Does Psychological Contract Breach Decrease Proactive Behaviors?

P. Matthijs Bal, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Dan S. Chiaburu and Ismael Diaz, both of Texas A&M University, published “Does Psychological Contract Breach Decrease Proactive Behaviors? The Moderating Effect of Emotion Regulation” in the December 2011 issue of Group & Organization Management. To view other articles in this issue, please click here. Dr. Chiaburu kindly supplied the following responses to the article.

Who is the target audience for this article?

The study is of interest to both academics and practitioners.

What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

Do employees remain as proactive when organizations do not uphold their side of the deal (i.e., psychological contract breach)? In such situations, emotions – from anger to frustration – are central to employees’ responses. Yet not much is known about the role of employees’ emotion regulation following breach.

Does it matter whether employees “just forget about it,” directing their attention toward something more pleasurable, or they “put a different spin on it,” and cognitively reframe the breach? Our research – based on data from both the US and the Netherlands – shows that it does. As expected, we showed that the former emotion regulation strategy intensified the negative effect of breach on proactive behaviors; conversely, the latter mitigated its effect.

Were there findings that were surprising to you?

Results were less consistent for the “moving away” regulation strategy when compared with “changing its meaning” form of regulation.

Possibly, drawing attention away from negative events does not solve problems, but may only temporarily provide relief from negative events.

How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

This is the first study that investigated how people regulate their emotions following psychological breach. We hope to inspire other researchers to look at how people modify the impact of work events through their emotion regulation strategies. Managers are also helped by knowing that employees’ responses to breach are different, and can thus allocate resources toward those more inclined to decrease their proactivity.

How does this study fit into your body of work/line of research?

We have been cooperating in previous research projects on mitigating and intensifying effects of other factors (e.g., relations with the

organization) on the effects of contract breaches (published in Journal of Managerial Psychology, 2010). The paper fits within our joint interest in social exchange relationships, while building on unique areas of expertise (psychological contracts and proactive behaviors). We will continue doing research along these lines.

How did your paper change during the review process?

Reviewers provided excellent suggestions – from theoretical underpinnings, to insights on our core constructs, and even the title of the paper. The quality of our exposition improved, as well as how the main message was conveyed.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could go

Back and do this study again?

Assessing the intensity of psychological contract breach for employees surfaced as something important while writing the paper. This is important to capture in future research.

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