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Psychological contract development during organizational socialization: adaptation to reality and the role of reciprocity


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  • Ans De Vos


  • Dirk Buyens


  • Ren Schalk

    (Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School)


Based on the theoretical framework of newcomer sensemaking this study examines factors associated with changes in newcomers psychological contract perceptions during the socialization process. More specifically, two mechanisms are addressed that could explain changes in newcomers perceptions of the promises they have exchanged with their employer: (1) unilateral adaptation of perceived promises to reality and (2) adaptation of perceived promises as a function of the reciprocity norm. To test our hypotheses, a four-wave longitudinal study among 333 new hires has been conducted, covering the first year of their employment relationship. Results show that changes in newcomers perceptions of the promises they have made to their employer are affected by their perceptions of their own contributions as well as by their perceptions of inducements received from their employer. Changes in newcomers perceptions of employer promises are affected by their perceptions of employer inducements received, but the impact of perceived employee contributions is less clear. The data provide limited support for the idea that the adaptation of perceived promises to perceived inducements and contributions occurs to a stronger extent during the encounter stage than during the acquisition stage of socialization.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School in its series Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School Working Paper Series with number 2003-14.

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Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: 27 Jun 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:vlg:vlgwps:2003-14

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Cited by:
  1. Sally Sambrook & Delia Wainwright, 2010. "The Psychological Contract: Who's Contracting with Whom? Towards a Conceptual Model," Working Papers 10013, Bangor Business School, Prifysgol Bangor University (Cymru / Wales).
  2. Ans De Vos & Dirk Buyens & Ren Schalk, 2003. "Making sense of a new employment relationship : psychological contract-related information seeking and the role of work values and locus of control," Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School Working Paper Series 2003-28, Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School.
  3. A. De Vos & A. Meganck & D. Buyens, 2006. "The role of the psychological contract in retention management: Confronting HR-managers’ and employees’ views on retention factors and the relationship with employees’ intentions to stay," Working Papers of Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Ghent University, Belgium 06/374, Ghent University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration.
  4. A. Willem & A. Devos & M. Buelens, 2007. "Differences between Private and Public Sector Employees’ Psychological Contracts," Working Papers of Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Ghent University, Belgium 07/440, Ghent University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration.
  5. Markus Goebel & Rick Vogel & Christiana Weber, 2013. "Management Research on Reciprocity: A Review of the Literature," BuR - Business Research, German Academic Association for Business Research, vol. 6(1), pages 34-53, May.
  6. Severin Hornung & Jürgen Glaser, 2010. "Employee responses to relational fulfilment and work-life benefits: A social exchange study in the German public administration," International Journal of Manpower, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 31(1), pages 73-92, May.
  7. Schlosser, Francine K. & McNaughton, Rod B., 2007. "Individual-level antecedents to market-oriented actions," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 60(5), pages 438-446, May.


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