You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours: Unethical pro-organizational behavior and deviance in response to different psychological contract states

Authors Yannick Griep, Johannes M. Kraak, Jesse Fenneman, Alfredo Jiménez, Xander Lub
Published in Journal of Business Research
Publication date 2023
Research groups Organisations in Digital Transition
Type Article


In this multi-study paper, we integrate Social Exchange Theory and the discretionary workplace behavior literature. Specifically, we posit that by breaching their psychological contract (PC) obligations, organizations may trigger negative reciprocity, which in turn may increase deviant behavior. Moreover, we posit that by fulfilling their legitimately PC obligations, organizations may trigger positive reciprocity, which in turn may increase unethical pro-organizational behavior. Across two studies (3-wave field study with traditional breach measure and 2-wave field study with expanded breach measure and polynomial regression), we found repeated evidence for our hypotheses. Specifically, we found that PC breach (Study 1) and PC under-fulfillment (Study 2) are positively related to the enactment of organizational deviance via negative reciprocity. Furthermore, we found that PC fulfillment (Study 1) and high absolute levels of PC fulfillment (Study 2) are positively related to unethical pro-organizational behavior via positive reciprocity. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.

On this publication contributed

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

Language English
Published in Journal of Business Research
Key words psychological contract obligations, gedrag in organisati, behavior in organisations