Balancing HRM: the psychological contract of employees

Mariëlle Sonnenberg (University of Tilburg, Tilburg, The Netherlands)
Bas Koene (RSM Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
Jaap Paauwe (University of Tilburg, Tilburg, The Netherlands)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Publication date: 20 September 2011

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to “bridge” two streams of HRM research: organisation level research on HRM and performance and individual level research on employee work perceptions and behavioural performance. This study seeks to analyse the value of organisation level HRM practices for individual level employees' assessment of the degree of violation of their psychological contracts. It also aims to examine the contribution of commitment HRM practices and traditional HRM practices in explaining perceptions of psychological contract violation.

Design/methodology/approach

Based on a sample of 49 organisations with 2,099 individual respondents, the paper analyses the relationship between organisation level HRM practices and individual level employees' assessment of the degree of violation of their psychological contracts, using multi‐level analysis.

Findings

The findings show a clear positive influence of a number of HRM practices. More use of HRM practices leads to lower levels of perceived psychological contract violation for individual employees, regardless of individual characteristics. Commitment HRM practices explain about half of the variance in psychological contract violation that is due to the total amount of HRM practices.

Research limitations/implications

A limitation of the study is its cross‐sectional design and the measure of HRM practices, indicating more or less explicit attention for HRM in an organization, but not possible substitutable and synergetic effects between various HRM practices. Further research should therefore explore the effect of combinations of HRM practices. Findings however do indicate the relevance of organization level HRM for individual level perceptions of the employment relationship.

Practical implications

It is in the interest of managers to have a clear knowledge of which organisational activities will elicit those attitudes and behaviours necessary to achieve organisational goals. These findings highlight the importance of HRM practices to contribute to employees' realistic assessment of the mutual demands of their employment relationship with their organization. The more HRM practices the better in terms of employees' psychological contract violation. Furthermore, the findings show the importance of commitment HRM practices, but also the remaining relevance of more traditional practices.

Originality/value

This study combines insights on organisation level HRM with insights on individual level psychological contracts. Although the necessity of using multi‐level analysis in these kinds of studies has been argued by various researchers, this study is one of the first to use this analytical technique, thus genuinely showing the impact of organizational level HRM practices on individual level HR outcomes (in this case the psychological contract).

Keywords

Citation

Sonnenberg, M., Koene, B. and Paauwe, J. (2011), "Balancing HRM: the psychological contract of employees", Personnel Review, Vol. 40 No. 6, pp. 664-683. https://doi.org/10.1108/00483481111169625

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Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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