Working for a cause: The effects of ideological psychological contract breach and fulfillment on volunteers' work effort

Onderzoeksoutput: Conference paper


Volunteers form an indispensable asset for non-profit organizations (NPOs) (Grube & Piliavin, 2000). In 2009, volunteers generated an estimated economic value of 169 billion dollar in the United States (Independent Sector, 2010), while providing many crucial services to society (Wilson, 2000). Yet, NPO managers request more scientific-based volunteer management tools (Musick & Wilson, 2008). An interesting concept for designing such tools is the psychological contract (PC) (Farmer & Fedor, 1999), describing perceived mutual obligations between two parties (Rousseau & Tijoriwala, 1998)--such as a volunteer and an NPO.
We study how volunteers adjust their work effort in reaction to breach or fulfillment of these perceived obligations. Our study distinguishes itself from previous studies in a number of ways. First, we focus on the ideological PC type, entailing perceived obligations relating to the values, mission or principles of the organization (Thompson & Bunderson, 2003), whereas many previous studies focused on breach of transactional or relational obligations. The ideological PC applies well to volunteers given the value-driven nature of volunteerism (Pearce, 1993). Moreover, studying how ideological PC breach and fulfillment relate to outcomes appears promising as Thompson and Bunderson (2003) suggest they elicit different reactions than other PC types. Second, we investigate the effects of breach and fulfillment on work effort. This outcome variable is relevant to NPO managers who want to optimize their volunteers' effort, yet it received little empirical attention to date in PC studies. Third, following Lambert, Edwards, & Cable (2003), we use polynomial regression and response surface analysis to counter issues surrounding traditional methods for measuring breach and fulfillment (see Edwards & Parry, 1993 for an overview).
Because we use polynomial regressions, we are able to describe differences in work effort when both promised and delivered inducements are low compared to when both are high (the line of congruence) and describe differences in work effort in case of over-fulfillment (receiving more than promised) compared to under-fulfillment (receiving less than promised) (the line of incongruence) (Edwards & Parry, 1993). Considering two norms underlying social exchange, reciprocity and altruism, we suggest a U-shaped relationship with work effort along the line of congruence (H1). In other words, volunteers will exert more effort if they perceive that promised and delivered ideological inducements are either both high (due to reciprocity) or both low (due to altruism).
Along the line of incongruence, we formulate distinct hypotheses for under- and over-fulfillment of perceived ideological obligations. In the case of under-fulfillment, we distinguish two opposing hypotheses. The first, based on empirical research on PC breach with paid employees (Lambert et al., 2003), predicts that work effort will drop as delivered inducements decrease relative to promised inducements (H2a). The second, based on ideological PC theory (Thompson & Bunderson, 2003), predicts that work effort will increase as delivered inducements decrease relative to promised inducements, because the individual will engage in corrective behavior (H2b). In the case of over-fulfillment, Lambert's et al. (2003) stated that the effect on the outcome depends on the type of inducement being exchanged. Considering ideological PCs, we believe receiving excess inducements does not impede satisfying other needs. Thus, we propose a positive effect of over-fulfillment on work effort (H3).
Originele taal-2English
TitelPaper presented at the 2011 Academy of Management Annual Meeting, San Antonio, USA, 12-16 august 2011
StatusPublished - 2011
EvenementUnknown -
Duur: 1 jan 2011 → …


Periode1/01/11 → …


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