Case Studies

Case studies exploring fascinating additional case studies from the author demonstrating HRM in practice around the world. From the internal vs. external candidate debate to employer branding abroad, learn how companies of all sizes approach different aspects of HRM.

  • The Development of the Psychological Contract

Scott Walker had graduated six weeks ago and his concerted efforts to ensure he wasn’t one of those graduates left on the shelf at the end of the summer had paid off. He had attended every careers fair and every employer presentation that had been held at his university, made a nuisance of himself at the careers centre, read every corporate website and all the promotional material he could, and applied for innumerable graduate development programmes. After having conducted several telephone interviews and attending four assessment centres, Scott had chosen to accept the offer from Montague Co. over the two other jobs he had been offered. Not only did Scott want and need a job, he wanted the right job. Montague Co. was a relatively small, recently established subsidiary of a larger US corporation seeking to gain a foothold in the UK consultancy market and already had a handful of important clients, mainly the subsidiaries of other US multinationals courtesy of its parent company, since it was established two years ago. In each year since it had grown and having taken on graduates on an ad hoc basis previously, Scott was to be among its first cohort of graduates on its graduate development programme.

The main reason that Scott had chosen Montague was that he considered the firm to represent the best match between himself, the type of work he wanted to be doing, the type of company he wanted to work for and the type of career he wanted to establish. Montague’s website and its recruitment material had made great play of how dynamic, innovative and ambitious the firm was and, particularly important to Scott, the fact that it considered itself to be both an ‘employee-focused employer’ and a ‘socially responsible’ company in how it conducted its own business, the advice it provided to its clients and the types of clients it sought to work with. For these reasons, in accepting a position with Montague, Scott had accepted a marginally lower salary than he had been offered at the two larger consultancies who had offered him a position. Scott had also been swayed by the interview panel and company representatives he had met at the assessment centre who had placed great emphasis on the company only recruiting the ‘best of the best’. On this basis, like anyone, Scott had been flattered to have been selected. In response to Scott’s own question, the interview panel had told him that 10 graduates were being recruited on to the graduate scheme and that he would be given plenty of developmental opportunities through the structured training programme itself, international secondments and informal development opportunities through coaching, mentoring and support from his line manager. When Scott arrived at the offices, however, he was among only three graduates for the opening induction. When he asked about this, he was told that he was one of the ‘lucky ones’. The other new recruit that Scott had talked to in the induction told him that he was simply ‘glad to have got a job’ following so many knock-backs.

Since the formal induction in the morning, Scott had been sat at his desk with little to do. His line manager, Dave, had spent most of that time talking to a colleague about a new client that Montague had begun to work with, a firm that had recently been in the news for its association with water pollution off the west coast of Africa. Scott had overheard Dave saying that ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ and that ‘we need all the business we can get at the moment’. At 2.30pm, Dave had left Scott with instructions to ‘look busy’ as he popped out of the office on personal business and to tell anyone who asked that he was at a meeting ‘because the company really frowns on people’s personal stuff getting in the way of work’. Scott began to wonder if he had made the right decision and his mind was not particularly put to rest when one of his new colleagues told him that he was lucky that Dave even spoke to him, given that he wasn’t really a ‘people person’.


  1. What different ‘agents’ can you identify that might influence Scott in the development of his psychological contract at Montague?
  2. What potential ‘breaches’ of the psychological contract can you identify that might lead Scott to reappraise his acceptance of a job at Montague?
  3. What are the implications of this scenario for HRM at Montague?