And we carry this torch for fair treatment right into the workplace.
It's no wonder that in the field of organisational behavioural science, researchers find organisational justice intriguing; particularly because of the moves people will make to correct perceived injustice.
Simply put, organisational justice is concerned with the perceptions of fairness of employees. Since such perceptions shape the attitudes and behaviours of workers, this theme has become very important in understanding certain negative actions that are displayed by aggrieved workers.
This refers to the outcomes of a decision, i.e. the fairness of the ends achieved.
- Alter inputs;
Evidently, it’s more difficult for the individual to alter the inputs or outputs of the comparison other to restore a state of equity. Therefore, Raja (2009) suggested that the employee might change his own inputs or outputs first by:
- Changing input to match outcomes such as leaving early or slacking off;
- Changing outcomes to match inputs such as asking for a pay increase or stealing;
- Withdrawing, such as tardiness or turnover.
Levanthal (1980) identified six criteria which managers should adhere to so that procedures can be perceived as fair:
- Bias suppression;
- Accuracy of information;
- Representativeness (i.e. 'voice');
Negative indications of the criteria above lead the worker to perceive that procedures taken regarding decisions are unfair. Such procedural injustice as explained by Cropanzano & Folger (1996) undermines loyalty to both the institution and to its appointed representatives. Moreover, Blader & Tyler (2000), drawing on evidence from various researchers, reported that procedural justice is an important predictor of the following:
-Commitment to the organisation;
-Effort employees put in duties;
-Likelihood workers will stay in the organisation;
-The extent of 'extra-role behaviour' they display (i.e. desirable actions not inherent in their job descriptions);
-Acceptance of, and compliance with organisational rules.
Interestingly, researchers in the 80s and 90s recorded some results about the effects of the interaction between distributive and procedural justice. Two of their most relevant findings must be highlighted because they simply make sense today:
A) If the employee perceives that the procedures as fair, even if the distribution is inequitable (i.e. outcomes are unfavourable), he will be less inclined to take destructive actions against those in authority. (Folger & Greenberg, 1985; Lind & Tyler, 1988; Cropanzano & Folger, 1996).
B) Employees are more likely to react vigorously when both the outcomes are unfavourable and the procedures that led to those outcomes are unfair. Tyler et al. (1987) stated that such a development leads to reduced performance. Furthermore, employees are more likely to organise in collective action against the individuals who wronged them.
A real eye opener.
But in what manner should employees be treated and how should communication be handled for their welfare? Interactional justice is useful in understanding interpersonal relations at the workplace.
- Propriety of questions;
They stated that negative angles to those criteria communicate to the employee that he has been unfairly treated on an interpersonal level.
Interactional justice is also important during change programmes because of social accounts provided. For example, adequate justification may help reduce moral outrage that leads to negative behaviours. They also help maintain a more positive image of the leader and better supervisor-subordinate relations (Cobb et al. 1995). There is an additional motivation for ensuring that employees are treated with professional courtesy. Cobb & Wooten (1998) explained that social accounts help reduce dysfunctional attitudes and behaviours following disappointing decisions and may even provide the motivation for change.
Perhaps one of the most compelling findings about interactional justice was given by Blader & Tyler (2000) who linked interactional justice to affective commitment - the strongest type of commitment, which is the emotional attachment to an organisation.
The three types of justice are best understood when they interact with each other, rather than in isolation. They influence, and in some cases, predict the attitudes and behaviours of employees in the organisation.
When an employee perceives that he is unfairly treated—whether it is in relation to the outcomes received from his employer; or because of the procedures used to determine those outcomes; or because of the interpersonal treatment he is given—he will display negative attitudes or engage in destructive behaviours that will have dire effects on the organisation.
Remember that without committed, engaged employees, the productivity wheel cannot function effectively.
Know that organisational justice shapes the perceptions of employees, who in turn impact everything at work.
So which would your organisation rather be? A productive work environment where fairness is championed, or the alternative - a sinking ship?
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