The Impact of Affect and Social Exchange on Outcomes of Psychological Contract Breach

By Suazo, Mark M. | Journal of Managerial Issues, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview

The Impact of Affect and Social Exchange on Outcomes of Psychological Contract Breach


Suazo, Mark M., Journal of Managerial Issues


A psychological contract refers to the beliefs regarding the terms and conditions of the exchange relationship that exists between an employee and employer (Rousseau, 1989, 1995). A term that has been used to describe a situation where an employee believes that an employer has broken the psychological contract (i.e., the employer has not delivered on a promise) is psychological contract breach (Rousseau, 1989). Research on psychological contracts has found that psychological contract breach leads to a host of negative workplace outcomes, including low organizational commitment (e.g., Johnson and O'Leary-Kelly, 2003),job satisfaction (e.g., Tekleab et al., 2005), and trust in the organization (e.g., Robinson, 1996). This body of research often uses the terms psychological contract breach and psychological contract violation interchangeably to describe the effects of broken psychological contracts on workplace outcomes. In contrast, Morrison and Robinson (1997) introduced the idea that although the terms are related, they describe distinctly different phenomena. Psychological contract breach (PCB) "refers to the cognition that one's organization has failed to meet one or more obligations within one's psychological contract in a manner commensurate with one's contributions" (Morrison and Robinson, 1997: 230). Psychological contract violation (PCV) refers to "the emotional and affective state that may, under certain conditions, follow from the belief that one's organization has failed to adequately maintain the psychological contract" (Morrison and Robinson, 1997: 930). These terms are used in this paper.

The value of the PCB-PCV distinction lies in its ability to add precision to the research on the outcomes of broken psychological contracts. Specifically, the idea is that in some cases the cognition of a broken promise alone can impact outcomes, while in other cases it is the negative affective response to the broken promise that can impact employee outcomes. For example, the magnitude of a broken promise may be sufficiently small such that it does not elicit anger, yet it can still be a powerful determinant of employee attitudes and behaviors.

Recent empirical research has tound support for the PCB-PCV distinction (Bordia et al., 2008; Raja et al., 2004; Robinson and Morrison, 2000; Suazo, 2009). For example, Suazo (2009) found support for the distinction with a sample from the United States, Bordia et al. (2008) with samples from the Phillipines, and Raja et al. (2004) with a Pakistani sample of employees. Because most of these studies utilized exploratory factor analyses, the next step in advancing the evidence for the distinctiveness of the two measures is to conduct confirmatory factor analyses. This is the first objective of this study.

The second objective of this study is to test Morrison and Robinson's (1997) theoretical assertion that an interpretation process moderates the relationship between PCB and PCV. The specific focus is on the quality of the relationship that exists between a leader and subordinate as an interpretation process. Therefore, leader-member exchange (LMX) is tested as a moderator of the relationship between PCB and PCV.

The final objective is to test PCV as a mediating variable between PCB and employee behaviors using supervisor-rated in-role behavior and organizational citizenship behavior (OCB). Using supervisor-rated employee behaviors is important because it results in a more rigorous methodology than prior studies that have utilized self-reported data (e.g., Suazo, 2009). This is also an important contribution because it extends Morrison and Robinson's (1997) model, as they did not provide propositions for the relations between PCV and employee behaviors.

The present study examines two independent groups of employees in the United States via a longitudinal survey methodology. The first set of employees works for an organization that manufactures automobile parts.

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The Impact of Affect and Social Exchange on Outcomes of Psychological Contract Breach
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