Psychological contracts in Australia: a mixed method research approach
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It has been argued that in a workplace environment that is characterised by significant change and uncertainty, the formation and content of the psychological contracts are of increasing importance regarding levels of employee trust, satisfaction, commitment and motivation, and teaching and research outcomes. While research has clearly demonstrated that psychological contracts can have considerable impact upon workplace relations and employee performance, research into the formation, content and effects of psychological contracts between academics and the University has been very limited.The paper used a sequential multi methods research design to explore the formation and content of psychological contracts established by the academics within an Australian University. The empirical research began with exploratory focus group discussions which were followed by a mail survey. The focus groups were carried first to identify the issues and themes that can subsequently be drawn upon to assist with development of relevant survey questions. Focus groups sought to elicit insights and subjective interpretations of the psychological contracts and the consequences of perceived fulfilment or breach. This, first qualitative phase of research has identified four key foci of academic responsibility that greatly influenced the formation and effects of the psychological contracts that have been formed, and these are: the University, the discipline, society, and students. These four categories were used later on to further develop the questionnaire and carry out exploratory factor analysis (EFA) of a larger survey of the academics. Using exploratory factor analysis of the survey data, eight factors were discovered relating to the University’s obligations to its employees and three underlying factors were found in relation to individual academic’s obligations to the University. In terms of the University’s obligation to the academics, the EFA reinforces the importance of leadership and management, fairness and equity (notably in relation to promotion and provision of opportunities for career development). In terms of the academics’ perceived obligations to the university, the EFA points to the importance of role expectations and commitment to the job and student learning.
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