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Nonlinear associations between breached obligations and employee well-being

Jeroen de De Jong (Department of Organization, Open University of the Netherlands, Heerlen, Netherlands)
Michael Clinton (Department of Management, King´s College London, London, UK)
Thomas Rigotti (Department of Work, Organizational, and Business Psychology, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany)
Claudia Bernhard-Oettel (Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 11 May 2015




The purpose of this paper is to analyze the nonlinear association between proportions of breached obligations within the psychological contract (PC) and three dimensions of employee well-being, and the mediating role of contract violation in these relationships. With this study the authors gain a more detailed understanding of PC evaluations and their consequences for well-being.


The authors build on asymmetry effects theory and affective events theory to propose that breached obligations outweigh fulfilled obligations in their association with well-being. The hypotheses are tested using a sample of 4,953 employees from six European countries and Israel.


The results provide support for the hypotheses, as the effect sizes of the indirect relationships for breached obligations on well-being via violation are initially strong compared to fulfilled obligations, but decrease incrementally as the proportion of breached obligations become greater. At a certain point the effect sizes become nonsignificant.

Research limitations/implications

The study shows that PC theory and research needs to better acknowledge the potential for asymmetrical effects of breach relative to fulfillment, such that the breach of obligations can sometimes have a stronger effect on employee well-being than the fulfillment of obligations.

Practical implications

Those responsible for managing PCs in organizations should be aware of the asymmetrical effects of breach relative to fulfillment, as trusting on the acceptance or tolerance of employees in dealing with breached obligations may quickly result in lower well-being.


The findings have implications for the understanding of PC breach and its associations with employee well-being.



De Jong, J.d., Clinton, M., Rigotti, T. and Bernhard-Oettel, C. (2015), "Nonlinear associations between breached obligations and employee well-being", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 30 No. 4, pp. 374-389.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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