As the first qualitative study of its kind, this study explored firefighters’ beliefs and experiences about the psychological contract between themselves as employees and their employer, workplace stress, stress-management strategies, and their wellbeing. Eleven interviews were conducted with active firefighters from multiple fire stations in the UK. The interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. The transcripts were analysed using framework analysis. Five superordinate themes were identified and labelled as ‘Motives’, ‘Mutual obligations’, ‘Stressors and their effects’, ‘Moderators’, and ‘Retention factors’, each of which contained lower level sub-themes. Psychological contract (PC) is a useful construct to measure firefighters’ perceived obligations as their responses reflected multiple facets of PC theory. The current climate of austerity measures appears to be negatively impacting on firefighters in terms of reducing numbers and placing higher task demands on those remaining. Thus, making it very difficult for the UK Fire and Rescue Service (UKFRS) to meet the perceived obligations of their employees. The findings have implications for human resource departments within UKFRS trying to manage the impact of funding cuts and they highlight the potential value of the PC as a construct around which such issues can be explored.
- psychological contract