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Title: Psychological contracts in a business school context
Author: Gammie, Robert Peter
ISNI:       0000 0004 2682 6003
Awarding Body: University of Stirling
Current Institution: University of Stirling
Date of Award: 2006
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Over the last three decades the UK higher education system has operated under an ideological approach sometimes referred to as New Managerialism (Deem, 2004). The psychological contract of the individual actor within this altered environment was the subject of the research in this study. The psychological contract has been defined as an individual’s beliefs regarding the terms and conditions of a reciprocal informal exchange agreement between themselves and their organisations (Rousseau, 1989). The thesis focused on the psychological contracts of higher education lecturers in a post-92 University Business School in the United Kingdom. The study considered the construction of the psychological contract, the appropriateness of the initial contract, perceived influences on the contract, and behavioural consequences of contract breach and/or violation. The research was focussed on the role of the lecturer in interpreting and unpacking his/her perceptions and understandings. The research questions required data that was personal and experiential. Interviews were undertaken which allowed participants to provide life history accounts that described and theorised about their actions in the social world over time. The approach used had a number of limitations which were identified and considered within the thesis. Notwithstanding the limitations of the research approach, the data suggested that each individual had analysed the extent to which a new employment context would deliver transactional, relational, and ideological reward. However, ideology was less relevant in making the decision to accept higher education employment than either transactional or relational elements. Post-entry, sensemaking acted as a confirmation mechanism in respect of the expectations of what the job would entail and the pecuniary and non-pecuniary benefits that would be received. Initial contracts were relatively accurate in their conceptualisation of the work involved in being a higher education academic. Within the Business School examined in this study, management decisions impacted on participants from both an economic and socio-economic perspective. Employees described how individual work contexts were altered by management decisions. Reaction to decisions depended on individual circumstances at any given juncture based on the influences from multiple contexts both internal and external to the workplace. Context was not homogenous and wide-ranging individual differences were apparent. These contexts played a part in defining to what extent changed work environments would be accepted or not. Participants were continuously active and involved in the evaluation of the multiple contexts that were relevant to them. The capacity to manipulate managers and influence decisions to counteract context change was also evident. The ability to thwart changes to work context varied between individuals and over time. This study identified how participants were able to create and shape their own work environment to satisfy their needs and wants during their careers within a structure that remained predominantly organic in nature despite a changing higher education environment. The goal of the employee was to create the idiosyncratic deal, the specific individually tailored work environment that would deliver the satisfaction required from higher education employment. The psychological contracts were self-focussed and self-oriented but this did not necessarily mean that employees were not also actively involved in assisting the organisation to achieve its ambitions. The notion that a managerial agenda had resulted in the erosion of individualism in higher education was not supported. There was evidence that the psychological contract was unilaterally changed and altered by the employee whenever he or she chose, rather than a negotiated change to a binding agreement. Alteration was intrinsically a private determination and often not communicated.
Supervisor: Remedios, Richard Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ed.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Psychological Contract ; Business School ; Business schools Great Britain Employees ; Education, Higher Aims and objectives ; Feedback (Psychology)