IT Pro is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Mind over matter: Why work is more than work

The psychological contract can build our new work world if we get it right on all sides

Lockdown sent much of the UK home to work, and there were more problems raised by that sudden upheaval than figuring out how best to set up a laptop on the kitchen table - the core relationships that guide our working lives are at risk.

Related Resource

The workers' experience report

How technology can spark motivation, enhance productivity and strengthen security

The workers' experience report - how to compete in the digital eraDownload now

"The nature of work is changing and that's prompting people to think about how to redefine not only their work roles, but the nature of their relationships with co-workers and supervisors," says Blaine Landis, assistant professor at UCL's School of Management.

To address that, managers need to reconsider their psychological contract with employees, ensuring it evolves to keep pace with the way we work. When an employee begins a new role, they'll be given a written contract with pay and benefits, job expectations, and other key aspects such as hours and conduct. However, there will also be unwritten but understood rules around individual expectations, behaviour, engagement and more.

This is called the psychological contract. It's an idea dating back to the 1960s, when academic Chris Argyis first used the term to describe the unwritten, implicit relationship between workers and their bosses. Though it has since been expanded on by others, including management researcher Denise Rousseau in her 1989 seminal paper. The psychological contract is now often encompassed in newer management concepts like the employer/employee value proposition and employee engagement.

"Although the terminology may have evolved, the psychological contract is still an essential part of the employment relationship – and the basis of this contract is trust," says Rick Kershaw, chief people officer at Peakon.

Trust is everything

"Employees have constantly evolving expectations, and vice versa. This unspoken agreement forms the basis of a company's culture and growth strategy," Kershaw adds. "It motivates employees to perform at their very best, working for the betterment of the business. Employers reciprocate this by providing opportunities for growth and learning."

Nikolaos Lygkonis, founder and CEO at PeopleGoal, notes that the psychological contract can include the culture of a company, whether a manager is results driven or values guided, and even external factors, such as the wider economic environment or societal shifts. "For example, the #blacklivesmatter and #metoo campaigns had an impact on the employee...

To read the rest of this feature, which was originally published by sister title The Business Briefing, please download the original in its PDF form.  

And, to sign up to receive future issues of The Business Briefing (delivered to your inbox every Monday), please fill in the form below.

Featured Resources

Activation playbook: Deliver data that powers impactful, game-changing campaigns

Bringing together data and technology to drive better business outcomes

Free Download

In unpredictable times, a data strategy is key

Data processes are crucial to guide decisions and drive business growth

Free Download

Achieving resiliency with Everything-as-a-Service (XAAS)

Transforming the enterprise IT landscape

Free Download

What is contextual analytics?

Creating more customer value in HR software applications

Free Download

Most Popular

Europe's first autonomous petrol station opens in Lisbon

Europe's first autonomous petrol station opens in Lisbon

23 May 2022
Nvidia pauses hiring to help cope with inflation
Careers & training

Nvidia pauses hiring to help cope with inflation

23 May 2022
Open source packages with millions of installs hacked to harvest AWS credentials

Open source packages with millions of installs hacked to harvest AWS credentials

24 May 2022