The formation of the contract
During the recruitment process, the employer and interviewee will discuss what they each can offer in the prospective relationship. If an agreement is reached, most employers will impose a standard form contract, leaving the detail of the employee's duties to be clarified "on the job". But some of the initial statements, no matter how informal and imprecise, may later be remembered as promises and give rise to expectations. Whether they are incorporated into the parallel psychological contract will depend on whether both parties believe that they should be treated as part of the relationship. The better organized employers are careful to document offers to reduce the risk of raising false expectations followed by disappointment.
In Common Law the law implies duties requiring the employees to be loyal and trustworthy. These are imprecise in their definition and uncertain in much of their operation. But, in psychological terms, issues as to whether promises and expectations have been kept and met, and whether the resulting arrangements are fair, are fundamental to the trust between the employee and the employer. The first year of employment is critical as actual performance by the employee can be measured against claims and promises made during the interview, and the management has begun to establish a track record in its relationship with the employee at supervisor and manager level. Feldhiem (1999) reflects these two strands by dividing the psychological contract into:
- transactional: this is the economic or monetary base with clear expectations that the organization will fairly compensate the performance delivered and punish inadequate or inappropriate acts; and
- relational: this is a socio-emotional base that underlies expectations of shared ideals and values, and respect and support in the interpersonal relationships.