This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Do as I say, not as I do: The effects of organizational response type on employee commitment during the COVID-19 pandemic




Donnelly, Lilah

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Psychological Sciences


The COVID-19 pandemic presented an opportunity for organizations to show that they value their employees. During the pandemic, organizations could have responded substantively by mandating masks, enforcing social distancing, or offering frequent testing. Conversely, they could have responded symbolically by claiming that they imposed these substantive actions without enforcing them. These two approaches may influence employee commitment, especially if those employees experience feelings of psychological contract violation because of the lack of reciprocity from the organization and have a high fear of COVID-19. Previous research has demonstrated that organizational responses do impact employee commitment, but this is one of the first studies in the industrial and organizational psychology literature that examines organizational response types within the workplace in the context of the pandemic. Results indicate that, in employees with medium and high, but not low, levels of fear of COVID-19, a substantive response will lead to statistically significant decreases in feelings of psychological contract violation and increases in affective commitment. Alternatively, fear of COVID-19 did not play a significant role in employees whose organizations’ responded symbolically. Symbolic responses lead to increases in psychological contract violations and psychological contract violations lead to decreases in affective commitment. Symbolic responses did not have a significant direct relationship with affective commitment.