The aim of this thesis is to explore employment relations in young, growth-oriented, technology-driven (high-tech) start-ups. It takes a closer look at the exchange relationship between founders and their first employees in this specific context. At its core, the research is interested in employees motivation to work for a growth-oriented start-up and their understanding of the employment deal. The study uses the psychological contract as an analytical framework to gain deeper insights into individuals perceptions of this deal.
The research is embedded within an interpretivist paradigm and includes eight case studies involving growth-oriented high-tech start-ups in Berlin and London. For each case, in-depth interviews with three full-time employees as well as the founder(s) were conducted.
The findings of this thesis demonstrate that the employment deal in growth-oriented
start-ups is a short-term, faith-driven contract, which differs substantially from the current understanding of the psychological contract. In contrast to the long-term or open-ended contract often offered by larger, more established organisations, this deal has a defined expiration date . Moreover, the findings challenge the current understandings on remuneration, relationship building and power dynamics within growth-oriented start-ups and add to the literature by offering a re-conceptualisation of the psychological contract.
This thesis helps to inform prospective employees about the advantages and challenges of joining a start-up and encourages entrepreneurs to further tailor their management and compensation strategies.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.