VU Team Obtains Research Grant for Project on Sustainable Careers and Psychological Contracts among Flexible Workers

A VU SBE team consisting of Sanne Nijs, Jos Akkermans (project leaders), Paul Jansen, Svetlana Khapova, and Bert Breij have received funding for a 4-year full-time PhD project on the “psychology of flexible work”.

05/25/2018 | 12:51 PM

The project will start in September 2018 and will focus on sustainable careers and psychological contracts among different types of flexible workers. More information on the project can be found on the website of Instituut Gak, which is the funding organization of the project.

The traditional perspective on the relationships between employers and employees has become untenable in the current dynamic labor market, which is increasingly characterized by flexible employment relationships. There is little knowledge about how we can optimally enable flexible employees during their career. To provide an answer to this question, it is crucial to provide a specification for different types of flexible employees (eg contractual vs. job-mediated work, voluntary vs. involuntary), something that has so far been lacking in scientific research.

This project aims to generate new knowledge about the psychological ins and out of flexibilisation of labor. Three main themes are central here: (1) the perceived psychological relationship between the employee and the employer (the psychological contract) and to what extent these differ per type of flexible work; (2) the role of these psychological contracts in sustainable employment (productivity, enthusiasm, employability); and (3) the responsibility that different stakeholders (flexible workers, organizations, mediators, society) have in managing sustainable careers of flexible workers.

We examine these main themes with the aid of various sub-studies. In the first study, we develop a conceptual framework that explains how different types of flexible work are related to psychological contracts and sustainable employment. Using three empirical studies, we then test the developed conceptual framework. The first study will focus on distinguishing various groups of flexible workers. The second study focuses in particular on the effects of psychological contracts on sustainable employment. More specifically, we examine the extent to which psychological contracts affect productivity, enthusiasm and employability of flexible workers. The third empirical study is qualitative in nature. On the basis of interview data (ie content analysis and discourse analysis) the responsibilities and roles of various relevant stakeholders (eg intermediaries, organizations, flexible workers) are revealed.