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Bielefeld Graduate School

in History and Sociology

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Logo der Einrichtung

Mareike Reimann


Unmet expectations in employment relationships. Investigating the emergence of psychological contract breach and its consequences or employee health

As a consequence of changes in the workplace that have been accompanied by an increased complexity of employment relationships, current research views employer?employee relations as multidimensional, social-exchange relationships rather than just the (direct) exchange of demands and gratifications captured by standard employment contracts. To understand the ongoing changes and their influence on work-related outcomes, psychological contracts have been identified as a key element in contemporary employer-employee relations. Psychological contracts refer to employees' expectations regarding reciprocal exchange agreements with their employers, implying that employees expect employers to fulfil certain obligations. An employee's perception that the organisation has failed to fulfil one or more of its obligations is referred to as a 'psychological contract breach' (PCB).

To explore the relevance of such unmet expectations in modern employment relationships, my cumulative dissertation empirically investigates two main research questions on PCB. First, the emergence of PCB in the context of work organizations is analyzed, focusing on the interplay of organizational and individual factors. The second research question investigates the consequences of PCB as a psychosocial work stressor on employees' health and work-family balance. The empirical analyses (i.e. descriptive analyses, multilevel regression modeling, structural equation modeling) are conducted using the Linked Employer-Employee Panel Survey LEEP-B3. Regarding the first research question results show that particularly individual characteristics and more precisely individual work demands and resources play a crucial role in explaining the emergence of PCB. With respect to the second research questions empirical analyses show that PCB represents an important psychosocial work stressor relevant for employee health. PCB affects both mental and physical health negatively and explains higher levels of individual work-family conflict.

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