Psychological Science 2018, (3) 653-659 DOI:     ISSN: 0412-1961 CN: 21-1139/TG

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psychological contract breach
trust crisis
organizational justice
PAN Ying-Qiu
Article by Pan,Y.Q

Sociocultural Analysis on the Mechanism of Migrant Workers’ Psychological Contract Breach

Yingqiu Pan


Psychological contract breach (PCB) refers to one's perception that the organization has failed to fulfill adequately his or her promised obligations (Robinson, 1996). Findings of previous research have intensively documented the detrimental effect of PCB on employees’ organizational citizenship behaviors. However, much less is known about the factors and the process underlying PCB. A few studies investigated the relation of personal (e.g., personality characteristics) or organizational (e.g., job resources and demands) factors with PCB and claimed that personal and organizational factors are closely related to PCB. Different from previous research, Thomas and colleagues (2016) argued that employees’ PCB occurs in organizational setting but factors that may shape the formation and changes of PCB are beyond individual- and organizational-level variables. Sociocultural factors may have a framing effect on the motivational and cognitive process of PCB. Following this sociocultural perspective, the present study is aimed to investigate how migrant workers’ cultural values of collectivism (e.g., collectivistic tendency and power distance) and social trust crisis (e.g., experience of being cheated) work together and shape migrant workers’ perceived PCB in organizational setting. 676 migrant workers (418 males, 253 females, 5 unreported) were recruited from 12 manufacturing enterprises located in Yangtze River Delta and coastal areas in Southeast China. All participants were randomly drawn from the production site in each manufacturing enterprise and were requested to complete questionnaires during the break time from work. The age of the participants ranged from 18 to 53 years old, with an average age of 30.66. The years of education that participants completed ranged from 6 to 14 years. All questionnaires were administrated to participants to by the same researcher. Each participant received 20 RMB for the completion of questionnaires. Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) was used to analyze the prediction of migrant workers’ cultural values of collectivism and experience of being cheated to their perceived PCB. It was found that collectivistic tendency has no direct effect on perceived PCB but contributes to perceived PCB negatively via the mediating role of organizational justice. Power distance positively contributes to perceived PCB directly as well as indirectly via the mediating role of organizational justice. On the contrary, experience of being cheated positively predicts perceived PCB directly and indirectly via the mediating role of organizational justice. The results indicated that sociocultural factors have an evident impact on migrant workers’ perceived PCB. Collectivistic tendency and power distance dramatically diminish migrant workers’ perceived PCB while experience of being cheated significantly strengthens migrant workers’ perceived PCB. The results provided solid evidence that PCB is not simply an individual psychological process but shaped by sociocultural factors in a complicated way. In sum, the present study extended the understanding of the extant literature on the antecedents as well as the process that shape employees’ perceived PCB. It is suggested that, to develop and maintain stable psychological contract between employees and their organizations, cultural values of collectivism and trust construction among employees should receive enough attention at the organizational level.

Keywords psychological contract breach   collectivism   trust crisis   organizational justice  
Received 2017-11-20 Revised 2018-01-28 Online: 2018-05-20 
Corresponding Authors: Yingqiu Pan
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