Author(s), Title and Publication:

De Ruiter, M., Schalk, R., & Blomme, R. J. (2016). Manager responses to employee dissent about psychological contract breach: A dyadic process approach. Management Communication Quarterly, 30(2), 188 – 217.


Employee dissent occurs when employees perceive a discrepancy between what the organization has promised to them and what they have actually received. Recently, psychological contract breach (PCB; i.e., employee feeling wronged or mistreated by the organization) has been considered an important trigger for employees’ “personal-advantage dissent,” such as being called on to perform extra work, or being cut on work hours. Personal-advantage dissent, triggered by PCB, will result in decreased job satisfaction, weakened organizational commitment, negative attitude, and behaviors toward the organization. However, during employees’ subsequent communication to supervisors about this dissent, the interaction between employees and managers could potentially become a successful intervention, preventing the negative employee outcomes. Therefore, this paper conceptualized a dyadic process model of interactions between employees who experience PCB and their immediate managers who respond to their upward dissent, to explain under what conditions PCB will not result in negative employee attitudes and behaviors.

The model suggested that employees who perceive that the organization has failed to keep its obligations due to unavoidable external circumstances will first use a face-preserving dissent strategy to understand why PCB occurred. If the manager responds favorably to the employee’s dissent and provides adequate explanations why the organization was unable to fulfill its obligations (i.e., a face-preserving strategy), this response will lead to de-escalation, and the work situation is likely to return to normal. However, if employees believe the organization has purposefully reneged on its commitments, managers will have to satisfy the employees by offering some form of compensation, in order for the dissent to de-escalate. Also, this process of de-escalation is also affected by managers’ evaluation of his or her own psychological contract, the relationship with his or her superior, and competing obligations toward the organization.

Implications for Practitioners

Managers should (1) be aware of their own critical role in reducing the adverse effects of PCB, (2) consider that the employee’s perception of why the breach occurred (deliberate vs. unintentional reneging) plays a significant role in the ways employees express dissent and the type of response they expect from their manager, and (3) solve the breaching problem with employees together when compensation is impossible.

Location of Article

The article is available online at: (abstract free, purchase full article)

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
Follow on Twitter

Leave a Reply