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Work, Employment & Society, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp.

621641 December 1999

Abstract: This paper compares the level of organisational commitment in three

former state socialist societies (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia) with
that in a market-based society (Britain). Among the former state socialist societies,
Bulgaria represents the country that had remained closest to the patterns of work
organisation that prevailed before 1989, whereas the Czech Republic and Slovakia
had moved further towards marketisation. The analysis draws on data from
nationally representative surveys of the workforce in the four countries. The results
show that organisational commitment was lower in all of the former state socialist
societies than in Britain, but that it was lowest of all in the societies that were more
fully engaged in the transition to a market economy. There is evidence that the
patterns of work organisation typical of state socialism did have the effect of lower-
ing commitment, most importantly because of the way they restricted initiative
and self-determination in work. However, it seems likely that this was exacerbated
in the case of the transitional societies by sharper aspirations for work enrichment
and by the greater unpredictability of organisational developments in a rapidly
changing environment.


Duncan Gallie, Dobrinka Kostova and Pavel Kuchar

How do levels of organisational commitment in former state socialist

societies compare with those of a Western market society? The issue is of
particular interest, given the emphasis in some accounts on the
importance of economic inefficiency in helping to precipitate regime
collapse (Machonin 1997). In the Western literature, organisational
commitment has been shown to be closely related to productivity related
behaviour such as absenteeism and turnover. Could it be that the
enterprise structures and forms of work organisation that were prevalent
in the former state socialist societies had the effect of systematically
undercutting work motivation? While the collapse of the East European
regimes in 1989 left little doubt about the underlying lack of legitimacy of
the political structures of state socialist societies, there is no reliable
information about whether people were more alienated from their work
organisations than in Western capitalist societies.

Duncan Gallie is Professor of Sociology at the University of Oxford. Dobrinka

Kostova is a Fellow of the Institute of Sociology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences,
Sofia. Pavel Kuchar is a Senior Researcher, Institute of Social and Political
Sciences, Charles University, Prague.

Clearly, there can never be a fully adequate answer to these questions

with respect to the pre-1989 period, given that the necessary research was
not carried out at the time. The present study tries to explore the impli-
cations of the modes of work organisation associated with state socialism
by focusing on three societies which, at the time of the research, varied
considerably in the extent to which they had moved away from traditional
state socialist organisation towards a market economy. The countries
selected were the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Bulgaria. These have been
compared with Britain as a country with a relatively pure market system.
The most rapid change towards a market economy, with early wide-
spread privatisation, occurred in the Czech Republic. Slovakia initially
followed a similar path, but after the break-up of Czechoslovakia in
January 1993, it came under the control of a political elite that took a
considerably more cautious approach to privatisation. In Bulgaria, the
continued participation in office of the former Communist Party under
the guise of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) for much of the post-
transition period was associated with very slow change in patterns of
ownership. It seems probable that the extent of change in ownership
patterns was closely linked to the degree of internal restructuring of
organisations. Hence Bulgaria should represent the case closest to the
pattern of state socialist organisation, followed by Slovakia. The Czech
Republic, on the other hand, should be in an intermediary position
between the Western capitalist and state socialist models (Illner 1996).

Enterprise Structure and Employee Participation

Among West European societies, Britain is generally regarded as the
country that has gone furthest in embracing market principles. In con-
trast, the state socialist societies implemented a command economy that
sharply restricted the scope for significant decision-making within the
work organisation (Kalinov 1996). Enterprise management was con-
fronted by sets of indicators delivered from the industry branch ministries
that controlled in considerable detail the disposition and payment of
labour. A national system of regulation laid down wage rates and defined
the criteria for placing individuals in specific qualification categories.
Further, national directives based on the supposed scientific organisation
of work specified the appropriate forms of work organisation, work
norms, the nature of work incentives, work hours and rest periods (Petkov
and Thirkell 1988: 1819). Within this heavily constrained framework,
such decision-making power as existed within the enterprise tended to be
exercised by the workplace manager in consultation with the local party
organisation and the party controlled trade unions (Petkov and Thirkell
1988:40; Moerel 1994). While there is a dearth of rigorous information
on work practices, it is likely that the hierarchical nature of the macro-

institutional structures of state socialist societies was reflected in relatively

authoritarian systems of control within the workplace (Petkov and Thirkell
1988; Kornai 1992; Jons 1997).
Developments in the 1980s may have reduced these differences in
workplace organisation. While in Britain there was a reassertion of mana-
gerial power at the expense of traditional collective bargaining arrange-
ments, in the state socialist societies there were centrally generated
attempts to stimulate production through the introduction of more partici-
pative workplace institutions. In Bulgaria, there appears to have been a
serious attempt to implement aspects of these reforms in the years after
1982. The essential component of the reform was the introduction of a
system of brigade organisation, which granted significant autonomy to
work teams (Petkov and Thirkell 1988: 2526).
In Czechoslovakia, change in workplace practice occurred later and was
much shorter lived. It was only in the late 1980s that measures were intro-
duced to provide for employee participation through enterprise councils
and general assemblies; to introduce the brigade system, with its relatively
autonomous work teams and to establish the principle of the election of
general managers (Cziria 1995; Krejei and Machonin, 1996).
After 1989, there was a growing divergence between Czechoslovakia
and Bulgaria in their pattern of institutional development. Enterprise re-
organisation accelerated in Czechoslovakia with the successive waves of
privatisation in 19913. (Initially, Slovakia followed a similar path although
the pace of change slowed down very sharply after it became an
independent state). While increased market orientation was accompanied
by changes in management organisation, with greater decentralisation of
responsibilities and the growth of new functional specialisms, in particular
marketing, there was less evidence of significant change in shop floor
organisation except where foreign investors had taken control (Pollert
1995; Thirkell et al. 1995; Vlcil 1996). Central pressure for the extension
of participative forms of work organisation disappeared with the legislation
of 1990 which dismantled the participatory bodies and abolished the
practice of election of directors.
In Bulgaria, on the other hand, moves towards privatisation were very
hesitant (Petkov and Gradev 1995). Successive proposals for largescale
privatisation were shelved and by 1993 only three or four major privatisa-
tion projects had been completed. However, the effect of increased
decentralisation of decision-making to the enterprise without private
ownership appears to have been to give a new vigour to the participatory
institutions within firms, which could now lay claim to a considerably
expanded area of influence (Petkov and Gradev 1995).
Overall, Bulgaria then provides a case in which the institutional system
at workplace level remained very close to that of the period of state
socialism, while the Czech and Slovak Republics represent different

degrees of transition away from that system. But although the broad
institutional differences can be outlined from existing research, little is
known about their implications for everyday work experiences and for
organisational commitment. To assess these effects, we need to look at
representative survey evidence that provides more direct information on
employee experiences. In each of the three former state socialist societies,
surveys were carried out in 1994 to provide data that would be com-
parable with a survey conducted in Britain in 1992 the Employment in
Britain Survey (Gallie et al. 1998). The surveys, which involved interviews
in peoples homes, provided nationally representative random samples of
all people in work, with sample sizes of 3,869 in Britain; 2009 in the
Czech Republic; 1001 in Slovakia and 2202 in Bulgaria.1
We first look at the level of organisational commitment in the four
countries. We then consider how far the countries differed in typical
employment experiences, and whether such differences were related to the
degree of proximity to state socialist or market forms of organisation.
Finally, we examine how aspects of employment experience affected
organisational commitment and how far they accounted for differences in
commitment between countries.

Organisational Commitment

The Level of Organisational Commitment

There could be three contrasting expectations about the commitment to
organisations in the countries under study:

(1) Organisational legitimacy could be lower the closer the country

approximates to the traditional state socialist model. To the extent
that the forms of organisation embodied wider centralised and
authoritarian norms of management, they could be expected to
generate resentment by offering employees little sense of control
over either their immediate work life or wider organisational issues.
In addition, since centralised planning was associated with
economic efficiency, organisations would be unable to win the
loyalty of employees through instrumental incentives.
(2) Organisational legitimacy could be lower the closer the country
approximates to a market model. Market dynamics are likely to
lead employers to intensify work effort, they may heighten
insecurity and increase the sense that organisations are run
primarily in the interests of management rather than of employees.
(3) Organisational legitimacy could be lower in the countries that were
most deeply involved in the transition. The assumption here is that
stable state socialist systems had developed their own mechanisms

of legitimation and that the process of transition produces a

normative rupture that renders these largely ineffective. At the
same time, these countries were faced with radical restructuring of
traditional work patterns, a process which had the potential to
generate significant conflict between management and employees.
Organisational commitment implies that people feel a level of personal
identification with an organisation that will lead them to remain with and
work for the organisation on other than instrumental or coercive grounds.2
In Etzionis (1975) terms their commitment will be of a normative rather
than of a calculative type. Research on organisational commitment has
been predominantly conducted in the USA, where it has been shown to
be empirically distinct from other measures of work motivation and a
particularly good predictor of labour turnover (Mowday et al. 1982;
Brooke et al. 1988). While there has been interesting comparative work
between the USA and Japan (Lincoln and Kalleberg, 1990), there is a
striking lack of comparable information for European societies. The
indicator of organisational commitment used here was derived from a
measure that has been extensively tested in research (Mowday et al. 1982).
It is based on four questions designed to assess respondents respect for
their organisations values and their sense of pride in and loyalty towards
the organisation.3 The items were:
I find that my values and the organisations values are very similar.
I am proud to be working for this organisation.
I am willing to work harder than I have to in order to help this
organisation succeed.
I feel very little loyalty to this organisation.
Table 1 presents the average commitment scores for each of the
countries. With respect to the market-state socialist dimension, the
pattern is curvilinear. Organisational commitment is highest in the most
market-orientated society Britain (2.92), but it is next highest in the
society closest to state socialist forms of work organisation Bulgaria
(2.72). It is lowest in Slovakia (2.58) and above all in the Czech Republic
(2.49). The scores for each of the state socialist societies were significantly
different from that of Britain. Moreover, the difference in scores between
the state socialist societies was in each case statistically significant. It is
notable that the pattern is identical for men and women. It is also
consistent across different age categories. Organisational commitment is
higher in the older age groups in each of the countries, but the rank order
of the countries remains the same for all but the youngest group (aged
2024), where the difference disappears between the Czechs and Slovaks.
Overall, this pattern is consistent with the view that organisational
legitimacy was lower in the former state socialist structures than in the

Table 1 Organisational Commitment by Country

Britain Czech Slovakia Bulgaria

All Employees 2.92 2.49 2.58 2.72

Males 2.90 2.50 2.55 2.73
Females 2.93 2.48 2.62 2.72

market-based system of Britain. But, at the same time, it conflicts with the
assumption that there is a simple linear link between marketisation and
legitimacy. Rather, the sharpest alienation from the organisation appears
to be linked to the disruption associated with the transition.

Class and Organisational Commitment

A first possibility is that differences in organisational commitment result
from differences in occupational composition between the societies. In
particular, research in market societies has shown a strong association
between organisational commitment and occupational level. Theories of
industrial development have often suggested that, as societies reach higher
levels of economic development, there is a corresponding expansion of the
professional and managerial categories in the workforce. If this class is
smaller in the former state socialist societies, this may result in lower
average levels of satisfaction.
To examine this, occupations in each country were coded into a version
of the Erikson-Goldthorpe class schema (Erikson and Goldthorpe 1992).
In cross-national comparisons, the composition of such classes may reflect
rather different industrial structures. There were particularly important
differences between these societies in terms of the relative importance of
manufacturing and service industries. For instance, at the beginning of
the 1990s, only 20 per cent of the workforce in Britain was in manu-
facturing industry, whereas the proportions rose to 36 per cent in the
Czech Republic, 31 per cent in Slovakia and 35 per cent in Bulgaria.
Conversely, 67 per cent of the British workforce were in service industries,
whereas this was the case for only 47 per cent in the Czech Republic, 49
per cent in Slovakia and 38 per cent in Bulgaria. Thus, a considerably
higher proportion of the class of non-skilled workers in Britain were
routine sales and personal service workers, while there was a higher
proportion of non-skilled manual workers in manufacturing in the former
state socialist societies.
In terms of broadly defined class position, there is little evidence that
the size of the professional and managerial group is any simple function of
the level of economic development (Table 2). This category is at least as
large in the Czech Republic and Slovakia as in Britain and it is substan-

Table 2 Class Distribution of Employees

Britain Czech Slovakia Bulgaria

Professional/Managerial 34.7 39.7 37.7 43.8

Routine Non-Manual 24.4 10.4 12.0 8.9
Tech/Supervisors 4.2 3.6 3.7 6.0
Skilled Manual 15.1 32.0 31.3 20.9
Non-Skilled 21.5 14.3 15.2 20.4
Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0

tially larger in Bulgaria. What this pattern would seem to confirm is the
reputation of these societies for highly bureaucratic forms of organisation,
for bureaucracy is likely to breed the proliferation of managerial cadres.
There is more evidence for a relationship between economic develop-
ment and the size of the class of lower non-manual workers. These were a
much smaller category in the former state socialist societies. However,
there was a higher proportion of skilled manual workers, possibly reflect-
ing the greater importance of traditional forms of manufacturing
production. Overall, there is little reason to think that lower organisational
commitment simply reflected a higher proportion of workers in non-
skilled jobs.
The expectation that commitment in a market society would be parti-
cularly low among skilled manual and non-skilled workers is confirmed in
the data for Britain (Table 3). But, even in the former state socialist
societies, those in manual work showed less attachment to their organisa-
tions than professional and managerial employees. There were, however,
differences when manual workers were compared with lower non-manual
employees. In Britain, lower non-manual employees had a higher level of
organisational commitment than manual workers, whereas the reverse was
the case in Bulgaria. In Slovakia, the scores of the two categories were
virtually identical. It is only in the Czech Republic that the pattern is
similar to that in Britain.
In the societies that had remained closest to the traditional models of
state socialist work organisation Slovakia and above all Bulgaria there
may then have been a demotion of lower non-manual work that resulted in
levels of organisational commitment no higher than that of manual
workers. In the transitional capitalist model (the Czech Republic) and the
developed capitalist model (Britain) class differentiation between these
two categories became more clearly marked. However, this cannot account
for the different levels of organisational commitment between countries.
The notable point in Table 3 is that the rank order of the countries
remains true for each class taken separately.

Table 3 Organisational Commitment Scores by Class

Britain Czech Slovakia Bulgaria

Prof/Managerial 2.99 2.60 2.72 2.82

Routine Non-Manual 2.96 2.42 2.52 2.60
Supervisors/technicians 3.00 2.64 2.41 2.71
Skilled Manual 2.79 2.38 2.52 2.63
Non-Skilled 2.79 2.34 2.50 2.65
N 3432 1583 853 2016

Work Organisation and Job Experience

Very broadly, different strands of the literature have focused on three
groups of factors relating to the more immediate work context that affect
workers attitudes to their employers. The first involves the characteristics
of the job task: the implications of factors such as skill level, degree of
autonomy and variety in work. The second relates to the structure of
control and decision-making in the organisation. Finally, there are the
extrinsic features of work: in particular the level of pay, the opportunities
for promotion and the security of the job.
The principal measures of job quality were items indicating the extent
to which the work task provided opportunities for self-determination and
was intrinsically interesting. It is clear that there were substantial
differences between the societies in the satisfaction that employees
reported with the initiative that they could exercise in carrying out their
work tasks (Table 4). British employees were the most satisfied, followed
by the Czechs. Satisfaction with this aspect of the work situation was
particularly low in Bulgaria, followed by Slovakia. The closer the society,
then, to the traditional state socialist model, the greater the frustration
appeared to be about opportunities for self-determination.
These differences in levels of satisfaction were directly related to
peoples perception of their effective task discretion. It is clear from Table
4 that British employees had substantially better jobs than employees in
the former state socialist societies in terms of both individual autonomy
and the task discretion that could be exercised in work. Whereas 47 per
cent of British employees reported that they could work independently,
this was the case for less than 20 per cent of employees in any of the
former state socialist countries. British employees were also more likely to
feel that they had a lot of say over their job and that they took part in
decisions affecting their work. It is notable that independence in work and
participation in job decisions were particularly low in the two countries
that had moved most slowly from the traditional state socialist model
Slovakia and particularly Bulgaria. Whatever the merits in principle of the

Table 4 Task Discretion and Job Interest

Britain Czech Slovakia Bulgaria

Task Discretion
% very true
Can work independently in job 47 19 17 12
Has a lot of say over job 20 14 10 14
Takes part in job decisions 26 19 14 12
Satisfaction with Initiative Score 5.53 4.81 4.69 4.39
Job Interest
% continuous learning in job 26 22 19 21
(strongly agrees)
% variety of work increased 66 44 40 22
Satisfaction with Variety Score 5.34 4.85 4.77 4.39

Bulgarian reforms of work organisation, there is little evidence that they

gave workers any strong sense of control over their work tasks. This
conclusion is confirmed by other recent research on Bulgaria (Zinovieva
1997: 70).
The British were also more likely than employees in any of the former
state socialist societies to be satisfied with the intrinsic interest of their
work. They were more likely to be in a job that required continuous
learning and satisfaction scores for the variety of work were significantly
higher in Britain. Further, efforts to enhance the variety of work in recent
years appear to have been greater in Britain than in the former state
socialist societies. Whereas 66 per cent of British workers reported that
the variety of work had increased in the previous five years, this was the
case for only 44 per cent of the Czechs, 40 per cent of the Slovaks and 22
per cent of the Bulgarians.
In short, the picture is one in which the former state socialist societies
provided jobs in which there were markedly lower levels of task discretion
and variety than in a capitalist society such as Britain. These findings are
consistent with a pattern of organisation which involved relatively cen-
tralised and bureaucratic controls over the work process.

Relations with Management

Given the very different systems of social organisation that had prevailed
in the Western and the former state socialist societies, it is understandable
that there were also marked differences in the perception of relations with
management. We shall focus on three aspects of this: relations with
immediate supervisors; the degree of participation and, finally, the
perceived efficiency of management.

There was a clear divergence between British employees and those in the
former state socialist societies in their satisfaction with relations with their
supervisors (Table 5), with the latter considerably more dissatisfied. In
contrast to the pattern for task discretion, however, there was relatively
little difference between the former state socialist societies.
The evidence suggests that patterns of supervision had been changing
in different ways in the previous five years in Britain and the former state
socialist societies. In Britain, there was a polarisation of experiences: for
part of the workforce supervision had become tighter (29 per cent), while
a similar proportion (31 per cent) had seen the closeness of supervision
decline. In the former state socialist societies, in contrast, the process had
been largely one way: change had been towards the growth of tighter
forms of supervision. This was particularly the case in Slovakia (55 per
cent), and the Czech Republic (47 per cent), perhaps reflecting the
difficulties of a more marked process of restructuring. Case study
evidence suggests that, in these countries, supervisors received greater
powers to determine merit pay (Vlcil et al. 1996).
In all of the countries, the sheer closeness of supervision was associated
with more negative attitudes. Previous research, however, has suggested
that it is less the level of supervision than the style of supervision that is
crucial for the way employees feel about their organisations. In practice,
the main factor that would appear to distinguish the former state socialist
societies was a stronger belief by employees that their supervisors were
biased in the way they carried out their job, favouring some workers more
than others. Whereas 38 per cent were of this view in Britain, it was the
case for approximately half the workforce in the former state socialist
societies. It is in Bulgaria that one finds the highest proportion empha-
sising this very strongly and Bulgarian employees were also the least likely

Table 5 Relations with Supervisors and Organisational Commitment

Britain Czech Slovakia Bulgaria

Supervisory Influence Score 0.23 0.25 0.36 0.03

% Supervision has become closer 29 47 55 39
% Supervision has decreased 31 9 6 9
Supervisory Assistance 58 46 55 73
Supervisor Bias (strongly agree) 16 19 23 25
Supervisor Bias 38 47 52 50
(agree and strongly agree)
Disagrees that good work recognised 21 25 26 31
Satisfaction with supervision score 5.42 4.66 4.71 4.62

to think that good work was recognised in their organisation (compare

Zinovieva 1997: 91).

Participation and Consultation

A good deal of research has stressed the importance of participation in
work as a source of commitment (Blumberg 1968; Brannen 1983).
Broadly speaking, a distinction can be drawn between weaker forms of
participation which involve employees receiving information about
developments in the organisation, and stronger forms in which they are
able to influence decisions.
The countries were fairly similar with respect to management informa-
tion practices. (Table 6). In all countries, a majority of employees reported
that meetings were held in which employees could express their views
about important developments in the organisation they worked for. These
were as common in Bulgaria as in Britain and the Czech Republic. It is
also notable that the average score for satisfaction with communications in
Bulgaria was only a little lower than in Britain, and, substantially higher
than in either the Czech Republic or Slovakia.
There was more difference with respect to the opportunity that people
had to participate in decisions that affected their work.4 In Britain, 32 per
cent of employees reported that they had either quite a lot or a great deal
of say, whereas the proportion was only 23 per cent in the Czech
Republic, 19 per cent in Slovakia and 20 per cent in Bulgaria. The level of
participation appeared to have been very little affected by the transition,
with the Czech Republic showing a similar pattern to Slovakia and
Bulgaria. There was also little evidence that the Bulgarian reform

Table 6 Participation and Organisational Commitment

Britain Czech Slovakia Bulgaria

% Information meetings on 63 65 71 65
wider organisational issues
Satisfaction with 4.79 4.36 4.33 4.60
Communications Score
Level of Participation (%)
No influence 41 38 44 40
A little 27 39 37 41
Quite a lot 21 18 16 16
A great deal 11 5 3 4
% satisfied with say over 52 56 53 35

programme, designed to enhance direct employee involvement, had had

any substantial effect.
There were high levels of dissatisfaction with existing levels of
participation in each country (Table 6). Only just over half the workforce
was satisfied with existing procedures in Britain, the Czech Republic and
Slovakia and the proportion in Bulgaria was as low as 35 per cent.
Overall, informational involvement was as developed in the former state
socialist countries as in a capitalist country such as Britain. However, in
the former state socialist societies, there was a lower sense of participation
in decisions about work organisation.

Managerial Efficiency
It is plausible that commitment to the organisation will be affected by the
perceived efficiency of management. There were four measures in the
survey that were designed to tap this. People were asked how well changes
were planned in the organisation, how efficiently work was carried out in
the organisation, how much co-ordination there was between departments
and how keen management was on new ideas and improvements in the
organisation. In each case responses were on a five point scale. Table 7
presents the average scores, with higher scores indicating greater manage-
ment efficiency.
The picture given by these different indicators is very consistent. In
each case, British employees were the most likely to think that their
organisations were run efficiently. The country where management was
thought to be least efficient was Bulgaria, which had remained closest to
the state socialist model. The Czech Republic and Slovakia came in
between, with the Czech Republic closest to the British score. The pattern
here is consistent with the view that state socialist modes of organisation
were highly inefficient. The closer the country was to a market economy,
the more efficient organisations were seen to be. The greatest difference

Table 7 Perceptions of Management Efficiency

Britain Republic Slovakia Bulgaria

How well changes planned 3.16 2.99 2.89 2.60

Efficiency of work 3.68 3.19 3.09 2.29
How much co-ordination 3.38 3.18 3.19 2.32
between departments
Interest of management in 3.91 3.50 3.24 2.71
new ideas and improvements

between the countries was with respect to the perceived efficiency of

working practices.

Labour Market Position

Differences in employees financial anxiety might have been expected not
only between Britain and the former state socialist societies, but also
between the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Bulgaria. Of the three coun-
tries, Bulgaria was both the poorest and the country that had experienced
the deepest recession since 1989. In contrast, the Czech Republic was
wealthier and had experienced much greater economic stability, with
Slovakia occupying an intermediary position.
However, it is clear that economic anxiety was not a simple reflection of
objective material circumstances. While it was the case that financial
anxiety was lowest in Britain, there was relatively little difference between
the Czech Republic and Bulgaria (Table 8). Whereas 37 per cent of
employees in Britain were anxious about money almost all of the time or
quite often, the proportion rose to 56 per cent in the Czech Republic
and 55 per cent in Bulgaria. But it was Slovakia that had the highest level
of financial anxiety (69 per cent). It may be that the Slovaks were more
heavily dependant on wage labour for their overall standard of living. With
their larger agricultural sector, Bulgarian employees may have been in a
better position to meet their subsistence needs through making use of
their remaining links with the land. Financial anxiety was strongly

Table 8 Labour Market Position

Britain Czech Slovakia Bulgaria

% almost always or quite often 37 56 69 55

worried about money
Satisfaction with pay score 4.63 3.83 3.48 3.70
% Promotion chances 50/50 38 20 18 7
% Best chances for better job 42 27 30 15
with own employer
% Best chances for better job 49 57 57 21
with another employer
% Dont know where best chance 9 17 13 64
for better job
Satisfaction with promotion score 4.40 4.07 3.96 4.00
% Likely to be forced to leave 6 8 11 13
current job in next 12 mths
% Security has declined last 5 yrs 36 54 60 67
Satisfaction with security score 5.11 4.52 4.18 4.18

associated with the satisfaction of employees with their pay. Once more,
British employees showed the highest satisfaction with their pay, whereas
the Slovaks were by far the most dissatisfied.
A disadvantageous labour market position is likely to be less threatening
if people feel that there is a reasonable chance of moving out of it through
upward mobility. But in practice employees in the former state socialist
societies felt relatively trapped in their current position. They were
markedly less satisfied than British employees with their promotion oppor-
tunities. In part, this reflected a difference in perceived opportunities.
Whereas 38 per cent of British employees thought that they had a 50/50
or better chance of promotion within their current organisation, the
proportion fell to 20 per cent in the Czech Republic, 18 per cent in
Slovakia and only 7 per cent in Bulgaria.
Finally, there were major differences between the countries with respect
to satisfaction with job security. Even though the British data was
collected at the height of the recession of the early 1990s, British employ-
ees were considerably more satisfied with their security than those in any
of the former state socialist societies. Satisfaction with security was lowest
in Slovakia and Bulgaria. Comparing their situation with five years earlier,
only 36 per cent of British employees thought that their security had
declined. However, in the Czech Republic this was the case for approxi-
mately half of all employees (54 per cent), while in Slovakia the figure rose
to 60 per cent and in Bulgaria to 67 per cent. Similarly the proportion of
people in Slovakia and Bulgaria believing they were likely to lose their jobs
in the coming twelve months was roughly double that in Britain.
This has to be understood in terms of the patterns of unemployment.
The rate of unemployment in Slovakia and Bulgaria peaked in 1993/4 at a
figure over 50 per cent higher than that experienced in Britain during the
recession of the early 1990s. Moreover, the rise in the unemployment rate
in Britain between 1990 and 1993 was one of 4.5 percentage points, and
in the Czech Republic the worst figures were only 4 percentage points
higher than the situation in 1989. In contrast, there had been a rise of
some 15 percentage points in both Slovakia and Bulgaria between 1989
and 1993/1994. Clearly, a change in employment stability as rapid as was
experienced in Slovakia and Bulgaria was likely to generate a much more
pervasive sense of job insecurity.

Sources of Organisational Commitment and Alienation

A number of major differences have emerged between work experiences in
Britain and the former state socialist societies. British patterns of work
organisation gave employees a stronger sense of initiative and responsibi-
lity in the work task; they appeared to provide more satisfactory relations
between supervisors and employees, particularly with respect to perceived

fairness; they offered higher levels of involvement in decisions about work

organisation, better promotion opportunities and greater job security.
To examine the relative importance of these different aspects of work
experience for organisational commitment, we have taken the measures of
satisfaction with each set of employment conditions. These have two
advantages. First, they capture the broad spectrum of experience in each
domain and reduce the risk that issues of importance to employees in each
area have been omitted by the constraints of questionnaire length. Second,
they take account of the evaluation of the prevailing forms of organisation.
This is important, given the possibility of significant differences in the
relative salience of issues in different cultural contexts. The disadvantage
is that there may be a more general evaluative factor at work that could
produce an artificially high level of association between attitudes to
aspects of the job and organisational commitment. It is then the relative
strengths of the different variables rather than the absolute levels that
should be the focus of attention. For comparability, we focus on the beta
coefficients, which standardise the full set of variables.
In many respects, there is considerable similarity between countries in
the way that different aspects of work experience relate to organisational
commitment. Taking first the experience of the work task, the extent to
which people were satisfied with the initiative that they could exercise in
work was a highly significant factor in all of the countries, while satis-
faction with work effort was significant in none of them (Table 9). The
exception was the case of variety. This was important in both Britain and
the Czech Republic but it failed to reach significance in either Slovakia or
Bulgaria. Arguably, this is an aspect of work that becomes salient when
more basic work needs have been met.
With respect to relations with management, the quality of communica-
tions about wider organisational issues and the efficiency of management
organisation of work practices were of importance in all countries. Rela-
tions with supervisors were highly significant in all countries other than
Slovakia (and even there the direction of the effect was the same as in the
other countries). The factor that was more specific in its effects was
participation in decision-making. It was of considerable importance in
Britain, but irrelevant in the three former state socialist societies. It may
be an emergent demand, increasing in salience once greater control over
the immediate work task has been achieved.
Finally, with respect to labour market conditions, the two factors that
had the most general influence were satisfaction with promotion and
satisfaction with pay. Those who were satisfied with their promotion
chances were markedly more attached to their organisations in all of the
societies, and satisfaction with pay was important in Britain, the Czech
Republic and Slovakia. However, in Bulgaria dissatisfaction with pay did
not feed into the evaluation of the organisation, possibly reflecting the fact

Table 9 Satisfaction with Employment Conditions and Organisational


Britain Czech Slovakia Bulgaria

Beta Sig. Beta Sig. Beta Sig. Beta Sig.

Age 2534 0.05* 0.01 n.s. 0.17** 0.09*

Age 3544 0.08*** 0.03 n.s. 0.18** 0.17***
Age 4555 0.09*** 0.09** 0.16*** 0.17***
Age 5660 0.02 n.s. 0.02 n.s. 0.06 n.s. 0.05*
Male 0.03 n.s. 0.02 n.s. 0.03 n.s. 0.00 n.s.

Satisfaction with:
Initiative 0.09*** 0.10** 0.19*** 0.20***
Variety 0.17*** 0.13*** 0.07 n.s. 0.05 n.s.
Effort 0.01 n.s. 0.01 n.s. 0.01 n.s. 0.05 n.s.
Colleagues 0.02 n.s. 0.04 n.s. 0.09* 0.00 n.s.
Supervisor 0.10*** 0.13*** 0.07 n.s. 0.08**
Participation 0.04** 0.02 n.s. 0.04 n.s. 0.03 n.s.
Communications 0.18*** 0.15*** 0.10* 0.11***
Work efficiency 0.13*** 0.13*** 0.11** 0.11***
Pay 0.08*** 0.08** 0.08* 0.02 n.s.
Work hours 0.01 n.s. 0.02 n.s. 0.05 n.s. 0.00 n.s.
Promotion 0.12*** 0.07* 0.11** 0.08**
Security 0.03* 0.02 n.s. 0.03 n.s. 0.03 n.s.

R2 (N)Britain 0.39 (3230); Czech 0.32 (1189); Slovakia 0.34 (635); Bulgaria 0.23 (1867)
Statistical significance: *P0.05,**P0.01,***P0.001.

that pay rates were still seen as subject primarily to centralised controls
which gave the individual organisation little scope for autonomous policy.
A notable factor is that job insecurity was only of importance in Britain.
Again, the most plausible explanation of this lies in peoples likely percep-
tions of the causes of job insecurity in their society. In Britain, employee
vulnerability to insecurity varied very substantially between sectors and
between firms within sectors. It was quite natural then that employees
would attribute their insecurity at least in part to the policies or
competence of their immediate employer. In the former state socialist
societies, however, restructuring had been so general and was so clearly
linked to the broader process of political and economic change that
followed the revolutions of 1989 that it was likely that people would
attribute their insecurity to systemic processes rather than to their own
enterprise management.
While a number of aspects of employment experience affected employee
allegiance in a similar way in all of the countries, there were interesting
differences in their relative importance. In Bulgaria and Slovakia, the

single most powerful factor was peoples satisfaction with the initiative that
they could exercise in the work task. These were the two societies where
restructuring had been least marked and where the forms of organisation
were likely to be closest to those characteristic of the former state socialist
regimes. It was seen that they were characterised by particularly low levels
of employee discretion. The stifling of initiative of individual employees
seems then to have been a major source of resentment and to have
lowered the level of motivation in work.
In contrast, in the societies that were closer to the market model
Britain and the Czech Republic the most important factor related to
organisational commitment was the capacity of the organisation to
develop a system of communication that gave employees a sense of
involvement in the wider life of the organisation. Arguably, in the more
dynamic and fragmented structures of the market economies, the lack of
transparency of overall policy may be an important barrier to employee
identification with longer-term organisational objectives.
The final analysis shows how much of the difference in organisational
commitment between Britain and the former state socialist countries can
be accounted for in terms of the aspects of work experience that have been
examined. The different country data sets were pooled and the countries
were introduced as variables into a single regression on organisational
commitment. In the first stage of the analysis, the country of the employee
was the only variable entered into the regression, and, subsequently, the
employment experience variables were included. The difference between
the initial country effects and their residual effects after the other variables
have been added gives an estimate of the amount of the country effect that
was due to the employment variables.
The first row of Table 10 presents the original unstandardised coeffi-
cients when the country variables were entered into the regression without
any other variables present, showing the extent to which employees in
each of the former state socialist societies diverged from the level of
organisational commitment to be found among British employees. As can
be seen, in each case there was a strong negative coefficient with the
Czechs showing the greatest difference from the British, followed by the
Slovakians and then the Bulgarians.
The second row of the table gives the residual coefficients when the full
set of variables had been entered. In each country, the introduction of the
employment experience variables has sharply reduced the country effect,
although the extent to which this is the case varies between countries. It is
notable that work and labour market experience factors account for the
whole of the difference between the commitment of British workers and
Bulgarian workers and for over 80 per cent of the difference between the
British and the Slovakians. However, they account for only about half of
the difference between the Czechs and the British.

Table 10 Employment Experience and Country Differences in

Organisational Commitment

Czech Republic Slovakia Bulgaria

B (Unstandardized) Coefficients
(1) Initial Country Coefficients 0.43 0.33 0.19
(2) Country Coefficients with 0.20 0.06 0.00
employment experience variables
% of difference accounted for 53 82 100

Our initial question was whether there were significant differences
between employees attachment to the organisations they worked for in
the former state socialist societies compared with the more established
market economy of Britain. There could be contrasting expectations:
market systems might be seen as likely to either enhance or reduce
employee commitment. The empirical comparison revealed that employ-
ees in the most market-oriented society Britain did have higher levels
of commitment than those in any of the former state socialist societies.
However, there was not a unilinear association between the level of
development of market processes and commitment. The countries that
were heavily involved in the transition to a market economy were
characterised by more acute problems of commitment than the country
that had remained closest to the traditional state socialist model. In short,
it is the transition between systems that would appear to produce the
highest level of dissatisfaction of workers with their enterprises.
In considering potential causes of difference in commitment, employees
in the former state socialist societies were found to be less satisfied with
several aspects of their work experience. They were more dissatisfied with
their ability to exercise influence in their everyday work roles, relations
with supervisors were less satisfactory, management was seen as less
efficient, and there was more resentment about pay, promotion and job
security. In each case, these were rooted in important differences in the
reported characteristics of employment.
Bulgaria was of interest as the country which had introduced least
change at enterprise level since the state socialist period. In many ways,
the picture that emerged from the data confirmed the speculative diag-
noses of the problems inherent in state socialist systems of work organisa-
tion. The relatively centralised system of decision-making did indeed
appear to heavily restrict the opportunities for employees to use their
initiative in work. Despite the reforms of the 1980s that were designed to

increase employees participation, it was notable how little influence

workers still felt they had over decisions that were directly related to their
work. The problems of organisational commitment were above all those of
over-centralised and authoritarian systems of command, which deprived
employees of a feeling that they were able to contribute their skills to their
work and thereby sharply reduced their identification with their
Yet, although organisational commitment was lower in Bulgaria than in
Britain, it was even lower in the countries that were in transition between
a state-socialist and a market-orientated system and lowest of all in the
Czech Republic, where marketisation had gone furthest. Although the low
level of self-determination in work remained a major problem, workers
were also affected by the types of factors that were influential in Britain
for instance the variety the work offered and the adequacy of wider
organisational communications. This suggests that enterprise decentralisa-
tion may have encouraged higher aspirations with respect to work
enrichment, at a time when the work practices of organisations were still
in good part rooted in past practices. At the same time, the rapid
restructuring that accompanied marketisation and privatisation is likely to
have led to a less predictable and transparent environment, arousing
greater anxiety and hence dissatisfaction with the quality of management
communication. The shift to a market-orientated economy, then, com-
pounded some of the problems characteristic of the former state socialist
modes of organisation, in particular the constrained opportunities for self-
determination in work, with much higher levels of organisational
unpredictability, a situation that was likely to lead to exceptionally low
levels of organisational commitment.

1. The British survey was funded by an industrial consortium, the Department
of Employment and the Leverhulme Trust. The East European surveys were
funded by the European Commission (DG XII). Response rates were higher
than 70 per cent in each of the countries. Interview schedules were back-
translated and piloted to assess equivalence of meaning. Full details of the
procedures can be obtained from the authors. We are grateful to Michael
White of the Policy Studies Institute for his invaluable assistance with the
sampling design of the East European surveys.
2. For a detailed discussion of the concept of organisational commitment, (see
Mowday et al. 1982: ch. 2; Lincoln and Kalleberg 1990: 2224). Mowday et
al. define organisational commitment as the relative strength of the
individuals identification with and involvement in the particular organiza-
tion. Conceptually it can be characterised by at least three factors: (a) strong
belief in and acceptance of organizational values, (b) a willingness to exert
considerable effort on behalf of the organization and (c) a strong desire to
maintain membership in the organization (Mowday et al. 1982: 27). Lincoln
and Kalleberg (1990: 22) adopt the definition: Organizational commitment

implies identification with an organization and acceptance of its goals and

values as ones own.
3. Responses for each question were on a four point scale, from strongly agree
to strongly disagree. A factor analysis showed that the four questions related
to only one underlying factor. They formed an acceptable scale, with an
overall Cronbach alpha of 0.74. Indeed, the items scaled well in each
country, with alphas of 0.78 in Britain, 0.66 in the Czech Republic, 0.67 in
Slovakia and 0.69 in Bulgaria.
4. To examine the extent of participation in decision-making, people were
asked: suppose there was going to be a decision made at your place of work
that changed the way in which you do your job. Do you think that you
personally would have any say in the decision about the change or not?
Those that thought they would be able to influence the decision were then
asked whether this would be a great deal, quite a lot, or just a little.

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Duncan Gallie
Nuffield College
Accepted February 1999 OX1 1NF