• Psychological contract;
  • breach;
  • turnover;
  • exchange fairness;
  • trust

Ample evidence exists of an association between psychological contract (PC) breach and intention to quit. Although some studies report an association between breach and turnover behaviour, a meta-analysis by Zhao et al. (2007, Personnel Psychology, 60, 647) failed to find any significant link. This seems counter-intuitive, and therefore, to explore this relationship between breach and voluntary turnover more fully, we developed and tested a model that proposed exchange fairness and trust as mediators. Using data collected from over 6,000 British Royal Air Force personnel, we find a positive relationship between breach and subsequent voluntary turnover, which exchange fairness and trust fully mediate. The contribution of the study to our understanding of the relationship between PC breach and voluntary turnover is discussed.

Practitioner points

  • The study considers whether the psychological contract represents a useful tool for understanding employee turnover behaviour.
  • The findings indicate that if employers are able to fulfil their obligations to their employees, then employees are less likely to voluntarily quit the organization.
  • The reason why this relationship occurs is linked to employees' perceptions regarding the fairness of the exchange relationship and organizational trustworthiness.