What Assumptions Are You Living With About Your Work Life?

In the study of Organizational Behavior there is a concept called the “psychological contract.” “Psychological contracts are a set of ‘promises’ or ‘expectations’ that are exchanged between the parties in an employment relationship. These parties include employers, managers, individual employees and their work colleagues. Unlike formal contracts of employment, they are often implicit. It represents the mutual beliefs, perceptions, and informal obligations between employee and employer.” (Source: Wikipedia)

The psychological contract starts to draft itself when you interview for a position at an organization. Through the interview process, which can often be multilayered in many industries, you start to teach your employer, manager, and co-workers how you will show up in your work life, and they show you how they are going to relate to you.

I often suggest to my clients to be aware of what they are setting up in any interview process. Pay attention to what you tell the employer. Are you being authentic or are you trying to sell yourself for the job by sacrificing who you are and your values? If you want fulfilling and meaningful work, it starts with being who you are not being who you think the organization or manager wants you to be.

I am not saying to not put your best forward. Rather, I am encouraging you to  let your best be the authentic you. The more you can set up boundaries and clear expectations in the beginning, the more satisfied and sustainable the work will be for you.

If you are currently doing work you love but feel unsatisfied at your current employment, I suggest you take inventory of your psychological contract and evaluate if you can renegotiate or do you need to move on to an organization with a better fit.

Here are some inventory questions:

  • What are the expectations of my employer?
  • Are they realistic for my working energy?
  • What are the values of my organization?
  • Do these values match my values?
  • What boundaries do I need to put in place to feel satisfied?
  • Are you being driven by the need to be liked?
  • If yes, where can you learn to say NO or delegate?

If you decide to stay at your current organization and create some new boundaries, here is the key: You need to honor your boundaries, especially when you first create the change. It needs to be black and white. You know that old saying, you teach people how to treat you, so if you are trying on new behavior, do it no matter what. Change is possible with persistency and consistency.

But remember, a psychological contract goes both ways. If your employer is not in alignment, then it is time to move on and find a better alignment doing the work you love in an organization that you love and respects you.

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