This paper outlines a theoretical framework that may be useful for understanding how and why employees become psychologically attached to the organizations that employ them, in spite of growing evidence that many of these organizations are not reliable sources of security. Building on attachment theory from developmental psychology, I develop the concept of organizational attachment and distinguish between it and concepts of organizational commitment and organizational identification. Attachment theory suggests that individuals have attachment styles that reflect their beliefs and expectations about themselves in relation to the broader social system. I extend this theory and apply it to relationships between individuals and the organizations for which they work. Thus, I posit that individuals have "organizational attachment styles" that can be used to predict how employees will perceive and respond to situations that may threaten their relationship to their employing organization. This theoretical framework may be helpful in identifying the characteristics of future employment relationships that can meet individuals' needs to be psychologically attached to their organizations and, at the same time, provide the flexibility that organizations need to be competitive.
Recommended CitationSt. Clair, Lynda, "Organizational Attachment: Exploring the Psychodynamics of the Employment Relationship" (2000). Management Working Papers. Paper 1.