• The individual antecedents and the development of newcomers' psychological contracts during the socialization process: a longitudinal study

      De Vos, Ans (2002)
      Newcomers' perceptions of their contract or deal with their employer have an important impact on their commitment and performance and on their willingness to stay with the company for a longer time period. The development of a positively experienced psychological contract between employer and employee is therefore of crucial importance for the retention of motivated and productive employees. In this research project we have focused on the antecedents and the development of the psychological contract among organizational newcomers during their first year of employment. More specifically, two research questions were answered: (1) What is the relationship between newcomers' individual characteristics and the content and features of their psychological contracts at organizational entry?, and (2) How does the development of newcomers' psychological contracts take place during the socialization process? In order to answer both questions, a longitudinal survey-research has been conducted among a panel of 1361 newcomers from eight organizations. The time span of the study involved the socialization process, i.e. the first year after organizational entry. During this period, data were collected at four points in time: at entry, 4 weeks after entry, 3 months, 6 months and 12 months after entry. Results show that newcomers differ in their initial perceptions about the promises they have exchanged with their employer (e.g. promises relating to their career development, job content, flexibility and ethical behavior) and that these differences can be explained by the type of work values newcomers try to attain during their careers, by their career strategy, their feelings of control over their career and by their orientation towards exchange relationships. During the first year after entry, significant changes in newcomers' perceptions of promises take place. Analyses show that these changes can be explained by newcomers' intermediate evaluations of the fulfillment of these promises and by their actual experiences within the organization. Moreover, the results show that newcomers who more actively search for information about their psychological contract make up a more positive evaluation of their employment relationship at the end of the socialization process. Together these results provide more insight into the idiosyncratic and dynamic nature of the psychological contract. They are a first empirical contribution to the literature on psychological contract development during the initial stages of the employment relationship.