The formation of, and change in, the psychological contracts of graduates entering the Queensland public sector

Puchala, Naomi Margaret (2010) The formation of, and change in, the psychological contracts of graduates entering the Queensland public sector. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


The workplace is evolving and the predicted impact of demographic changes (Salt, 2009; Taylor, 2005) has seen organisations focus on strategic workforce planning. As part of this, many organisations have established or expanded formalised graduate programs to attract graduates and transition them effectively into organisations (McDermott, Mangan, & O'Connor, 2005; Terjesen, Freeman, & Vinnicombe, 2007). The workplace context is also argued to be changing because of the divergence in preferences and priorities across the different generations in the workplace - a topic which is prolific in the popular culture media but is yet to be fully developed in the academic literature (Jorgenson, 2003). The public sector recruits large numbers of graduates and maintains well established graduate programs. Like the workplace context, the public sector is seen to be undergoing a transition to more closely align its practices and processes with that of the private sector (Haynes & Melville Jones, 1999; N. Preston, 1995). Consequently, questions have been raised as to how new workforce entrants see the public sector and its associated attractiveness as an employment option. This research draws together these issues and reviews the formation of, and change in, the psychological contracts of graduates across ten Queensland public sector graduate programs. To understand the employment relationship, the theories of psychological contract and public service motivation are utilised. Specifically, this research focuses on graduates' and managers' expectations over time, the organisational perspective of the employment relationship and how ideology influences graduates' psychological contract. A longitudinal mixed method design, involving individual interviews and surveys, is employed along with significant researcher-practitioner collaboration throughout the research process. A number of important qualitative and quantitative findings arose from this study and there was strong triangulation between results from the two methods. Prior to starting with the organisation, graduates found it difficult to articulate their expectations; however, organisational experience rapidly brought these to the fore. Of the expectations that became salient, most centred on their relationship with their supervisor. Without experience and quality information on which to base their expectations, graduates tended to over-rely on sectoral stereotypes which negatively impacted their psychological contracts. Socialisation only limited affected graduates' psychological contracts and public service motivation. The graduate survey, measured thrice throughout the first 12 months of the graduate program, revealed that the psychological contract and public service motivation results followed a similar trajectory of beginning at mediocre levels, declining between times one and two and increasing between times two and three (although this is not back to original levels). Graduates attributed these to a number of sectoral, organisational, team, supervisory and individual factors. On a theoretical level, this research provides support for the notion of ideology within the psychological contract although it raises some important questions about how it is conceptualised. Additionally, support is given for the manager to be seen as the primary organisational counterpart to the employee in future theoretical and practical work. The research also argues to extend current notions of time within the psychological contract as this seems to be the most divergent and combustible issue across the generations in terms of how the workplace is perceived. A number of practical implications also transpire from the study and the collaborative foundation was highly successful. It is anticipated that this research will make a meaningful contribution to both the theory and practice of the employment relationship with particular regard to graduates entering the public sector.

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ID Code: 39340
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: French, Erica, Bradley, Lisa, & Waterhouse, Jennifer
Keywords: Queensland public sector, psychological contract, motivation, Generation Y
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 22 Dec 2010 23:29
Last Modified: 27 Jun 2017 14:40

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