Knowledge Sharing and the Psychological Contract: Managing Knowledge Workers Across Different Stages of Employment

Bonnie O'Neill, Marquette University
Monica Adya, Marquette University

Originally published in the Journal of Managerial Psychology, Volume 22, No. 4, 2007. Online at:


Purpose – An employee's willingness to share knowledge may be contingent on whether the organization equitably fulfills its reward obligations. This paper seeks to examine how managers and organizations can be vehicles for managing psychological contract perceptions favoring knowledge sharing among current employees, newcomers, and applicants. Design/methodology/approach – The authors propose an integrative model to discuss psychological contract issues within each stage of employment and HRM initiatives that can encourage knowledge-sharing behaviors. Findings – The implicit psychological contracts that often influence knowledge worker attitudes for sharing knowledge are easy to overlook and challenging to manage. Managers must properly assess the nature of psychological contracts maintained by such workers so that knowledge-sharing messages address employees' key motivators. Different psychological contracts exist at various stages of employment. Several prescriptions for effectively managing each type of psychological contract and reducing perceptions of PC breach were offered. Research limitations/implications – Empirical studies should seek to investigate whether different psychological contracts actually exist within a field setting. In addition, how workers move between transitional, transactional, balanced and relational psychological contracts should be empirically examined. Originality/value – The authors sought to better understand the different psychological contract perceptions of knowledge workers at various stages of employment, which has not been done to date. Such workers are keenly aware of the impact of their knowledge and effective management for sharing rather than hoarding becomes a critical success factor for knowledge-intensive organizations.