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A study of organizational cynicism and how it is affected by social exchange relationships at work

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Pfrombeck Julian, Doden Wiebke, Grote Gudela, Feierabend Anja,
Project Schweizer Human-Relations-Barometer
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology
Page(s) joop.12306 - joop.12306
Title of proceedings Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology
DOI 10.1111/joop.12306

Open Access

Type of Open Access Green OA Embargo (Freely available via Repository after an embargo)


Drawing on the social exchange theory, organizational cynicism has been suggested as a central consequence of psychological contract (PC) breach. In this study, we examine the extent to which social exchange relationships with the supervisor and coworkers have an impact on cynical reactions to broken employer promises. Based on two‐wave data with a time lag of three months from a sample of 781 employees, we investigated the influence of employees’ perceived PC breach on cynical thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, and the moderating effects of leader–member exchange (LMX) and coworker exchange (CWX). Using structural equation modelling, we found that PC breach was positively associated with cognitive, affective, and behavioural cynicism. Our analysis further revealed that LMX and CWX moderated different dimensions of organizational cynicism: When LMX was high, employees reacted more sensitively to a PC breach with cognitive and behavioural cynicism. In contrast, CWX attenuated employees’ affective cynical response to a PC breach. The differentiated perspective on cognitive, affective, and behavioural cynicism and the identified moderating effects help explain varying strengths of the PC breach–organizational cynicism association found in previous research and highlight contingencies related to social exchange relationships at work.