THE BLACK BRITISH CLERICAL WORKERS’ RESPONSE: Contract Violation

Contract Violation

Given that this is the first study of its kind in the UK, it meansthere is no current literature on this area of interest and sothis study may be considered a research that is an exploratory work other researchers will build on. We start by investigating what is meant by the term ‘psychological contract violation’. Later wewould examine what causes violation. Afterwards, some of the likely responses to the psychological contract violation from the black British perspectives will be discussed. But the question researchers are asking is: Why is it important? It is this concerns that leads this paper to investigate the following research question:

■ What are the factors that influence and constrain the black British clerical workers’ response to psychological contract violation? Successful globalization

This paper is focusing on black British clerical workers because there are more black British employees in clerical positions across English local authorities compared with those in managerial positions. The aim oftargeting those in clerical positions is to maximize quantitatively a wide-ranging perspective of the black British workers employed in English local authorities, which the research seeks to attain. The emphasis at this stage is to discuss the effect of the psychological contract violation from the black British workers’ perspectives. The rationale is that most of the organization promises are directed to allemployees regardless of their individual desires and expectations (Levinson et al 1962; Rousseau, 1989; Chrobot-Mason, 2003). The criticism here is that these promises do not represent nor meet the expectations, beliefs, and obligations of the black British clerical workers in UK local authorities. Hence the black British workersstrive forrenegotiation of the exchange agreement with their line manager or departmental head so as to have a workable psychological contract. It is this debate that leads this paper to commence this study.

Here the term ‘violation’ is examined, and afterwards the antecedents and distinction between contract violation and contract breach are discussed.

The term ‘contract violation’ is not psychological contract violation. According to Morrison and Robinson (1997), the former refers to contractual failure, while the latter is psychological. The term “violation” that was originally used to describe organization failure to respond to employee’s contribution, has been redefined by Morrison and Robinson (1997) into two separate levels: (1) contract breach and (2) contract violation. In the past, most researchers used the terms ‘breach and violation’ interchangeably (Morrison & Robinson, 1997). Outlined below are two definitions that distinguish ‘breach’ from ‘violation’.

Psychological Contract Breach: This has been described as a situation when “one party in a relationship perceives another to have failed to fulfil promised obligations” (Robinson & Rousseau, 1994). For example, if an organization supplies a diary annually to each staff member in a team but decides the following year to supply one diary for the whole team, the organization’s actions may be regarded as a contract breach. This situation being discussed does not in any way provoke the intense negative emotional reaction necessary for contract violation (Conway &Briner, 2005). It was argued that the idea of a perceived contract breach varies from person to person because it all depends on each individual’s expectations, reasoning and interpretation.

Psychological Contract Violation: In contrast to contract breach, psychological contract violation is a deeply distressing emotional experience that provokes intense negative reactions (Rousseau, 1989, 2003; Conway and Briner, 2005). According to Rousseau (1989) violation is described as “the failure of organizations or other parties to respond to an employee’s contribution in ways the individual believes they are obliged to do so”. For example, a situation in which a transport company decides it is going to abolish travelling allowance at once without any consultation. This would make train drivers accuse the employer of violating the psychological contract, because the organization still has an obligation to provide them travelling allowances until another year, when it is supposed to come up for renewal.

On the issue of what causes psychological contract violation this research cited two basic causes of the psychological contract violations. According to Rousseau (1989); Robinsonand Rousseau (1994) the two most common causes of psychological contract violation are reneging and incongruence. According to Coyle-Shapiro and Kessler (2000), reneging occurs when the organization knowingly breaks promise made to employees. It is argued that this could be on purpose or due to unforeseen circumstances triggered by both national and global competitions. In contrast, the incongruence occurs when employees and their line managers have different views and understandings regarding what the employee has been promised. This is because most employees come to the organization with different beliefs, diverse expectations and dissimilar obligations and so produce different perceptions, this implying therefore that employees respond differently to psychological contract violation. It is argued some employees may prefer to seek for an alternative employment, while others are likely to reduce the energy they put into performing any extra role, whereas there are others whomay seek for renegotiation rather than risk being dismissed for not fulfilling their contributions.

In general, this debate shows that the term ‘breach’ refers to a mild discrepancy, whereas the term ‘violation’ refers to an extreme emotional reaction. According to Conway and Briner (2005), the effect of the psychological contract violation on employees has resulted in a range of negative consequences; for example, feelings of betrayal, resentment, anger, frustration, decreased employee motivation, job dissatisfaction, reduced employee commitment, high staff turnover, or increase in employee initiated litigation and unionization (Rousseau, 1989; Leat, 2001). The criticism is that while it is true that there are negative consequences due to violation, it is certain that because of most employees’ attachment to cultural values, these feelings do not necessarily apply to everyone, as people’s perception varies from one person to another. In the next segment, this paper discusses how the employee responds to psychological contract violation.