy Process (Routledge, 2017).
David Giauque is associate professor
of sociology of organizations and public
administrations at the University of
Lausanne. He is author or coauthor of
numerous books and scientific articles
on public administration reforms, public
management, human resource management
in the public sector, and the sociology of
public administrations.
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 79, Iss. 3, pp. 343–354. © 2018 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.12951.
Research Article

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