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Psychological Contracts: How Do Employees Understand Their Relationship With an Organization?

Group of coworkers in a meeting

“Psychological contracts” between employers and employees refer to expectations about mutual obligations, particularly with regards to the social exchange relationship. That said, there’s evidence that employee perspectives on these psychological contracts can vary depending on the entity they’re interacting with and evaluating.

That’s why Telfer’s A.J. Corner has received a School of Management Research Grant to study the different ways expatriate employees interpret and respond to psychological contracts.

There’s a need to understand how employees make sense of the psychological contracts they have with specific groups within and beyond their organization (e.g., managers, their work team and their cultural communities). Critics of the psychological contract literature observe that there’s currently a lack of clarity about contract content and insufficient definitions regarding the identity of the exchange partner.

In his research, Corner will start with a literature review, and then conduct qualitative interviews of expatriate employees, to offer a richer understanding of this important notion.

What impact will the research have?

This research could facilitate greater understanding of psychological contracts by addressing the criticisms of insufficient clarity and poor definitions. It could add to the expatriate management literature and allow for a more nuanced understanding of the expatriate experience.

It could also allow for organizations to improve their understanding of and response to their employees’ expectations and needs, to better manage and understand psychological contracts within Canadian organizations.