Challenges to the psychological contract in Hong Kong

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Westwood, RI, Sparrow, P & Leung, ASM 2001, 'Challenges to the psychological contract in Hong Kong', International Journal of Human Resource Management, vol. 12, no. 4, pp. 621-651.

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This study investigates empirically the psychological contract of a sample of 205 Hong Kong junior and senior managers. It determines the perceptions of factors that employers and employees see as relevant to the employment relationship, and then analyses perceptions of and attitudes towards recent changes in the Hong Kong business environment. In addition to exploring the nature and content of manager's psychological contracts in Hong Kong, the study explores how contracts are related to and affected by both the external environment and internal management practices. A survey questionnaire is used to measure the promises and commitments perceived to have been made by organizations, and the obligations that employees perceive they owe to their employer. In addition, the actual policies and practices of the employing organizations are determined. The impact of the HRM climate of the employing organizations (actual policies and practices) and the attitudes, expectations and feelings of organizational members about ongoing changes in the business and management environment on this exchange relationship are isolated. The study makes two contributions to the psychological contract literature: it examines the relevance of a psychological contract approach in a nonWestern geographical region; and it moves the concept of HRM preferences more centrally into the psychological contracting literature. This enables a better understanding of the construct in relation to the comparative management literature. The content of the psychological contract is shown to be multi-dimensional. Perceptions of organizational commitments and promises focus around four judgements: an intrinsically satisfying and challenging environment; a secure and rewarding job; equity; and supportive leadership. By Western standards the employee side of the employment relationship 'deal' is more one-sided. The proportion of managers who believe employees are strongly obligated to do certain things for their employers is very high. The study examines the factors that predict employees' psychological contracts. Actual HRM practices are shown to predict perceived commitments and obligations, and the strength of obligation is related to perceived promises and commitments. In contrast to the emphasis on the internal cognitive and individualized conception of the psychological contract in much of the literature, this study indicates that this decontextualizes psychological contracts. The true nature of a psychological contract is shown to be an exchange relationship firmly linked to a culture's reciprocity norms.