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Transitions In The Psychological Contract: Some Evidence From The Banking Sector

P. Sparrow
Published 1996 · Economics

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This study examines the psychological contract in a sample of 107 employees in a retail bank. Deregulation, market-entry by non-traditional suppliers, and the introduction of advanced technology have changed the security of and rules implicit in the employment contract in the UK banking sector, which is one of the leading contenders for downsizing and delayering. Many banks are experiencing increased employee cynicism. New structures and technology, demanding levels of customer service, and new competitors have produced heightened attention towards performance and are associated with the need for employees to develop new competencies, such as relationship-handling and sales skills. Regardless of whether banks pursue high performance management systems or control-based HR strategies, the requirement for committed and engaged employees able to develop new competencies is an assumed constant. Demographic factors such as age, service and sex are found to be partial predictors of some attitudinal items. However, these proxy measures of attachment to the old employment deal are not related to items that consider commitment or satisfaction. the psychological contracts in the bank are highly fragmented. Seven underlying constructs are revealed: ‘frustratedly disengaged’, ‘still ambitious’, ‘passively flexible’, ‘guidance seekers’, ‘buy me outers’, ‘don't push me too fast’ and ‘just pay me more’. Implications of the research for HRM, the management of new internal labour markets in the banks and future directions of research on the psychological contract are discussed. It is concluded that a new set of internal labour markets are being created within the banks, the dynamics of which clearly revolve around a wide range of individual factors. Accepted wisdom about participative management practices will be challenged in the HR strategies of the late 1990s.
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