Mechanisms of Organizational Commitment: Adding Frames to Greedy Institution Theory

Cox, Amanda Barrett. 2016. Sociological Forum 31(3):685-708.

How do organizations that make significant physical, emotional, and intellectual demands foster commitment and loyalty from voluntary participants? Greedy institution theory (Coser 1974) answers this question by identifying structural elements that foster participants' undivided commitment to “greedy” groups, those in which participants' involvement interferes with and takes precedence over their involvement in other social spheres. In this article, I argue for the expansion of greedy institution theory to include frames and framing processes as “greedy” organizational tools that work on the microinteractional level. Using data from an ethnographic study of an intensive program that prepares low-income students of color to attend elite boarding high schools, I show how the organization's “family” frame mobilized participants and encouraged interpretations and interactions that helped students persist in the program and remain committed to the organization. I argue that turning our attention to frames and framing processes will increase our understanding of the tools organizations use on a microinteractional level to build and repair participants' loyalty and commitment.