Psychology at Work: Strikes, and the psychological contract

The recent rise in industrial action is more about psychological contracts than physical ones.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Employment contracts are formal, written documents that outline the legal relationship between the employer and the employed. By its very nature the employment contract, as far as the employee is concerned, is very much ‘take it or leave it’. Some negotiation may be possible, but only around the fringes for the majority of people.

The psychological contract, on the other hand, describes the real relationship between employer and employee - and it's essentially a set of mutual offers and expectations. The employer will offer (for example) pay, training, and a good working environment; in return, it will expect certain outputs: reliability, flexibility and so on. The employee will also have offers and expectations. The offers could be skills, time, commitment; the expectations pay, security and fairness.

The psychological contract is rarely explicitly discussed. But it's a powerful motivating force behind our behaviour at work. And it's most clearly evident when the psychological contract has been breached in some way. As such, it's also a major reason for the recent rise in industrial action... [CONTINUED]

In today's bulletin:

Darling celebrates faster recovery after dreary debate
OFT slaps RBS with £29m competition law fine (why?)
Thorley calls time after nine years at the bar
Lack of graduate jobs threatens 'disillusioned generation'
Psychology at Work: Strikes, and the psychological contract

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

A simple cure for impostor syndrome

Opinion: It's time to stop hero-worshipping and start figuring out what greatness looks like to...

I was hired to fix Uber’s toxic culture - and I did. Here’s ...

Harvard’s Frances Frei reveals how you know when your values have gone rotten, and what...

Social responsibility may no longer be a choice

Editorial: Having securitised businesses’ loans and paid their wage bills, it’s not inconceivable the government...

What went wrong at Wirecard

And how to stop it happening to you.

Leadership lessons from Jürgen Klopp

The Liverpool manager exemplifies ‘the long win’, based not on results but on clarity of...

How to get a grip on stress

Once a zebra escapes the lion's jaws, it goes back to grazing peacefully. There's a...