History and Definitions of the Concept of Pyschological Contract

2687 Words Jul 13th, 2008 11 Pages
Basic Concepts & Definitions
History and Definitions of the Concept: The notion of the "psychological contract" was first coined by Argyris (1960) to refer to employer and employee expectations of the employment relationship, i.e. mutual obligations, values, expectations and aspirations that operate over and above the formal contract of employment. Since then there have been many attempts to develop and refine this concept. Historically, the concept can be viewed as an extension of philosophical concepts of social contract theory (Schein, 1980; Roehling, 1997). The social contract, which deals with the origins of the state, supposes that individuals voluntarily consent to belonging to an organised society, with attendant constraints and
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For example, when employees feel constrained in what they can expect from employers, due to factors such as job insecurity, they may develop what have been termed "compliance contracts" (Lewis et al, 2002; Smithson and Lewis, 2000). This implies a mutual understanding that employees will do whatever is necessary to retain their jobs. It is a pragmatic response that does not involve loyalty on either side.
Violation of the Psychological Contract: An important element of the concept of the psychological contract in the literature is the notion of contract violation, and its consequences (Rousseau, 1995; Morrison & Robinson, 1997). Usually research focuses on employees' perceptions of the breach of expectations by the employer, for example in relation to job security, opportunities for development or ethical principles, referred to as violation of the contract. This can lead to feelings of injustice, deception or betrayal among employees (Morrison & Robinson, 1997). Specific circumstances, such as organisational timing, and labour market factors (for example, whether there is a perceived market need for redundancies or cutbacks) are associated with employees feeling that their psychological contract has been violated (Turnley & Feldman, 1999a; 1999b). There is also evidence that employees with different understandings of their psychological contracts respond differently to contract violation and to planned

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