Does Felt Obligation or Gratitude Better Explain the Relationship Between Perceived Organizational Support and Outcomes?


Psychological Science

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The employee-organization relationship (EOR) is a key component of organizational behavior. Researchers have consistently shown that employees who perceive that they are supported by their organizations (favorable EORs) tend to have positive attitudes and behave in a manner that helps the organization to reach its goals. For many years, the reciprocity norm (e.g. felt obligation) has been a widely accepted explanation for the EOR. Yet, despite calls to explore additional pathways, little work has examined other mediating mechanisms between favorable EORs and outcomes. We draw on the affect theory of social exchange to argue for the mediating effects of gratitude, felt obligation, and pride on the relationship between perceived organizational support (POS) and outcomes. Our results—from three field studies—show that (a) gratitude mediated the relationships of POS with extra-role performance aimed at aiding the organization, affective organizational commitment, and job satisfaction, (b) the mediating effect of gratitude was stronger than the mediating effect of felt obligation, and (c) gratitude made stronger contributions to extra-role performance and affective organizational commitment than did pride. We discuss theoretical and practical implications.

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Group and Organization Management

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