Developing a multiple foci conceptualization of the psychological contract

  • Marks A
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Suggests a way in which the psychological contract can be reconceptualized as a construct with multiple foci. Presents an argument for examining psychological contracts with importance placed on work groups. Concludes that previous conceptualizations of the psychological contract have concentrated on the relationship between employee and organization. Argues that it is, however, more multifarious. Introduction Over the past decade or so, there has been a plethora of writing on the subject of the psychological contract. But, there is an argument that the psychological contract was originally devised as a heuristic device and not as a serious analytical construct (Guest, 1998). Nevertheless, we can interpret the burgeoning interest in the concept as an endorsement of its high face-validity, a perspective that is amplified when talking to friends and colleagues who keenly endorse psychological contract as a symbolic concept. In an environment of rapid organizational change, where the ideas of satisfaction and motivation are potentially meaningless, the psychological contract appears to provide a useful integrative concept around which to converge the concerns of the contemporary workplace. However, despite the common usage of the concept, there is considerable evidence that the concept does not have the analytical rigour of more enduring psychological constructs, and as such it is not only being misused, but also being diminished as an explanatory framework. The objective of this paper is to suggest a way in which the psychological contract can be reconceptualized, explicitly as a construct with multiple foci operating on a number of levels. This paper presents an argument for the examination of psychological contracts each of which takes into account an organization's multiple constituencies including top management, unions and ± most importantly to this paper ± the workgroup. This approach not only parallels work undertaken within the commitment literature (Reichers, 1985), but also presents a logical progression for psychological contract research inasmuch as it takes into account the increased number of foci within organizational life, particularly with the increase in contingent work such as contracting, home working and outsourcing.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Development
  • Organizations
  • Personnel psychology

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  • Abigail Marks

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