Do promises matter to employees? Not as much as we once thought

August 4, 2009

Years of research suggest that the promises organizations make to employees matter in establishing and maintaining a "psychological contract" between the two parties. However, new research by Samantha Montes and co-author David Zweig, professors at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management and the University of Toronto Scarborough, suggests that what an organization promises to employees (e.g., training opportunities, benefits, compensation) don't matter nearly as much as what the organization actually delivers.

In a study to be published in the , the authors found that the influence of promises has little effect on employee's emotional reactions toward the organization, their intentions to stay with the organization, and intentions to engage in citizenship behaviors. People care more about what they receive from their organization, not what they were promised. Contrary to much of the research in this area, employees still feel like the psychological contract has been "broken" even in the absence of any promises made and when they don't get what they think they should from their organization.

Basically, it's 'show me the money', give me developmental opportunities, and provide me with support" says Samantha Montes. "What this means is that organizations should focus more on delivering valuable benefits and opportunities to rather than investing time, effort, and resources into making promises that these benefits will be delivered."

For the latest thinking on business, management and economics from the Rotman School of , visit .

Source: University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management

Explore further: Should I stay or should I go? What makes employees voluntarily leave or keep their jobs

Related Stories

Moderate pay best for job performance, study suggests

November 19, 2008

( -- Employers hoping to get the best out of employees with huge performance contingent payments may actually be helping them to do worse, suggests a new paper published by a team of researchers in behavioral ...

Recommended for you

French teen finds 560,000 year-old tooth (Update)

July 28, 2015

A 16-year-old French volunteer archaeologist has found an adult tooth dating back around 560,000 years in southwestern France, in what researchers hailed as a "major discovery" Tuesday.

Oldest known Koran text fragments discovered

July 23, 2015

Two pages of text written on parchment that are believed to be sections of the Koran (Chapters 18 and 20) have been discovered by a PhD student in a British university library and are believed to be the oldest ever found. ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Aug 04, 2009
Sounds something like: "Give your employees just enough to keep them in their posts, and don't promise anything additional, since it won't be awarded anyway. Oh, and by the way- now you can eliminate that useless HR department!" This is new news?
not rated yet Aug 05, 2009
like we didnt know that they were lying to us

my favorite are the admins who have 110 iQs who hire 130 and over 165s, and that they believe that their actions dont appear like children.

as my smart uncle said to his very smart nephew, just because someone doesnt say anything dont mean that you havent been caught and that they dont know everything that your doing and are not watching you.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.