"I bleed green": volunteer responses to broken organizational promises

This study uses sensemaking theory as a framework to understand the responses and communication which is used by volunteers when psychological contract violations occur. Nineteen volunteers of the 4-H Youth Development Program were interviewed about their perceptions of unspoken organizational promises they felt had been made to them through their membership in the organization. Interviewees discussed the ways in which these unspoken promises were violated, and the influence violations had on their satisfaction as a volunteer and their intent to remain or exit the program. A grounded theory analysis revealed volunteers responded to psychological contract violations with silence, resistance, resilience, intent to exit, and exit. Further, major categories indicating the conditions for psychological contract creation, maintenance, and violation were also revealed. Based on the study’s findings, a matrix is offered to help explain the responses of volunteers’ to psychological contract violation and inform future directions for research.