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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00231

I am so Tired… How Fatigue May Exacerbate Stress Reactions to Psychological Contract Breach

 Safâa Achnak1*, Tim Vantilborgh1 and  Yannick Griep2, 3
  • 1Work and Organisational Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium
  • 2Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, Canada
  • 3Devision of Epidemiology, Stress Research Institute, Stockholm University, Sweden


Previous research showed that perceptions of psychological contract (PC) breach have undesirable individual and organizational consequences. Surprisingly, the PC literature has paid little to no attention to the relationship between PC breach perceptions and stress. A better understanding of how PC breach may elicit stress seems crucial, given that stress plays a key role in employees’ physical and mental wellbeing. Based on Conservation of Resources Theory, we suggest that PC breach perceptions represent a perceived loss of valued resources, subsequently leading employees to experience higher stress levels resulting from emerging negative emotions. Moreover, we suggest that this mediated relationship is moderated by initial levels of fatigue, due to fatigue lowering the personal resources necessary to cope with breach events. To tests our hypotheses, we analyzed the multilevel data we obtained from two experience sampling designs (Study 1: 51 Belgian employees; Study 2: 53 US employees). Note that the unit of analysis is ‘observations’ rather than ‘respondents’, resulting in an effective sample size of 417 (Study 1) and 374 (Study 2) observations. In both studies, we found evidence for the mediating role of negative emotions in the PC breach—stress relationship. In the second study, we also found evidence for the moderating role of fatigue in the mediated PC breach—stress relationship. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

Keywords: psychological contract breach, stress, Negative emotions, Fatigue, moderated mediation model

Received: 29 Oct 2017; Accepted: 12 Feb 2018.

Edited by:

Gabriela Topa, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), Spain

Reviewed by:

Catherine S. Daus, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, United States
Fabrizio Maimone, Libera Università Maria SS. Assunta, Italy  

Copyright: © 2018 Achnak, Vantilborgh and Griep. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mrs. Safâa Achnak, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Work and Organisational Psychology, Brussels, Belgium,