Human Development

The Contract You Did Not Sign

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The Contract You Did Not Sign

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Do you want to win in the war for talent? Do you want a great culture that keeps people motivated and performing to their highest potential - but without taking five years to get there? There is no simple formula for success, but there are some practical steps you can take.

Remember Hertzberg? The majority of people are motivated by a sense of achievement (42 per cent), recognition (32 per cent) and the content of the work (23 per cent). Salary is quite a long way down the list, although a strong demotivator if it is not right.

You could argue that one of these three - recognition - is partially addressed by a normal employment contract (in the bit that states the role title), but what about achievement and work interest? The satisfaction of these elements is addressed in another kind of contract, one we all make but one which no-one ever signs because it is never written down - the Psychological Contract!

The Psychological Contract has three parts - Causes, Content and Consequences - and it is the sum of all of the unwritten beliefs and expectations that each of us has towards the employment we accept. It exists at all times, between all employees and their managers, and a violation of that contract will destroy the fabric needed for an organisation to succeed.

Take a look at these five points, and decide if your psychological contract is in need of some review:


The psychological contract is the essence of the relationship between the employer and employee. This relationship is a bank account of trust that needs to be kept in balance. You can withdraw on the account so far, but go beyond what is reasonable and the trust may never be restored.


You have probably undertaken various exercises to define these. Has it involved consultation with a wide group of people or been produced behind doors with the board or a select group of line and HR managers? Broader input will mean broader appeal and buy-in, and will reduce the degree of cynicism. When you have determined the values, decide what behaviours are consistent with them and how you are going to reward these behaviours. The values will mean nothing in time if strong leadership is not exercised.


There are excellent tools available to assess employees? interests and attitudes as well as their behavioural and communications styles. These are very helpful to create the right framework and language to make recruitment and development decisions. If you can understand more about what drives and motivates people, as well as the way they relate to the world and each other, you can assign them to the right roles/projects. Have good assessment feedback loops to support this.


Make coaching a way of life within your organisation. As there is less opportunity for people to have traditional careers within flatter structures, the emphasis needs to be much more on finding stretching assignments for individuals' personal and professional development. Start with your board, and train all your people managers in the skills necessary to become great coach managers. This will serve a double purpose of raising their own awareness and meeting the development and learning needs of their reports. Train managers in a situational style of leadership so they can manage their teams according to their stage of development and motivation.


Do you know what your employer USPs are and how you can best communicate them? Consult with a cross-section of your people and ask them what is genuinely great about working for you and what is not so good. Survey your new starters, too. What swayed the balance for them to join you? Debrief the potential recruits who declined your job offers. Then build your brand proposition and design all your processes to support the good things you are doing.

The Causes of a psychological contract include culture, experience and expectations; the Content will include trust, fairness and delivery of the deal; the Consequences will decide if you are going to go out of business.

This Article is authored / contributed by ▸ Barry C. who travels from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Barry is available for Professional Consulting Work both Virtually and In-Person. ▸ Enquire Now.

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