BACKGROUND: Workplace stress carries considerable costs for the employees' wellbeing and for the organization's performance. Recent studies demonstrate that perceptions of psychological contract breach are a source of stress for employees. That is, when employees notice that their employer does not fulfil certain obligations, they will perceive that certain resources are threatened or lost, which in turn translates into increased stress. In this study, we zoom in on how stress unfolds in the aftermath of breach, dependent on the organization's reaction to the breach. More specifically, we examined the influence of different types of social accounts (i.e., denial, apology, blaming and exonerating justification) on individuals' stress resolution process using physiological (i.e., heart rate) and psychological (self-report) data.
METHOD: We used an experimental design in which we manipulated psychological contract breach and social account type. To test our hypotheses, we performed two sets of functional Principal Component Analyses: first to examine the effects of breach and second to examine the effects of social accounts.
RESULTS: Our results indicate that breach elicits a physiological stress reaction, reflected in a short-lived increase in heart rate. However, no increase in the self-reported stress measure was found. Further, we did not find a significant effect of social accounts on the psychological and physiological recovery process.
CONCLUSIONS: The current research allows us to demonstrate that psychological contract breach will trigger a short-lived increase in heart rate. Further research is needed to better understand unfolding trajectories of physiological reactions to contract breach and the effect of social accounts as organizational recovery efforts.