The purpose of this paper is to investigate the psychological contracts (PCs) of international volunteers (IVs) in international aid and development organizations (IADS). Specifically, it explores four questions: how IVs form PCs; what the content of these PCs is; how IVs’ PCs are maintained; and how they are fulfilled or breached.
The study used an inductive analysis of qualitative data: interviews with 27 IVs from a range of IADS.
The findings take the form of research propositions: RP1: IVs’ PCs, like those of domestic volunteers, include relational, transactional and, especially, values-based elements, but the balance of these is influenced by their values-based PC; the self-directed way IVs join their organizations; and reliance on peers rather than the organization’s management hierarchy. RP2: the PCs of IVs working for faith-based organizations have an additional element: spiritual support. RP3: the values-based PC means many transactional elements can be “adjusted away”, making it difficult to breach these PCs. RP4: experienced volunteers have very minimal PCs, but are more likely than inexperienced volunteers to expect basic safety and adequately skilled colleagues.
The authors suggest areas of new inquiry and specific ways each research proposition could be tested empirically.
To alleviate IVs’ expatriation and repatriation adjustment problems, international aid organizations could facilitate the ways IVs already help each other. This would also help fulfill IVs’ PCs.
IVs are a growing but underexplored group and aspects of their PCs may be unique.
The authors are indebted to the anonymous referees of this journal and the Editor of this special issue, Dr Yvonne McNulty, who all made several suggestions adopted in this paper.
Barrett, M., Cox, A. and Woodward, B. (2017), "The psychological contract of international volunteers: an exploratory study", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 5 No. 2, pp. 123-145. https://doi.org/10.1108/JGM-03-2017-0009
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