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The employment relationship develops

The reality of employment rights and duties emerges through the interpersonal relationships formed in the workplace. How employers, supervisors and managers behave on a day-to-day basis is not determined by the legal contract. Employees slowly negotiate what they must do to satisfy their side of the bargain, and what they can expect in return. This negotiation is sometimes explicit, e.g. in appraisal or performance review sessions, but it more often takes the form of behavioural action and reaction through which the parties explore and draw the boundaries of mutual expectation. Hence, the psychological contract determines what the parties will, or will not do and how it will be done. When the parties' expectations match each other, performance is likely to be good and satisfaction levels will be high. So long as the values and loyalty persist, trust and commitment will be maintained. The map followed by the parties is the development of an individualized career path that makes only reasonable demands on the employee, with adequate support from managers and co-workers, for a level of remuneration that is demonstrably fair for a person of that age, educational background, and experience. Motivation and commitment will be enhanced if transfers and promotions follow the agreed path in a timely fashion.

If managed effectively, the relationship will foster mutual trust between the parties, matching the objectives and commitments of the organization to those of their employees. But a negative or fractured psychological contract can result in employees becoming disenchanted, de-motivated and resentful of authoritarianism within the organization. This will result in an increasingly inefficient workforce whose objectives no longer correspond to the organization they work for. The main cause of disappointment tends to be that middle managers are protective of their status and security in the eyes of their superiors, and this can introduce conflicts of interest when they are required to fulfill their obligations to their subordinates.

Breach of the psychological contract

Psychological contract breach may occur if employees perceive that their firm, or its agents, have failed to deliver on what they perceive was promised, or vice versa. Employees or employers who perceive a breach are likely to respond negatively. Responses may occur in the form of reduced loyalty, commitment, and organizational citizenship behaviours. Perceptions that one’s psychological contract has been breached may arise shortly after the employee joins the company or even after years of satisfactory service. The impact may be localized and contained, but if morale is more generally affected, the performance of the organization may be diminished. Further, if the activities of the organization are perceived as being unjust or immoral, e.g. aggressive downsizing or outsourcing causing significant unemployment, its public reputation and brand image may also be damaged.

Manager-subordinate mismatch may also cause a breach of the psychological contract.


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