October 17, 2008

Human Resources Management: Lesson 7 – Exercise:

Question 1: What implicit expectations do you and the employees you manage/work with have of your employer?

IBM’s employees’ expectations enormously changed in the past 10 years and actually they’re still evolving and changing.

Fixed remain the low level of “self-management” that departments have; the strong rigidity and the high bureaucracy (so often criticized by employees and management).

Also the explicit expectation for a fairly pay, benefits like pc, car and mobile phone remain but I feel it’s really less then it was in the past.

Bureaucracy and rigidity united to the growing competition and the fewer wealth in the IT sector make IBM more difficult to maintain its attractiveness towards highest market skills that still have implicit expectations like gratitude for the work performed, highlights in the value for extra-ordinary work, proposing challenging and rewarding career growth.

A complete new feeling is also emerging in these last few years (I’m especially referring to Italy but I do not think we’re the only country) that is the “survivors” one.

The reaction to all the mergers and takeovers and to the redundancy programmes performed in these last few years has been different from department to department:

  • Administrative/supporting department started developing an implicit expectation as that described by Greenhalgh and Sutton, 1991 (“less willing to accept change, more resentful of imposed change and more secretive and competitive”). Restorative strategies are strongly suggested.

  • Consultants / high skill technicians department started developing an implicit expectation as that described by Brockner et al., 1991 (“greater motivation”).

By the way we’ve to admit that job insecurity is a complete new feeling for several IBMers especially the less young ones.

The implicit expectation of “having maintained his/her own job” has been substituted by a wish of continue investment on one person skill improving and training.

IBM use to give several opportunities of learning (always outside and after the working hours) despite job rotation (also immediately after training session) is strictly submitted to bureaucracy and to single department needs.

Question 2: Analyse how and why these expectations might be different from the implicit expectations in another organisation with which you are familiar

Let’s compare IBM to a medium/small consultancy Italian company (Thera)

Talking to a consultant his expectations are: high pay, good salary raising plan, complete benefit set (mobile phone, car, pc…), flexible working hours, high investment in his learning programme and an immediate exploitation of the “new skill level” by the company, high level accommodations when he travel for working purpose…

Actually all these expectations are still present only in some IBM department, the richest ones, but we cannot consider them valid all over the company.

Being a small company Thera is strictly connected to new contracts / new projects developed so consultants know that  planning the future is hard and that career progression depends on their effort but also on the money the customer they’re working on wants to spend.

In IBM this is less perceived by consultants that can be easily moved form one customer to another.

Dealing with extra working time and “work hard” these “negative expectations” are quite common both in IBM and in Thera.

In a smaller company perhaps fewer holidays and a worst medical insurance are guarantee. IBM despite the worsening conditions seems to still believe in employees’ values.

From all the above and because of the differeces hilighted I found Robinson and Rousseau (1994) theory: in the smaller company turnover rate is higher, there’s a lower level of trust between employees and managers, perhaps less job satisfaction and several employees intend to leave the company.

Question 3: How convincing do you find the idea of the psychological contract as a theoretical framework for understanding the employment relationship?

In the psychological contract count “what employees are prepared to give” (that is what they believe they have to give) in exchange for what an employer is supposed to give (job security, pay, benefits and training according to Newell and Dopson - 1996).

So it deals with the concept of “mutual obligations” quite common in each relationship.

I strongly believe in the psychological contract and accortding to (Nicholson, 1996) I believe it may become one of the main causes of dissatisfaction and turnover.

Being implicit and psychological this contract has to be considered individually and “works” for singular relationship “employer-employees” (what I perceive I’m prepared to give is different from any other employee, what I suppose I should receive is different from any other employee).

I think each manager should be aware of what his/her employees’ expectations are and it should be understood at singular level and not at team level.

As per my experience (in IBM) the interaction should be between employee and his/her first line manager since is the most direct contact, is the one who have a reasonable number of employees, is more directly involved in day by day experience.

HR dept or higher management level should intervene only when communication problems are perceived / highlighted.

Always dealing with my experience it’s also important to “write” and to “leave some written message” of the psychological contracts. Managers change position quite often so contract violations may occur: the next manager may not know anything about the previous relationship! HR databases with singular career path/ wishes and "promises" help in this sense.


  • The Warwick MBA for IBM – Human Resource Management (IB811Z), Lesson 7

  • Mick Marchington and Adrian Wilkinson, Human Resources Management at Work. People Management and Development, Third Edition, CIPD, 2007

- 2 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Andrew Charlwood

    In your last answer, you argue that it is important to write down the nature of the psychological contract. It seems that firms don’t like to do this, why do you think that might be? Your first answer is really interesting, you could improve it with final summary sentence or short paragraph, where you explain concisely, what you think the psychological contract of contracts for IBM employees are.

    20 Oct 2008, 17:54

  2. Question 3:
    In my opinion it’s important that, in companies where management changes often and quickly, the relationship created between a manager and his employee always remains tracked.
    Actually I do not think that companies “don’t like to write down the nature of the psychological contract” but I think that working hard on daily activities may distract both managers and employees from the professional growth goals.
    I said this because I’ve seen that often requests and objectives communicated by an employee and taken in the right consideration by one manager became completely forgotten, when, once removed, this manager is substituted by another one!
    For sure the relationship firms-employees always depend (also) on the “nature”, “aims”, “wishes” of any employees and I also think that tools supporting this relationships (independently from the quantity of work requested each day) should be used.

    Question 1:
    In IBM the concept and the application of the psychological contract is very clear and concise.
    Actually the IBM degree of freedom is quite “short” and the bureaucracy leads several relationships.
    These above are the “written rules” any exception is based on a trust relationship between single manager and his/her employees.
    In my personal IBM experience I’ve seen some “young” managers” that believe and works on “expliciting” the psychological contracts with their employees and whose aims are, revenue and profit for sure, but obtained through a subordinates’ shared plan of professional growth.

    22 Oct 2008, 09:16

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