Cooperation in teams – Contracting Level 3: Psychological Contract – video training

My name is Sari van Poelje, and I’m an expert in agile, innovative design. I help businesses innovate as quickly as they innovate their products.

The thing we’re talking about today is contracting. We’ve already talked about level one of contracting, “How do you make good administrative contract, which structures your relationship?” The second level is, “How do you make a good professional contract, which has to do with what problem definition, what goals are we going for and how are we going to work together to achieve those goals?”

Contracting Level 3: Psychological Contract

The third level of contracting is called the psychological level of the contract. And that’s a little bit trickier because it’s actually the unconscious part of the contracting process. At this level, we look at, “Yeah, okay, so we’ve got a structure for the contract and we’ve got a method, how are we going to work together?” But at this level, we really are thinking about, “Why me and why now? So what implicit needs are you trying to get met through this contract and what implicit needs do I have?”

I’ll give you an example. Last week I was called by an organization who had a problem in a team. There were two leaders in that team and they were having a conflict with each other about who the real leader was. I went out, I flew out to talk to them and I interviewed them and I interviewed their teammates to check out, “Are you really ready for cooperation?” As it turns out at the psychological level, actually, one of them was telling me, “I only get going when I fight and if I don’t fight, I don’t feel focused.” So he was really invested in creating fights and conflicts around him, so he stayed focused.

The other person really didn’t want to cooperate because he had a different relationship with a boss above. He actually went to play squash with them every week and he’s invested his interest at the psychological level was to be visible to this boss as the real boss, the one who was getting it done. And so he was really invested in fighting with his colleague.

You could ask yourself why an organization would put two leaders in a team in any case, but that’s something for a different topic at the moment. Which you can see is that sometimes people have at the deeper level, an invested interest in non-cooperation. And it’s really important when you make a contract with people to checkout:

  • Now what’s going on with you personally?
  • Is this really something you want or not?
  • Does this echo anything of your past? Because sometimes people are reliving non-cooperative relationships of their past, you have to check out what their history is in terms of competition and cooperation and see how that influences the relationship in here and now.

When you’re looking at a psychological level of a contract, you’re really looking at, “Can we create a working alliance here? Can we create something where people actually feel interdependent and accepted?”

In the next videos we’ll take a look at the other cooperation issues. Follow me to find out more.