A psychological contract perspective to managing the employment relationship during the COVID-19 pandemic in the aviation industry

Rebecca Melissa Löffert, Marjo-Riitta Diehl*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
52 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Although the literature on psychological contracts is rich, researchers have so far paid limited attention to psychological contracts in times of crisis. To investigate how employees assess their psychological contracts during a crisis, we conducted 32 semistructured interviews during the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe. The interviewees worked in the airline industry, which the pandemic severely affected. Our qualitative approach allowed us to gain novel insights into the mechanisms by which contracts are managed when the typical parameters of contract assessment are not possible, thereby allowing us to expand psychological contract theory. In addition to illustrating the key employer obligations that employees perceived during a crisis, we introduce two novel theoretical concepts –psychological contract credit and psychological contract inactivation–that explain how employees managed their contracts during the crisis. The practical findings of this study are of relevance to HR managers in managing future crises and addressing the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3023-3050
Number of pages28
JournalInternational Journal of Human Resource Management
Volume34
Issue number15
Early online date26 May 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • aviation industry
  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • Crisis management
  • HRM
  • psychological contract
  • social exchange theory

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