The Psychological Contract: A Critical Review

17 Pages Posted: 5 Jul 2006

See all articles by Niall Cullinane

Niall Cullinane

Queen's University Belfast - Queen's Management School

Tony Dundon

National University of Ireland


Literature on the psychological contract has blossomed progressively over the last ten years to the extent that it is now firmly located within the lexicon of the Human Resource Management (HRM) discipline. Yet as this review indicates, the theoretical assumptions that seem to pervade the psychological contract literature are not without major deficiencies, which in turn pose serious questions around the continued sustainability of the construct as currently constituted. This paper addresses some of the central problems presently confronting the theoretical side of the psychological contract literature. In seeking to advance knowledge and understanding, this review calls for an alternative approach to studying the psychological contract on the basis of a more critical and discursive literature analysis. From this, the authors unpick the construct of the psychological contract as portrayed in much of the extant literature and argue that, in its present form, it symbolizes an ideologically biased formula designed for a particular managerialist interpretation of contemporary work and employment.

Suggested Citation

Cullinane, Niall and Dundon, Tony, The Psychological Contract: A Critical Review. International Journal of Management Reviews, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 113-129, June 2006. Available at SSRN: or

Niall Cullinane (Contact Author)

Queen's University Belfast - Queen's Management School ( email )

Riddel Hall
185 Stranmillis Road
Belfast, BT9 5EE
United Kingdom

Tony Dundon

National University of Ireland ( email )

Department of Management
Maynooth, Co. Kildare

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