Buffering the Breach: Examining the Three-Way Interaction Between Unit Climate Level, Strength, and Psychological Contract Breach

Frontiers in Psychology 10:428887 (2019)
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Despite the wealth of research showing that psychological contract breach (PCB) has negative outcomes for individuals, knowledge about the influence of the social context in which breaches are experienced is still scarce. This is surprising, as scholars have argued that work climates, such as when unit members are generally highly committed, could buffer an individual’s negative experiences at work. Yet, to date, the unit climate and PCB literatures have largely remained separated and our main goal is to integrate these fields. This is especially timely and relevant, because recent work in the unit climate literature indicates that merely looking at the average climate level might not be enough, because the climate’s strength (i.e., the agreement or homogeneity within the unit) could also provide important social cues. Building on these recent advances, we develop and test a theoretical framework which links both climate concepts to PCB. More specifically, we hypothesized that especially when all unit members are highly and homogeneously committed, an employee would reframe their PCB in such a way that it would less adversely affect work engagement and turnover intentions. Using data from 1,272 employees across 36 healthcare units, multilevel structural path analyses supported this three-way interaction. By answering recent calls for more ‘social PCB research’ and integrating the unit climate and PCB literatures, we aim to provide guidance to scholars and practitioners who want to understand in more depth the social context’s influence on PCB.



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