Skip main navigation

Social Exchange Theory (SET)

Video/animation with explanation about the social exchange theory.
3.3
Several studies explain the positive effects of HRM policies and practices on innovation outcomes by using social exchange theory Social exchange theory or SET is based on the idea of social exchanges based on reciprocity.
19.7
Or in ‘simpler’ terms: quid pro quo. You give something and you get something in return. The SET suggest that it involves interactions that generate obligations in the short and long-term. These interactions are interdependent and contingent on the action of another person. Based on SET, scholars have argued that HRM policies and practices can lead to extra-role behaviours, which are behaviours related to tasks that are not necessarily part of employees’ jobs such as creativity and innovative work behaviour. When an organization invests in its employees, these employees in turn are more willing to invest in the organization, for example with the generation and implementation of innovative ideas.
74.8
If the costs of the relationship are higher than the rewards, for example when employees invest a lot of effort and resources in additional tasks, while they are not reciprocated, this can lead to problems. The reciprocity norm entails that a benefit should be returned and the actor that provides the benefit should not be harmed. Thereby, it can also bind actors together into a strong relationship. Organizations should thereby recognize and reward employees in a proper way when they invest their spare time and resources in innovative endeavours. Rewards do not only necessarily mean money; more important is appreciation and recognition.

Several studies explain the positive effects of HRM policies and practices on innovation outcomes by using social exchange theory (Blau, 1964). In this video, Maarten will explain this theory.

This article is from the free online

The Future of Human Resource Management (HRM)

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education