The purpose of this paper is to propose a processual framework of psychological contract breach, which maps holistically the interactions among concepts drawn from the trust and justice literature. However, the price of a holistic picture is frequently a lack of depth of analysis of any single variable, and consequently the second part of the paper seeks to unpack a central variable, circumstances of breach.
Design/ methodological approach
Draws on findings from a four‐year qualitative study and investigates the psychological contract in situ. The issue of circumstances of breach was explored inductively by applying in‐depth employee case histories using theory‐based sampling.
Key findings indicate that breach may occur as a result of direct or indirect organisational actions. Further the degree of reaction may differ according to the type of trigger (i.e. a distributive, procedural or interactional justice issue) and also the extent to which the organisation is held responsible.
Based on an in‐depth study of one organisation over time; further research is required to ascertain the generalisability of the key findings.
The implications for the practice of management surround the issue of unanticipated results of actions. Changes to substantive, distributive justice issues are likely to result in psychological contract violation or rupture unless handled with care. The repercussions of relationship fracture include diminished employees attitude and, perhaps more importantly for the organisation, negative behaviour.
The key contribution of the paper is that it presents a new model of psychological contract and elucidates a key aspect of the holistic model using empirical data.
Pate, J. (2006), "The changing contours of the psychological contract: Unpacking context and circumstances of breach", Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol. 30 No. 1, pp. 32-47. https://doi.org/10.1108/03090590610643860Download as .RIS
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