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Making sense of psychological contract breach

By M. Parzefall and Jacqueline A-M. Coyle-Shapiro


Purpose: A small number of psychological contract studies have explored the cognitive processes that influence employees' evaluation and reactions to perceived contract breach. The aim of this paper is to extend this reseaerch with a qualitative study on breach using a sense making perspective. Design/methodology/approach: In total, 15 interviews employing critical incident technique to examine employee sense making processes were carried out. Findings: The findings highlight the variety of ways employees perceive contract breach and the processual nature of the experience. Emotions and actions were intertwined in the process of attributing responsibility and finding an explanation for the breach. Research limitations/implications: Contract breach is not necessarily a discrete event and reciprocity is integral to the sense making process. The findings provide a basis for future research that could explore the role of time, contextual factors and various employer representatives as sense-givers in psychological contract evaluations. Practical implications: Employer representatives can aid employees to make sense of critical events that occur in organizations to minimize the effects of breach. Originality/value: The paper provides an under-researched sense making-perspective on psychological contract breach. Through a qualitative inquiry, the complex nature of the employees' experience of and reaction to breach, is highlighted. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Topics: BF Psychology, HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Publisher: Emerald Group Publishing Ltd.
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1108/02683941111099592
OAI identifier:
Provided by: LSE Research Online
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