Skip to main content

Psychological Contracts and Counterproductive Work Behaviors: Employee Responses to Transactional and Relational Breach

Abstract

Purpose

This study extends the research on counterproductive work behavior (CWB) by examining the psychological contract breaches that trigger employee CWB. Specifically, we explored the relationship between transactional and relational contract breach and five forms of CWB (abuse, production deviance, sabotage, theft, and withdrawal). Further, we considered the role of situational and individual factors that mitigate CWB engagement and examined the moderating effects of organizational policies meant to deter CWB and personality (conscientiousness, agreeableness, and emotional stability).

Design/Methodology/Approach

A total of 357 employees responded to surveys of transactional and relational psychological contract breach, CWB, knowledge of organizational policies, and personality. Relationships were examined via hierarchical linear regression.

Findings

Findings generally supported the notion that transactional and relational breach has differential effects on CWB. However, there was limited support for the moderating effects of policies and individual differences on these relationships.

Implications

Given the consequences of CWB for organizations and individuals, it is important for organizations to understand how transactional and relational contract breach relates to different forms of CWB. In addition, it is important to recognize the limited role that organizational policies and personality have in diminishing CWB.

Originality/Value

Our contribution to this area of study is the parsing of the effects of distinct elements of the psychological contract to specific forms of CWB, so that organizations can achieve a better understanding of which aspects of the psychological contract affect CWB and implement targeted interventions.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. Items are available from the authors upon request.

References

  • Adams, J. S. (1965). Inequity in social exchange. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (pp. 267–299). New York: Academic.

    Google Scholar 

  • Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ambrose, M. L., Seabright, M. A., & Schminke, M. (2002). Sabotage in the workplace: The role of organizational injustice. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 89(1), 947–965.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Arbuckle, J. L. (2005). Amos (Version 6.0) [Computer Program]. Chicago: SPSS.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ashton, M. C. (1998). Personality and job performance: The importance of narrow traits. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 19, 289–303.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Baltes, B. B., Briggs, T. E., Huff, J. W., Wright, J. A., & Neuman, G. A. (1999). Flexible and compressed workweek schedules: A meta-analysis of their effects on work-related criteria. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84, 496–513.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barrick, M. R., Mount, M. K., & Waldschmidt, D. M. (2003). Administering, interpreting, and making decisions with the Wonderlic Productivity Index™. Libertyville, IL: Wonderlic.

    Google Scholar 

  • Berry, C. M., Ones, D. S., & Sackett, P. R. (2007). Interpersonal deviance, organizational deviance, and their common correlates: A review and meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 410–424.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bies, R. J., & Tripp, T. M. (1996). Beyond distrust: “Getting even” and the need for revenge. In R. M. Kramer & T. R. Tyler (Eds.), Trust in organizations (pp. 246–260). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Blau, P. (1964). Exchange and power in social life. New York: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bordia, P., Restubog, S. L. D., & Tang, R. L. (2008). When employees strike back: Investigating mediating mechanisms between psychological contract breach and workplace deviance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93, 1104–1117.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bowling, N. A., & Beehr, T. A. (2006). Workplace harassment from the victim’s perspective: A theoretical model and meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91, 998–1012.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Buss, A. (1961). The psychology of aggression. New York: Wiley.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (1982). Control theory: A useful conceptual framework for personality-social, clinical, and health psychology. Psychological Bulletin, 92, 111–135.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Colbert, A. E., Mount, M. K., Harter, J. K., Witt, L. A., & Barrick, M. R. (2004). Interactive effects of personality and perceptions of the work situation on workplace deviance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89(4), 599–609.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Conway, N., & Briner, R. B. (2002). Full-time versus part-time employees: Understanding the links between work status, the psychological contract, and attitudes. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 61, 279–301.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Deery, S. J., Iverson, R. D., & Walsh, J. T. (2006). Toward a better understanding of psychological contract breach: A study of customer service employees. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(1), 166–175.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Douglas, S. C., & Martinko, M. J. (2001). Exploring the role of individual differences in the prediction of workplace aggression. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86(4), 547–559.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Fitzgerald, L. F., Drasgow, F., Hulin, C. L., Gelfand, M. J., & Magley, V. J. (1997). Antecedents and consequences of sexual harassment in organizations: A test of an integrated model. Journal of Applied Psychology, 82, 578–589.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Foa, E. B., & Foa, U. G. (1980). Resource theory: Interpersonal behavior as exchange. In K. J. Gergen, M. S. Greenberg, & R. H. Willis (Eds.), Social exchange: Advances in theory and research (pp. 77–101). New York: Plenum Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Folger, R., & Cropanzano, R. (2001). Fairness theory: Justice as accountability. In J. Greenberg & R. Cropanzano (Eds.), Advances in organizational justice (pp. 1–55). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Folger, R., & Skarlicki, D. P. (1998). A popcorn metaphor for employee aggression. In R. W. Griffin, A. O’Leary-Kelly, & J. M. Collins (Eds.), Dysfunctional behavior in organizations: Violent and deviant behavior (Vol. 23 Part A, pp. 43–81). Stamford, CT: JAI Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fox, S., & Spector, P. E. (1999). A model of work frustration-aggression. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 20, 915–931.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fox, S., Spector, P. E., Goh, A., & Bruursema, K. (2007). Does your coworker know what you’re doing? Convergence of self and peer-reports of counterproductive work behavior. International Journal of Stress Management, 14, 41–60.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Greenberg, J. (1990). Employee theft as a reaction to underpayment inequity: The hidden cost of pay cuts. Journal of Applied Psychology, 75, 561–568.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Greenberg, J., & Scott, K. S. (1996). Why do workers bite the hands that feed them? Employee theft as a social exchange process. In B. M. Staw & L. L. Cummings (Eds.), Research in organizational behavior (Vol. 18, pp. 111–156). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Harper, D. C. (1990). Spotlight abuse–save profits. Industrial Distribution, 79, 47–51.

    Google Scholar 

  • Harrison, D. A., & Martocchio, J. J. (1998). Time for absenteeism: A 20-year review of origins, offshoots, and outcomes. Journal of Management, 24, 305–350.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hershcovis, M. S., Turner, N., Barling, J., Arnold, K. A., Dupre, K. E., Inness, M., et al. (2007). Predicting workplace aggression: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 228–238.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Ho, V. T., Rousseau, D. M., & Levesque, L. L. (2006). Social networks and the psychological contract: Structural holes, cohesive ties, and beliefs regarding employer obligations. Human Relations, 59, 459–481.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hollinger, R. C., & Clark, J. P. (1983). Deterrence in the workplace: Perceived certainty, perceived severity, and employee theft. Social Forces, 62, 398–418.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hollinger, R. C., & Langton, L. (2006). 2005 National Retail Security Survey: Final report. Gainesville: University of Florida.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hui, C., Lee, C., & Rousseau, D. M. (2004). Psychological contract and organizational citizenship behavior in China: Investigating generalizabiltiy and instrumentality. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89, 311–321.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Judge, T. A., Scott, B. A., & Ilies, R. (2006). Hostility, job attitudes, and workplace deviance: Test of a multilevel model. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(1), 126–138.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kickul, J. R., Neuman, G., Parker, C., & Finkl, J. (2001). Settling the score: The role of organizational justice in the relationship between psychological contract breach and anticitizenship behavior. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, 13(2), 77–93.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Klaas, B. S., & Wheeler, H. N. (1990). Managerial decision making about employee discipline: A policy-capturing approach. Personnel Psychology, 43, 117–134.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lawrence, T. B., & Robinson, S. L. (2007). Ain’t misbehavin: Workplace deviance as organizational resistance. Journal of Management, 33, 378–394.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lee, K., & Allen, N. J. (2002). Organizational citizenship behavior and workplace deviance: The role of affect and cognitions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(1), 131–142.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lim, V. K. G. (2002). The IT way of loafing on the job: Cyberloafing, neutralizing and organizational justice. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 23, 675–694.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • MacNeil, I. R. (1985). Relational contract: What we do and do not know. Wisconsin Law Review, 1985(3), 483–525.

    Google Scholar 

  • Montes, S. D., & Irving, P. G. (2008). Disentangling the effects of promised and delivered inducements: Relational and transactional contract elements and the mediating role of trust. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93, 1367–1381.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Morrison, E. W., & Robinson, S. L. (1997). When employees feel betrayed: A model of how psychological contract violation develops. Academy of Management Review, 22, 226–256.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Neuman, J. H., & Baron, R. A. (1997). Aggression in the workplace. In R. A. Giacalone & J. Greenberg (Eds.), Antisocial behavior in organizations (pp. 37–67). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Orvis, K. A., Dudley, N. M., & Cortina, J. M. (2008). Conscientiousness and reactions to psychological contract breach: A longitudinal field study. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93, 1183–1193.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Parilla, P. F., Hollinger, R. C., & Clark, J. P. (1988). Organizational control of deviant behavior: The case of employee theft. Social Science Quarterly, 69, 261–280.

    Google Scholar 

  • Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., Lee, J.-Y., & Podsakoff, N. P. (2003). Common method biases in behavioral research: A critical review of the literature and recommended remedies. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88, 879–903.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Raja, U., Johns, G., & Ntalianis, F. (2004). The impact of personality on psychological contracts. Academy of Management Journal, 47(3), 350–367.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Restubog, S. L. D., Bordia, P., & Tang, R. L. (2007). Behavioural outcomes of psychological contract breach in a non-Western culture: The moderating role of equity sensitivity. British Journal of Management, 18, 326–386.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Richards, J., & Daley, H. (2003). Bullying policy: Development, implementation, and monitoring. In S. Einarsen, H. Hoel, D. Zapf, & C. L. Cooper (Eds.), Bullying and emotional abuse in the workplace: International perspectives in research and practice (pp. 247–258). London: Taylor & Francis.

    Google Scholar 

  • Robinson, S. L., & Bennett, R. J. (1995). A typology of deviant workplace behaviors: A multi-dimensional scaling study. Academy of Management Journal, 38, 555–572.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Robinson, S. L., & Bennett, R. J. (1997). Workplace deviance: Its definition, its manifestations, and its causes. Research on Negotiations in Organizations, 6, 3–27.

    Google Scholar 

  • Robinson, S. L., & Greenberg, J. (1998). Employees behaving badly: Dimensions, determinants and dilemmas in the study of workplace deviance. In C. L. Cooper & D. M. Rousseau (Eds.), Trends in organizational behavior (Vol. 5, pp. 1–30). Chichester, England: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Robinson, S. L., & Morrison, E. W. (1995). Psychological contracts and OCB: The effect of unfulfilled obligations on civic virtue behavior. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 16, 289–298.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Robinson, S. L., & Morrison, E. W. (2000). The development of psychological contract breach and violation: A longitudinal study. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 21, 525–546.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Robinson, S. L., & O’Leary-Kelly, A. M. (1998). Monkey see, monkey do: The influence of work groups on the antisocial behavior of employees. Academy of Management Journal, 41(6), 658–672.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Roehling, M. V. (2008). An empirical assessment of alternative conceptualizations of the psychological contract construct: Meaningful differences or ‘much to do about nothing’? Employee Rights and Responsibilities Journal, 20, 261–290.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rosse, J. G., & Hulin, C. L. (1985). Adaptation to work: An analysis of employee health, withdrawal and change. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 36, 324–347.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Rosse, J. G., & Miller, H. E. (2000). Toward a comprehensive model of the employee adaptation decision process. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Western Decision Sciences Institute, Maui, Hawaii.

  • Rousseau, D. M. (1989). Psychological and implied contracts in organizations. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, 2, 121–139.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rousseau, D. M. (1990). New hire perceptions of their own and their employer’s obligations: A study of psychological contracts. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 11, 389–400.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rousseau, D. M., & McLean Parks, J. (1993). The contracts of individuals and organizations. In L. L. Cummings & B. M. Staw (Eds.), Research in organizational behavior (Vol. 15, pp. 1–43). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ryan, A. M., Brutus, S., Daum, D. L., Brodke, M. H., Schmit, M. J., & Volmer, S. A. (1997). Workplace integrity: Differences in perceptions of behaviors and situational factors. Journal of Business and Psychology, 12(1), 67–83.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sackett, P. R. (2002). The structure of counterproductive work behaviors: Dimensionality and relationships with facets of job performance. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 10, 5–11.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sommers, J. A., Schell, T. L., & Vodanovich, S. J. (2002). Developing a measure of individual differences in organizational revenge. Journal of Business and Psychology, 17, 207–222.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Spector, P. E., Fox, S., Penney, L. M., Bruursema, K., Goh, A., & Kessler, S. (2006). The dimensionality of counterproductivity: Are all counterproductive behaviors created equal? Journal of Vocational Behavior, 68, 446–460.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thau, S., Aquino, K., & Poortvliet, P. M. (2007). Self-defeating behaviors in organizations: The relationship between thwarted belonging and interpersonal work behaviors. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 840–847.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Truxillo, D. M., Bauer, T. N., & Paronto, M. E. (2002). Reactions to organizational alcohol testing and treatment programs. Journal of Business and Psychology, 17(1), 31–45.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Turnley, W. H., & Feldman, D. C. (1999). Re-examining the effects of psychological contract violations: Unmet expectations and job dissatisfaction as mediators. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 21, 25–42.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • U.S. Department of Labor. (2007). Flexible work and part-time jobs. Retrieved June 24, 2009 from http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2007/oct/wk1/art03.htm.

  • Zhao, H., Wayne, S. J., Glibkowski, B. C., & Bravo, J. (2007). The impact of psychological contract breach on work-related outcomes: A meta-analysis. Personnel Psychology, 60, 647–680.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jaclyn M. Jensen.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Jensen, J.M., Opland, R.A. & Ryan, A.M. Psychological Contracts and Counterproductive Work Behaviors: Employee Responses to Transactional and Relational Breach. J Bus Psychol 25, 555–568 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-009-9148-7

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-009-9148-7

Keywords

  • Psychological contract
  • Transactional
  • Relational
  • Contract breach
  • Counterproductive work behavior
  • Organizational policies
  • Personality