The 2018 Biannual Psychological Contract Small Group Meeting is just over. Last week, scholars from all over the world gathered in Melbourne to discuss research on psychological contracts. I was honored to give one of the two keynote speeches and two of my PhD students (Jiahong and Yang) presented their latest findings. I also presented research by Safâa Achnak, who could not attend the meeting. So, all in all, the VUB was well represented at the meeting!
Several people asked if I would be willing to share the slides from my keynote, so I uploaded them here (https://osf.io/qmg36).
Briefly put, I argued in my keynote speech that there are three major problems in the psychological contract literature. First, most studies use a variable-centered or nomothetic approach, whereas I argued that a person-centered or idiographic approach would be more informative. In other words, we tend to study “the average” individual, but such a person does not exist in reality. A person-centered approach resolves this issue by focusing on subgroups of individuals (or on a single individual). Second, I argued that most studies on psychological contracts fail to take the complexity of context into account. We study context in a reductionist fashion, focusing on a single or on a few contextual factors, but we overlook that these contextual factors often interact. Again, a person-centered approach may help solve this problem. Third, I explained that we lack construct clarity in the psychological contract literature. Several definitions have been proposed and used over the years when people study psychological contracts. A good example of this are the various definitions that exist of psychological contract breach and violation. As a result, we also have several operationalizations of key concepts, which severely reduces the comparability of findings. I proposed that integration of various definitions and operationalizations is possible and that we need to seek consensus to move our research field forward.
Finally, in the second part of my keynote speech, I introduced a new perspective on psychological contracts that may resolve these three problems: the individual psychological contract network. This essentially treats an individual’s psychological contract as a (psychological) network that dynamically changes over time. It relies on dynamic systems theory to explain how psychological contracts emerge, change, and dissolve over time. For those interested, I wrote a book chapter that explains this idea which will be published later this year.