addressed if employees are willing to use their good judgment and improvise solutions that advance the interests of the organization. The social/psychological contract is at the center of efforts to secure the compliance of employees, to get them to act in ways that serve the goals of the employer even when those actions are not in their immediate interests.

When social/psychological contracts are in force, the assumption is that the employment relationship is long term and that the employer has policies that will benefit the employee in the long run. These include income security, in the form of stable careers and lucrative pensions. But the most important of these policies has been promotions, used to reward good performance and to both reward and motivate superior performance. Promotions do not require that employers specify the exact behavior required of employees nor do they demand constant monitoring. The rewards are very desirable in that they typically represent sizable increases in compensation, increases that several studies have found more than compensate for the additional job demands. What persuades workers that they will get the reward of promotion in the long term for good performance is in part that they have seen it happen before.

In addition to these long-term exchanges are psychological mechanisms centered on the notion of reciprocity. The concept of reciprocity refers to the sense of obligation that one feels to repay gifts, a value that has been identified as underlying every culture on the planet (Gouldner, 1960). Studies that follow employees over time find that new entrants believe that they owe their employer a great deal and that the company owes them relatively little, reflecting the sense that they are indebted to their employer. As time goes on, their view of the relationship changes. The longer they are with the company, the more they believe the company owes them (Robinson et al., 1994). This trend may reflect their own investments in the organization. Studies find that, as long as they continue to meet acceptable performance levels, employees tend to get more rights and privileges in organizations the longer they stay (Rousseau and Anton, 1991).

If contracts are voluntary agreements based on promises about the future behavior of the parties, then social/psychological contracts are based on an individual's perception of the ap-



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement