Article Date: 7/1/2005

staffing solutions
The Psychological Contract

Communication is key to understanding your associate's expectations.

In his classic article, "The Psychological Contract: Managing the Joining-Up Process," John Paul Kotter defined the psychological contract as "an implicit contract between an individual and the organization which specifies what each expects to give and receive from each other in the relationship." As shown below, matches and mismatches can occur based on the four sets of expectations hidden in this contract.

Reality check

Optometrists often have unrealistic expectations about recently-hired associates, and vice versa. These one-sided, unspoken expectations often lead to disappointment and resentment on both sides. They're based on the presumption that both sides will cooperate with a plan that has never actually been discussed between them.

When optometrists enter into business relationships with entirely different agendas and worse,

never discuss these agendas, invariably one or both individuals are surprised when things don't turn out as expected. For example, optometrists may be disappointed that recently-hired associates:

Haven't networked with ophthalmologists, primary care physicians and other specialists who could make referrals to the practice

Spend too much time with patients

Don't take an entrepreneurial interest in the practice

Have unrealistic expectations about compensation and eligibility for partnership.

On the other hand, associates may be disappointed with:

The long hours they're expected to work

The constant pressure to work faster, see more patients and produce more revenue

The lack of a "voice and a vote" in such matters as the establishment of office policies, purchase of new equipment, or hiring decisions

The slow progress of increased compensation and benefits, and an eventual partnership.




What a new associate expects to receive — What the existing partner(s) expect to give

What a new associate expects to give — What the existing partner(s) expect to receive

We're only human

The failure to have up-front discussions about such matters is understandable. An optometrist who is anxious to find an associate doesn't want to scare off a good candidate by making excessive demands about the future. Likewise, a prospective associate doesn't want to jeopardize a good career opportunity by doing the same. Yet, without discussing such expectations at the start, it's unlikely that everyone will end up "on the same page." Disappointment for one or both parties is inevitable.

Take action

At the outset, let a prospective associate know your priorities and reasonable expectations and what, if any, timetable you have in mind. Ask the associate to do the same. To reach agreement, mutual compromise may be necessary.

The important point to remember is that the more a new associate understands and agrees with the policies and priorities of your practice, the fewer surprises he will have down the road. Extensive communication and dialogue conducted in advance will help you and a new associate better understand one another's goals and will let you both know very early whether or not the match you're considering is a good one.



Optometric Management, Issue: July 2005