Psychological Contracts: Understanding Ideological Exchange and Currencies through Semi-Structured Interviews with Cincinnati Zoo Employees
Contracts exist everywhere in the world. They are by no means exclusive to organizations. For example, when you borrow $5 from a friend and make a promise to pay her back in a week, there is a verbal contract between the two of you. However, the most common types of contracts that people think of are those in organizations. I casually asked a friend what comes to mind when she hears the word "contract" and she replied, "a signed, legally-binding bit of paper between two people". This is a typical response that most people would give. However, contracts are much more than that. Contracts can take on many different forms. In fact, they do not necessarily even have to be written contracts. Many forms of contracts in organizations today are not "legally-binding bits of paper" and recently much attention has been given to them. The contracts being referred to are called psychological contracts. Despite the countless research papers, seminar discussions and conference speeches on them, the question still remains: What exactly is the psychological contract? A psychological contract can be thought of as an employee's take on the unwritten promises and agreements implicit in his or her relationship with their employer. The old contract guaranteed an employee a ')ob for life"; while the new psychological contract promises an employee they will be "employable for life". Psychological contracts not only differ from organization to organization, but also from person to person. However, it is important to point out that in most organizations employees share very similar psychological contracts with one another as a result of the organizational culture being projected onto them. Although much information exists on psychological contracts, few researchers have applied this information directly to organizations. To fill this void, we interviewed employees at the Cincinnati Zoo to determine how applicable psychological contract theory really is to a real-world environment To further explore how psychological contracts are formed and illustrate a new emerging type of psychological contract that ·exists, the following information is given in the paper: a brief overview of the history of contracts (specifically psychological contracts and the different types of psychological contracts), a real-world application of psychological contract theory on Cincinnati Zoo employees, conclusions made based upon the interviews that involve ideology-based contracts, and suggestions for future research to expand what already exits in existing literature on the study of psychological contracts.