“Promise is most given when least is said.” (George Chapman,Hero and Leander, 1598)
Two forms of unwritten contracts derive from relations between organizations and their members. Psychological contracts are individual beliefs in a reciprocal obligation between the individual and the organization. Implied contracts are mutual obligations characterizing interactions existing at the level of the relationship (e.g., dyadic, interunit). Employee/employer relations and changing conditions of employment give rise to issues not addressed in conventional transaction-oriented models of motivation and individual responses. The development, maintenance, and violation of psychological and implied contracts are described along with their organizational implications.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Adams, J. S. (1965). Inequity in social exchange. In Berkowitz, L. (Ed.),Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol. 2, pp. 267–299). New York: Academic Press.
Adams, J. S., & Freedman, S. (1976). Equity theory revisited: Comments and annotated bibliography. In Berkowitz, L., & Walster, E. (Eds.),Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol. 9, pp. 43–90). New York: Academic Press.
Averill, J. (1979). Anger. In Howe, H., & Dienstbier, R. (Eds.),Nebraska Symposium on Motivation (Vol. 26, pp. 1–80). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Argyris, C. (1960).Understanding Organizational Behavior. Homewood, IL: Dorsey Press.
Baiman, S. (1982). Agency research in managerial accounting: A survey.Journal of Accounting Literature, 1, 154–213.
Barnard, C. I. (1973).The Functions of the Executive. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Bateman, T. S., & Organ, D. W. (1983). Job satisfaction and the good soldier: The relationship between affect and employee “citizenship”.Academy of Management Journal, 26, 587–595.
Benton, D. A. (1980). A guide to workforce reduction planning.Personnel Journal, April, 281–316.
Bible (1971). Cleveland: Catholic Press.
Bies, R. J. (1987). The predicament of injustice: The management of moral outrage. In Cummings, L. L., & Staw, B. M. (Eds.),Research in Organizational Behavior (Vol. 9, pp. 289–319). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Bies, R. J., & Moag, J. S. (1987). Processual justice: Communication criteria of fairness. In Bazerman, M., Lewicki, R., & Sheppard, B. (Eds.),Research on Negotiations in Organizations (Vol. 1, pp. 43–55). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Brockner, J. (1988). The effect of work layoffs on survivors: Research theory and practice. In Staw, B. M., & Cummings, L. L. (Eds.),Research in Organizational Behavior (Vol. 10, pp. 213–255). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Cahn, E. (1949).The Sense of Injustice. New York: University Press.
Chapman, G. (1598).Hero and Leander. London: Kingston.
Copus, D. A., & Lindsay, R. A. (1985). Successfully defending the discrimination/wrongful discharge case.Employee Relations Law Journal, 10, 456–467.
Corbin, A. L. (1952).Corbin on Contracts. St. Paul, MN: West Publishing.
Eccles, R. G. (1985). Transfer pricing as a problem of agency. In Pratt, J. W., & Zuheuser, R. J. (Eds.),Principles and Agents: The Structure of Business. Cambridge: Harvard Business School Press.
Farnsworth, E. A. (1982).Contracts. Boston: Little, Brown.
Gouldner, A. W. (1960). The norm of reciprocity: A preliminary statement.American Sociological Review, 25, 161–179.
Heshizer, B. (1984). The implied contract exception to at-will firing.Labor Law Journal, 35, 131–141.
Hirsch, P. (1987).Pack Your Own Parachute. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishers.
Homans, G. C. (1958). Social behavior as exchanges.American Journal of Sociology, 63, 597–606.
Joyce, W. F., & Slocum, J. W. (1984). Collective climates: Agreement as a basis for defining aggregate climates in organizations.Academy of Management Journal, 27, 721–742.
Kaufmann, P. J., & Stern, L. W. (1988). Relational exchange norms, perceptions of unfairness, and retained hostility in commercial litigation.Journal of Conflict Resolution, 32, 534–552.
Leonard, M. (1983). Challenges to the termination at-will doctrine.Personnel Administration, February, 45–56.
Levinson, H. (1962).Men, Management, and Mental Health. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Lorber, L. Z., Kirk, J. R., Kirschner, K. H., & Handorf, C. F., (1984).Fear of Firing: A Legal and Personnel Analysis of Employment-at-Will. Alexandris, VA: ASPA Foundation.
MacNeil, I. R. (1974). The many futures of contracts.Southern California Law Review, 691–816.
MacNeil, I. R. (1985). Relational contract: What we do and do not know.Wisconsin Law Review, 483–525.
March, J. G. (1971). The technology of foolishness.Civil o konomem (Copenhagen),18(4), May.
Mayer, D., & Thayer, R. (1979). Sticky wages and implicit contracts: A transactional approach.Economic Inquiry, 17, 559–574.
Miles, R. E., & Snow, C. C. (1980). Designing strategic human resource systems.Organizational Dynamics, 36–52.
“More companies use free-lancers...” (1986).Wall Street Journal, April 18.
Mowday, R. T., Porter, L. W., & Steers, R. M. (1982).Employee Organization Linkages: Psychology of Commitment, Absenteeism and Turnover. New York: Academic Press.
Murray, J. E. (1974).Contracts. New York: Bobbs-Merrill.
Nicholson, N., & Johns, G. (1985). The absence culture and the psychological contract—Who's in control of absence?Academy of Management Review, 10, 397–407.
Nisbett, R., & Ross, L. (1980).Human Iference: Strategies and Shortcomings of Social Judgment. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Oliver, A. T. (1982). The invisible handshake and the inflationary process.Challenge, January–February, 5–12.
Oxford English Dictionary (1971). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Pfeffer, J., & Baron, J. N. (1988). Taking the workers back out: Recent trends in the structuring of employment. In Staw, B. M., & Cummings, L. L. (Eds.),Research on organizational behavior, Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 257–303.
Peters, T., & Waterman, R. (1982).In Search of Excellence. New York: Harper.
Rousseau, D. M. (1985). Issues of level in organization research. In Cummings, L. L., & Staw, B. M. (Eds.),Research in Organization Behavior (Vol. 7, pp. 1–37). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Rousseau, D. M. (1985). Human resource management for the future. In Hage, J. (Ed.),Managing the Future. Lexington, MA: Lexington.
Rousseau, D. M. (in press). New hire perceptions of their own and their employer's obligations: A study of psychological contracts.Journal of Organizational Behavior.
Rousseau, D. M., & Anton, R. J. (1988a). Fairness and implied contract obligations in job terminations: A policy-capturing study.Human Performance, 1, 273–289.
Rousseau, D. M., & Anton, R. J. (1988b). Fairness and obligations in termination decisions: The role of contributions, promises, and performance. (under review).
Salancik, G. R., & Pfeffer, J. (1978). A social information processing approach to job attitude and task design.Administrative Science Quarterly, 23, 224–253.
Schein, E. H. (1980).Organization Psychology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Steil, J., Tuchman, B., & Deutsch, M. (1978). An exploratory study of the meanings of injustice and frustration.Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 4, 393–398.
Tavris, C. (1982).Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion. New York: Simon and Schuster.
U.S. Bureau of the Census (1984).Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1984–1985. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Weick, K. (1981).The Social Psychology of Organizing. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Williamson, O. E. (1975).Markets and Hierarchies: Analysis and Anti-trust Implications. New York: Free Press.
Williamson, O. E. (1979). Transaction-cost economics: The governance of contractual relations.Journal of Law and Economics, 22, 233–261.
Williamson, O. E., Wachter, M. L., & Harris, J. E. (1975). Understanding the employment relation: The analysis of idiosyncratic exchange.Bell Journal of Economics, 6, 250–278.
About this article
Cite this article
Rousseau, D.M. Psychological and implied contracts in organizations. Employ Respons Rights J 2, 121–139 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01384942
- employment relations
- psychological contracts
- implied contracts
- employment obligations