University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Exploring Working Lives Through the Framework of the Psychological Contract: A Study of Clergy in the Church of England in the 21st Century.

Nichol, Lynn (2011) Exploring Working Lives Through the Framework of the Psychological Contract: A Study of Clergy in the Church of England in the 21st Century. PhD thesis, University of Gloucestershire.

Full text not available from this repository. (Request a copy)


Clergy working in the Church of England are a rich opportunity for research. Their employment situation is anomalous and from the perspective of my own epistemological location in Human Resource Management there is little tradition of exploring the employment relationship within the Church of England. This scenario provided a unique environment for research. I teach Human Resource Management (HRM) in a university business school. I am also married to a clergyman. The catalyst for the research was bringing together these two different aspects of my life. In my research I use the frameworks of HRM to explore and understand working in the Church of England. I use the psychological contract, a well established concept in HRM. The psychological contract is a concept that can be used to explore the non-contractual elements of the employment relationship. Initially I explore the employment relationship through a series of group interviews. My research then documents through narrative inquiry the individual working lives of the clergy. I generate insights and understanding of both working in the Church of England in the twenty-first century and the psychological contract. I explore my own stance in relation to the participants. I come to understand my stance as a ‘conversant associate’. I am conversant with their ‘world’ and inhabit a role that associates me with the clergy while not being fully a member of the group. My original contribution is in two areas; Human Resources (HR) and the psychological contract and understanding the Church of England. My findings challenge the existing concept of the psychological contract for being too narrow and requiring revision. My participants work in a role and organisation with a long history. My findings indicate the power of this historical role on the expectations of the contemporary work. By expanding the scope of the psychological contract my findings challenge existing approaches to teaching and practising HR. HR is currently only identified with the business performance model. My findings indicate that this association is far too limited in scope. My research documents my participants’ perception of change in the Church of England. I report a stable understanding of the relationship and expectations between clergy and senior staff. This finding challenges contemporary understanding of the effect of change on the psychological contract. By giving voice to the current parish clergy I explore and make a contribution to the Church of England’s understanding of working as contemporary parish clergy. The Church of England is on the cusp of reforming its historical employment system, known as freehold. My findings indicate that the clergy’s understanding of the past paradoxically strengthens their understanding of contemporary working life and I report a ‘narrative of regret’. Clergy perceive that they are unable to fulfil their own expectations. As indicated above my research contributes to knowledge in two ways: understanding the psychological contract and working in the Church of England. These two areas of original contribution coalesce. Simultaneously I document working life in the Church of England and explore the psychological contract of contemporary clergy.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:

The full-text can be accessed via the Official URL.

Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: Church of England, Clergy, Psychological contract, HR
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: College of Business, Psychology and Sport > Worcester Business School
Depositing User: Lynn Nichol
Date Deposited: 18 Sep 2015 11:22
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2020 17:08

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item
Worcester Research and Publications is powered by EPrints 3 which is developed by the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton. More information and software credits.