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The Psychological Contract: The Development and Validation of a Managerial Measure

The research objective was to develop, through two phases involving development and validation, a measure of the psychological work contract for managerial level employees. The psychological contract is the unwritten implicit contract that forms in the minds of employees and contains the obligations and expectations that they believe exists between themselves and the organization. In the first and qualitative phase of the study, a structured interview procedure resulted in the collection of 651 responses from a convenience sample of 35 managers from seven New Zealand organizations. Responses related to what these managers believed they were obligated to provide the organization (perceived organizational expectations), and what they believed the organization was obligated to provide them (their expectations). Content analysis of these 651 statements resulted in the development of two initial measures of the psychological contract (employee obligations, organization obligations). The employee obligations measure (perceived organizational expectations of the employee) contained 16 items, and the organization obligations measure (employee expectations of the organization) contained 23 items. In the second and quantitative phase of the study, and using the same criteria for participation as for phase one, a convenience sample of 124 managers from 13 New Zealand organizations completed questionnaires. The questionnaires included the measures of psychological contract content developed in phase one of the study, and 8 organizational psychology variables to be included in a nomological network. The nomological network included intention to quit, perceived organizational support, work and job involvement, job satisfaction, career plateau, organizational commitment, person-organization fit, and 2 performance measures. A separate questionnaire covering job performance and organizational citizenship behaviour was completed by 94 of the participants' managers. Of the 54 relationships predicted in the nomological network, 41 were significant. Of the 13 non-significant relationships, 10 involved relationships with the two performance measures. The measures of the psychological contract were subjected to a construct validation process involving two steps. The first step involved item and factor analysis. Factor analysis of the two measures of the psychological contract revealed two factors in each. One factor, termed relational obligations and reflecting a collective interest between the employee and the organization, included the items that were believed to influence more directly the relationship between managers and the organization. This factor included items such as be committed to the job (an employee obligation) and provide a physically and socially safe environment (an organizational obligation). The other factor, termed transactional obligations and reflecting a self/other interest on the part of the employee, included the items that were believed to be of a more direct employment transactions nature. This factor included items such as stay true to your own values and beliefs (an employee obligation) and provide professional and personal support (an organizational obligation). In the second step of the validation process, the measures of the psychological contract were embedded into the nomological network and their relationships with the ten variables in that network were tested. Of the ten hypothesised relationships, only one emerged as significant, that being the relationship between the organization obligations component of the psychological contract and person-organization fit. Minimal support for construct validity of the measures of the psychological contract was provided confirming that further effort will be required before complete construct validity may be claimed for the measured. Although the contribution the research makes to the field of knowledge may be limited, it does provide some validation of existing measures of the psychological contract, developed in other studies using different samples. The present findings increase our knowledge of the content of the psychological contract for managers. Additionally, a methodological framework has been established for continuing research into the content of psychological contracts, including an exploration of the relationship between content and fulfilment, along with a structure for comparing the psychological contract of disparate occupational groups. The most likely explanation for the hypotheses not being fully supported is that it is fulfilment (or conversely breach or violation) of the psychological contract, rather than the content of the contract per se, that is related to the variables in the nomological network. Whilst the hypotheses were based on research that considered fulfilment of the contract, this study focussed on the content of psychological contracts. The reasons for basing the hypotheses on research that considered fulfilment, the influence of this decision on hypothesis testing, and other possible explanations for the hypotheses not finding greater support, are explored. The limitations of the study, and possible directions for future research, are discussed.
Type of thesis
Cable, D. A. J. (2008). The Psychological Contract: The Development and Validation of a Managerial Measure (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2661
The University of Waikato
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