Psychological Contract: What It Is, Characteristics and Types With Examples

What is the psychological contract and how can it motivate workers? The psychological contract in the company are these rules and agreements about what the employee and employer offer and receive respectively.

In this Psychology article we will explain what it is, the characteristics and types of the psychological contract. We will see the definition of psychological contract in human resources, we will define the types of transactional and relational psychological contract, we will expose the importance of the psychological contract and list the consequences of the breaking of the psychological contract.

What is the psychological contract

People at the time of work have a series of individual perceptions in terms of reciprocal exchange with the employer. This would be the definition of "psychological contract".

Such perceptions are established based on implicit or explicit promises and information that both parties exchange in the first moment of the relationship. These ideas give rise to a mental model that is developed and adjusted, as it is specified to people what is expected of their task and what they will receive in exchange for their contribution, within that initially established commitment, also variable depending on the employee. or the employer.

Initially, it had a markedly subjective character, that of the hired. Subsequently, the intervention of the employer was also considered. Even so, it varies according to the demands of the task, the situation the company is going through and the relationships that people establish among themselves, as we will try to see below.

Characteristics of the psychological contract

There is the effects on the employee, rather than the employer, indicates that there are several characteristics that act in the psychological contract.

  • The first, of a motivational type, since psychological contracts motivate people to fulfill their commitments because they are based on the exchange of promises in which the individual has participated and freely chosen.
  • A second characteristic of the psychological contract is that individuals believe in mutual agreement , acting the subjective as if it were reciprocal, regardless of whether this is the case or not.
  • Third, it lies in their limitation, given that they tend to be incomplete and are elaborated as the work relationship develops .
  • Fourth, different sources of information intervene : the company management, those responsible for human resources, workers and their colleagues, the most immediate bosses; multiple elements that influence and condition the initial terms and their perception.

Types of psychological contract

Roughly, two types of contract would be distinguished from the point of view of the employed individual.

Relational contract

In the first place, between a relational contract that can generate feelings of involvement and closeness in the employee and, indirectly, commit the employer to provide economic remuneration, investments in training, professional career development and job security for the employee (with relationships and structure temporary openings, considerable investment of employees - skills, career development - and of the organization - training -, high degree of mutual interdependence and barriers to leaving work, emotional involvement as well as economic exchange, personal relationships, dynamic contract and subject to change, invasive conditions (affect personal life).

Transactional contract

Faced with this, there would be the transactional contract, in which money is prioritized , involving and raising in employees a greater concern for remuneration and personal benefit than for being their personal contribution to the organization; so it includes employees who follow organizational rules to achieve personal ends. It would be characterized more by short-term economic exchanges, specific economic conditions - as a primary incentive , limited personal involvement in the job, defined time structure, limited commitments to well-defined conditions, limited flexibility, use of existing skills and clear terms.

The importance of the psychological contract

If the relationships in the workplace are deepened, in addition to the initial one between employer and employee, at a more micro level, for example between employee and supervisors or of supervisors with tutors; It is appreciated that these relationships occur in an environment of interactions between the parties, which generate new psychological contracts, because the daily task requires that the groups increase autonomy and interdependence, with the organization, with each other, and with the specific individuals that constitute these more operational units, also interfering with the organization.

"Efficiency and the new relationships between employees and employers are some of the characteristics that shape new forms of work activity, work systems and labor markets ... All these changes can have clear implications and consequences for health and safety. welfare of workers and have important effects on the health and effectiveness of organizations."

Companies are increasingly aware that part of their corporate social responsibility is promoting health and better workplaces. In addition, there is evidence that this healthy and positive environment benefits companies and improves their results. However, a large number of indicators (absenteeism due to illness, work accidents, poor performance, conflicts, etc.) show that the situation regarding the development of healthy organizations and the promotion of health in the workplace is not as positive as it should be ".

The consequences of breaking the psychological contract

In an environment as changing as the one that prevails at the present time, organizations frequently experience changes that lead to certain breaches of the psychological contract or at least that perception on the part of employees. They consider that such non-compliance or omissions (sometimes involuntary, imposed by the economic scenario) are a violation of the obligations towards them. Consequently, they experience negative emotions that lead to a desire for revenge, withdrawal in the fulfillment of their obligations and even counterproductive behaviors.

Often times, an organization that has to face multiple challenges, for different reasons, does not provide adequate support for teamwork (for economic, organizational, or other reasons). Such situations can cause ambiguity both in the roles to be played and in the responsibilities to be assumed, generating a potential perception in the teams of conflict, with no real basis (bad environment, anger, discomfort of some individuals). The perception of intra-team, intra-group conflict, provides an optics of contract breachby these groups towards the subjects who believe that the team does not care about their well-being or value their contribution. We will now focus on one of the indicators and some of its repercussions.

One of the examples of the consequences of breaking the psychological contract is absenteeism, which we will see in depth below.

Work absenteeism

We have a collects various classifications of what is understood by absenteeism, of which we are especially interested in the most eclectic, which results in an optical mixture of legal, psycho-social and organizational factors in the company. Thus, it distinguishes between:

  • The absenteeism justified, legal and involuntary , who contemplates periods of time when an employee is absent from his post within working hours for reasons justified legally recognized (temporary disability, permits related to union activity ...) or unjustified ( delays, going out to smoke, running errands, taking care of children or the elderly, etc.).
  • Unjustified, illegal or voluntary absenteeism, which it considers as "a sociological phenomenon directly linked to the attitude of the individual and of society towards work. The working conditions in which the worker operates are one of the direct causes of work absenteeism" . Directly related to working conditions and their deterioration or improvement, affecting the entire environment surrounding the work centers.
  • Face-to-face absenteeism , in which staff go to work, but dedicate a part of the day (generally quite significant) to activities that are not related to the tasks of the position they occupy (see: consult web pages, use the mail Electronic communication for personal purposes are some of the most common, nowadays; but, in more remote times it contemplated: reading the newspaper during working hours or making calls to friends and family, at the expense of the company: it is considered a part of what the company owes us).