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Broken commitments and unfulfilled expectations: An explorative study of Swedish Labor Court cases




Little is known about what lies behind serious relational conflicts in the workplace. In this paper, we analyze conflicts emanating from perceptions of broken commitments and unfulfilled expectations as they appear in the Swedish Labor Court. Sweden is a highly regulated and formalized labor market, with high levels of unionization and collective agreement coverage. Yet in a social setting ripe with formal rules and regulation such as this, what role do informal promises and expectations have? The empirical material for this study consists of a sub-set of two years of Labor Court decisions dealing with situations where mutual consent of what has been agreed upon or what is to be expected from each other has broken down. We describe who, when and what causes workplace conflicts and provide examples of typical situations where relations break down to such an extent that the cases are taken to court. The results show some variation between employers and employees, men and women, as well as insiders and outsiders of the Swedish labor market model. Our exploration into court cases in a highly regulated and formalized labor market suggests that regardless of the amount of regulations, people build relationships that go beyond formal rules. And when they interpret and judge their social relations, they will sometimes do so differently – and sometimes the differences will cause severe conflicts. Even in Sweden.

Suggested Citation

  • Stern, Charlotta & Weidenstedt, Linda, 2020. "Broken commitments and unfulfilled expectations: An explorative study of Swedish Labor Court cases," Ratio Working Papers 339, The Ratio Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:ratioi:0339

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jackie Coyle‐Shapiro & Ian Kessler, 2000. "Consequences Of The Psychological Contract For The Employment Relationship: A Large Scale Survey," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(7), pages 903-930, November.
    2. Bankins, Sarah, 2014. "Delving into promises: Conceptually exploring the beliefs constituting the contemporary psychological contract," Journal of Management & Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 20(4), pages 544-566, July.
    3. Parks, J.M. & Schmedemann, D.A., 1994. "When Promises Become Contracts: Implied Contracts and Handbook Provisions on Job Security," Papers 94-05, Minnesota - Industrial Relations Center.
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    More about this item


    Industrial relations; Durkheim; implicit duties and norms; psychological contracts; Labor Court decisions; text analysis;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • K12 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Contract Law
    • K31 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Labor Law
    • L00 - Industrial Organization - - General - - - General
    • L14 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Transactional Relationships; Contracts and Reputation
    • M54 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Labor Management

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