An event-based approach to psychological contracts: The importance of examining everyday broken and fulfilled promises as discrete events

Tina Kiefer, Laurie Barclay, Neil Conway, Rob B. Briner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Psychological contract research has typically focused on employees' perceptions of whether the organization has generally fulfilled or broken its promises/obligations. However, employees can experience broken and fulfilled promises as discrete events on an everyday basis, which may have immediate implications for employees and also influence their generalized psychological contract. Integrating attribution and appraisal theories of emotions, we argue that discrete psychological contract events (i.e., specific instances of a broken or a fulfilled promise) can initiate attribution and appraisal processes that can guide employees' emotional and behavioral responses. Moreover, experiencing a broken versus a fulfilled promise can have distinct implications for employees' outcomes as well as their generalized perceptions of psychological contract fulfillment. Our hypotheses are generally supported using a daily diary study with event sampling. Theoretical contributions include the importance of (a) examining the attribution and appraisal processes underlying everyday discrete psychological contract events, (b) acknowledging distinctions between broken versus fulfilled promises, and (c) understanding how everyday broken/fulfilled promises can influence generalized perceptions of psychological contract fulfillment. Practical contributions include the importance of effectively managing broken and fulfilled promises on an everyday basis and ensuring that employees perceive that the organization does not break and also fulfills its promises.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of organizational behavior
Early online date26 Jul 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Jul 2022

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