About this Research Topic
For 25 years the psychological contract has been a valuable tool in understanding and managing positive employee-employer relationships. Although originally conceptualized as a dynamic construct that is formed, maintained, disrupted, and repaired over time, we lack an extensive understanding of the psychological contract as a time-based process. This is because most empirical work on the psychological contract and its underlying mechanisms has been cross-sectional, multi-wave, or longitudinal with few time points and has not considered directly the role of time in psychological contract processes. As such, much of our understanding is based on a very limited timeframe, and often only on a single snapshot, of the employee-employer relationship. Moreover, most research designs and analytic methods used in contemporary psychological contract research presume linear associations between psychological contract breach and negative attitudinal (e.g., reduced job satisfaction and organizational commitment) and behavioral (e.g., increased turnover and counterproductive work behavior) reactions. Such assumptions limit the ability of the literature as a whole to capture the true dynamic nature of the employee-employer relationship.
To fully understand how psychological contracts develop and affect employees’ reactions, we must acknowledge and incorporate the role of time in theory. Doing so will enable researchers to explore the emergence of, or change in, the psychological contract and its antecedents/consequences, the stability (or lack thereof) of psychological contract breach reactions, the rate of change in psychological contract breach reactions over short and long-term time-lags (e.g., minutes, hours, days, or weeks), and the duration of these effects (e.g., immediate, delayed, or lingering), both in design and analytic approach. Recent advancements in psychological contract theory (e.g., Psychological Contract Theory 2.0 and the Post Violation Model) specify how an employee’s psychological contract is created, maintained, and changed over the course of the employment relationship. These theoretical developments moreover recognize that different processes operate at distinct times and unfold at various speeds over the duration of the employment relationship. Moreover, they detail specifically how employees recover from a psychological contract breach over time.
Although these theoretical developments lay the foundation for exciting new avenues of research, a major challenge stills looms, namely, how to identify and select appropriate time-lags to investigate psychological contract processes. To accurately match theoretical propositions with the appropriate methodology (e.g., experience sampling study, event-related sampling, daily diary study) we need to incorporate the exciting and novel advances in understanding time in theory. Psychological contract research only recently started to incorporate and exploit the true meaning of time to, for example, fully understand the exact duration of a psychological contract phase or post-violation trajectory. The present Research Topic is aimed at advancing the field of psychological contracts by exchanging valuable knowledge concerning the incorporation of time in psychological contract-related theories, methodologies, and statistics.
Keywords: Psychological contracts, Violation feelings, Dynamics, Positive and Negative Disruptions, Time
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