The Psychology of the Employment Relationship

Topics: Psychology, Applied psychology, Organizational studies Pages: 21 (6249 words) Published: November 4, 2012

The Psychology of the Employment Relationship:
An Analysis Based on the Psychological Contract

Olackwell Publishing,an2004
© Blackwell
Applied 2004
APPS Article
Oxford, Psychology: Ltd.
B riginal UK Publishing International Review

David E. Guest*
King’s College, London, UK

On esquisse des perspectives conduisant à des changements dans les relations de travail et à la nécessité d’élaborer un cadre conceptuel convenant au monde actuel. La notion de contrat psychologique représente un modèle utile et l’on résume plusieurs études qui ont l’ont adoptée pour aborder certains aspects des relations de travail. A partir de ces investigations, on montre que le contrat psychologique doit être élargi pour accorder davantage de poids au contexte et à ce qui est décrit comme relevant du contenu même de ce contrat, à savoir les idées d’équité et de confiance qui résident au cœur des relations de travail. On présente un programme pour de futures recherches exploitant ce modèle. Developments are outlined that are leading to changes in employment relations and to the need for a conceptual framework that has contemporary relevance. It is proposed that the psychological contract provides a useful framework, and different studies that have adopted the psychological contract to study aspects of employment relations are outlined. Building on these, it is argued that the psychological contract needs extending to give greater weight to context and to what is described as the state of the psychological contract, incorporating issues of fairness and trust that lie at the heart of employment relations. Based on this model, an agenda for future research is presented.

The aim of this paper is to identify trends, issues, and research questions concerning the employment relationship that might engage researchers in the field of work and organisational psychology and to offer a conceptual framework built around the concept of the psychological contract as a way of analysing and exploring the contemporary employment relationship. Work and organisational psychologists have a longstanding record of research in what has traditionally been termed industrial relations. It ranges from the seminal work of Walton and McKersie (1965) with their behavioural theory of negotiations, through the influential work of Emery and

* Address for correspondence: David E. Guest, The Management Centre, King’s College, 150 Stamford Street, London SE1 9NN, United Kingdom. Email: © International Association for Applied Psychology, 2004. Published by Blackwell Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.



Thorsrud (1976) and Heller, Pusic, Strauss, and Wilpert (1998) on industrial democracy, to analyses using theories from social psychology to explore propensity for militant action (see, for example, Klandermans, 1984; Kelly, 1998). Much of this research and writing has been presented within a wellestablished paradigm based upon a systems model of industrial relations initially presented by Dunlop (1993). This focused on analysis of inputs, processes, and outputs and the role of key institutions and actors. These actors included employers, unions, and governments. Given the somewhat different values, interests, and objectives of these parties, a pluralist perspective was considered to provide an appropriate framework for analysis. Indeed, this stimulated considerable interest among work and organisational psychologists in issues such as commitment to company and union (Mowday, Porter, & Steers, 1982; Gordon, Philpot, Burt, Thompson, & Spiller, 1980) and the feasibility of dual commitment (Angle & Perry, 1986). There is evidence that this traditional system of industrial relations has begun to break down, more notably in countries...
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