Navigating the emotional landscape of work: unveiling how personality shapes our view of workplace promises


publication date 09/04/2024

Johannes Kraak, Professor and Director of the Sustainable Development Research Center at KEDGE, has contributed to a study describing the concept of the "psychological contract" in the work environment.

In today's fast-paced work environment, understanding the invisible ties that bind employees and employers is more critical than ever. A groundbreaking two-study paper has shed light on these ties, known as psychological contracts, and how our personalities play a pivotal role in shaping our work experiences and perceptions of fairness and fulfillment at work.

Psychological contracts

Psychological contracts represent the unspoken, unwritten expectations and promises between employees and their employers. Unlike formal contracts, these are based on beliefs about mutual obligations. For example, an employee might believe that their hard work and loyalty should be rewarded with job security and career advancement opportunities, while the employer might expect a certain level of performance and commitment.

The recent study, conducted by Dr. Yannick Griep (Radboud University, the Netherlands), Dr. Johannes Kraak (Kedge Business School, France) and Dr. Samantha Hansen (University of Toronto, Canada), delves into how our personality traits, specifically how we approach goals and manage our emotions, influence our perceptions of these psychological contracts being honored or breached.

Personality traits

The research reveals that individuals with different personality traits perceive their work environment and the fulfillment of these psychological contracts differently. For instance, people who are naturally more anxious or wary (high in "neuroticism") are more likely to focus on potential threats and negative aspects of their work environment. This heightened sensitivity can lead them to perceive breaches in their psychological contracts more readily, experiencing feelings of betrayal or injustice when they believe their employer has not lived up to its promises.

Conversely, those who are more conscientious and goal-oriented tend to focus on positive outcomes and achievements. These individuals are more likely to see the best in their employers and may be less prone to feeling that their psychological contract has been violated, even in similar circumstances.

The study also highlights the role of emotion regulation strategies—how we control and manage our feelings—in influencing these perceptions. People who are good at reframing negative situations in a more positive light (a strategy known as "reappraisal") are less likely to feel their psychological contract has been breached. Meanwhile, those who suppress their emotions, keeping their disappointments or frustrations bottled up, may exacerbate negative feelings, leading to a stronger sense of contract violation.


This research offers valuable insights for both employees and employers. By understanding the dynamics of psychological contracts and the role of personality and emotion regulation, organizations can foster a more positive work environment. Employers can work towards clearer communication, setting realistic expectations, and recognizing the individual needs of their employees. On the other hand, employees can gain awareness of how their personalities and coping mechanisms might color their perceptions of work, guiding them towards more constructive ways to address concerns and expectations.

In essence, the invisible bonds that shape our work life are influenced by who we are and how we see the world. By shedding light on these dynamics, we can work towards stronger, more positive relationships in the workplace, benefiting both employees and employers alike.

Want to know more about this study? You can download the paper for free, using this link