Career stage and generational differences in psychological contracts

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Career Development International, 2009, 14 (2), pp. 261 - 283
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Purpose To determine how employees in different generational groups (or cohorts) and different career stages perceive their psychological contracts. Methodology A survey of 345 working adults included psychological contract obligations, incentives and importance and the cognitive responses of job satisfaction, affective commitment and intention to leave. Superâs (1988) Adult Career Concerns Inventory measured career stage. Findings Small but significant differences between individualsâ psychological contract perceptions were based on both career stage and generational cohort: â¢Higher levels of balanced obligations and fulfilment were found than either relational or transactional obligations and fulfilment â¢Relational and transactional obligations were significantly higher for Baby Boomers than Generation Xers â¢A stronger negative relationship was found between transactional fulfilment and intention to leave for Generation Xers than Generation Yers â¢Higher balanced fulfilment had a significantly stronger positive relationship with (a) job satisfaction for exploration than other career stages and (b) commitment for exploration than maintenance stages. Research limitations/implication Cross section methodology and difference scores in the female dominated sample limits generalisability. The studyâs key theoretical contribution is the need to further investigate if the protean career concept is operating within employeesâ perceptions of their psychological contractual terms. Originality/value Despite widespread colloquial use of generational cohort groupings such as Baby Boomer, Generation X and Generation Y, small effect sizes were found. Implications for employers looking to manage employeesâ psychological contracts include that there are greater similarities than differences between the different career stages and generational cohorts.
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