University of Limerick
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A ‘Schema theory’ analysis of the psychological contract formation process using repertory grid technique

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posted on 2022-12-20, 12:44 authored by Ultan Patrick Sherman
This study examines the content of the psychological contract at its formation stage. Three individual antecedents were identified that were expected to influence these content dimensions (careerism, type of exchange (social/economic), level of experience). The study proceeds in two separate but overlapping stages. Firstly, in Stage A, the relationship between these individual factors and the content dimensions is investigated. Secondly, in Stage B, the effect of the three antecedents on the content dimensions across seven features (‘Realistic’; ‘Contingent’; ‘Fair’; ‘Important’; ‘Expected’; ‘Familiar’; ‘Uniqueness’) is also examined in an effort to better understand both the employee and employer obligations. We adopted a mixed methodology in our study. The three antecedents were measured using questionnaires. Fifty interviews were conducted to elicit both employer and employee obligations and this data was analysed using the repertory grid technique. Results for Stage A indicate that level of careerism is associated with obligations concerning loyalty. A social exchange is associated with certain obligations reflecting a broad investment with the organisation (e.g. Development). An economic exchange is associated with certain obligations reflecting a narrow investment with the organisation (e.g. Pay & Benefits). Our study also found that novices are more likely than veterans to explicate obligations to the organisation concerning Teamwork. These results confirm that the three factors are, to varying degrees, viable antecedents of the psychological contract. Results for Stage B indicate that both ‘type of exchange’ and ‘level of experience’ affect certain dimensions across a number of features (e.g. ‘Important/Not Important’, ‘Familiar/Novel’ etc.). However, the features assessed in our study are of limited value in explaining the dynamics of the formation process. Taken together, both stages in our study make an incremental contribution to understanding the schematic nature of the psychological contract.



  • Kemmy Business School


  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Morley, Michael





Department or School

  • Management & Marketing

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