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Abstract

Based on the theoretical framework of newcomer sensemaking this study examines factors associated with changes in newcomers' psychological contract perceptions during the socialization process. More specifically, two mechanisms are addressed that could explain changes in newcomers' perceptions of the promises they have exchanged with their employer: (1) unilateral adaptation of perceived promises to reality and (2) adaptation of perceived promises as a function of the reciprocity norm. To test our hypotheses, a four-wave longitudinal study among 333 new hires has been conducted, covering the first year of their employment relationship. Results show that changes in newcomers' perceptions of the promises they have made to their employer are affected by their perceptions of their own contributions as well as by their perceptions of inducements received from their employer. Changes in newcomers' perceptions of employer promises are affected by their perceptions of employer inducements received, but the impact of perceived employee contributions is less clear. The data provide limited support for the idea that the adaptation of perceived promises to perceived inducements and contributions occurs to a stronger extent during the encounter stage than during the acquisition stage of socialization. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.