The tremors of interconnected triggers over time: How psychological contract breach can erupt

Authors Hermien E. Wiechers, Jacqueline A.-M. Coyle-Shapiro, Xander Lub, Steven ten Have
Published in Journal of Organizational behavior
Publication date 2022
Research groups Organisations in Digital Transition
Type Article


Adopting an intra-individual process, we explore the dynamics that underlie the emergence of a psychological contract breach. Thirty-seven unique storylines expose how selected stimuli shake employees' psychological contracts to attention and give rise to perceptions of breach as a result of an iterative process of disrupting (introducing triggers that prompt a shift from automatic processing to conscious attention of psychological contract terms), appraisal (revealing elements—goals, attribution, fairness, and resources—playing a role in appraising and making sense of triggers), and (problem-focused and emotion-focused) coping. We discuss the implications of accounting for breach in the absence of a discrete event and draw on selective attention theory to differentiate when stimuli become triggers with the capacity to activate the psychological contract. We extend existing research by revealing the unique role that triggers, and their interconnectedness play in the cognition of contract breach, building up pressure until a threshold has been surpassed and breach is perceived. Our study highlights the need for managers to use strategies to deescalate the accumulation of triggers.

On this publication contributed

  • Xander Lub
    Xander Lub
    • Professor
    • Research group: Organisations in Digital Transition

Language English
Published in Journal of Organizational behavior
Year and volume 43 7
Key words management, Coping, psychology
Digital Object Identifier 10.1002/job.2645
Page range 1172-1189