The Management of Organizational Justice: Dynamics of Fairness in the Workplace

Justice is a subjective concept. Organisational justice is a personal evaluation of fairness within a company, which affects employees’ work attitudes and behaviours. It is crucial to ensure organisational justice because it can bring great benefits to both organisations and individuals. As explained by Cropanzano et al (2007), there are three components of organisational justice: distributive justice (fairness of outcomes), procedural justice (fairness of allocation process) and interactional justice (fairness of interpersonal transactions with others). Employees care about justice for a variety of reasons.

For instance, justice allows them to predict how they might be treated over time. Additionally, employees wish to be valued and treated ethically. Organisational justice can increase the frequency of organisational citizenship behaviour (OCB) and decrease the incidence of counterproductive work behaviour (CWB). Being fair in the workplace is very profitable and rewarding in the long run. This essay investigates whether it is possible for managers to make a decision that everyone considers fair.

There is some evidence to show that managers are able to make fair decisions.

According to the research by Cropanzano et al (2007), distributive justice is formed by social comparison (self-outcome/self-input compared to other’s outcome/other’s input). In order to provide fairness in organisations, managers can distribute resources in three ways: equity (rewards based on performance), equality (providing each employee with a basic minimum of benefit) and need (allocating based on individual requirements). Allocating rewards equally make everyone in the workgroup feel accepted and respected. Referring to procedural justice, the allocation process should be applied consistently across team members and time, free of bias, accurate, correctable, representative of parties and conforming to standards of morality (Leventhal, 1980).

Interactional justice consists of two aspects: interpersonal justice (related to respect and dignity) and informational justice (related to truth and justifications). Justice can be achieved in one-to-one interactions if managers can provide an adequate explanation to employees and treating their reports with respect. Cropanzano et al (2007) also give some suggestions for building fairness into five diverse managerial tasks, such as hiring, reward systems, resolving conflicts, layoffs and performance appraisal. Treating applicants fairly in recruiting process help organisations to have positive job candidates as they build a relationship of trust before working in the companies. In order to have procedural justice, applicants should be given questions strongly related to the job and opportunities to best perform themselves. Managers can deal with the justice paradox through using screening methods with both predictive validity and procedural justice (e.g. work sample tests), adjusting current screening tools and improving interactional justice to moderate the negative effect of procedural justice. In reward systems, managers need to motivate individual performance and maintain group cohesion. When resolving conflict, the arbitration will occur which give employees a fair process. Downsizing is also a common situation in organisations. In order to reduce the negative effect, it can be conducted with procedural and interactional justice, such as providing unemployment benefits and giving a good explanation about their decisions. Lastly, for performance appraisals, the due process can be implemented via adequate notice (when and why they will be appraised), just hearing (setting limitations on reviewing feedback) and judgement based on evidence (using accurate standards). Another study by Kim and Leung (2007) investigated whether organisational justice theory can be applied to different cultures. The results showed that distributive justice was associated with overall fairness more strongly for Chinese and Koreans than for Americans and Japanese. Instead, interactional justice was associated with the overall fairness more strongly for Americans and Japanese. Overall fairness strongly affected employees’ turnover intention for Americans than for the other three nations. These differences can be explained via materialism and power distance. Therefore, we can see that if managers would like to treat employees fairly, they need to consider cultural differences on reacting to overall fairness. In the study by Blader and Tyler (2003), they used the four-component model to give a more comprehensive understanding on the definition of procedural justice and what forms employee’s fairness evaluations. In order to make decisions that employees consider fair, managers should pay attention to how decisions are made and how employees are treated.

Nevertheless, sometimes it is not possible for managers to make decisions that everyone considers fair. In the hiring process, managers often encounter a “justice paradox” (Folger and Cropanzano, 1998). That is, there is a conflict between predictive validity and procedural justice. For example, cognitive ability and personality tests are good screening tools with high predictive validity, but job candidates think that both of them are not fair. Questions on those tests are not linked to the job and do not allow them to show their best capacities. As for reward systems, the challenge faced is that it is difficult to stimulate individual performance and group cohesion simultaneously. Equity allocations can make individuals work hard, but this causes inequality that negatively affect group harmony. When managing conflicts, arbitration can destroy distributive injustice. Not everyone considers that they are treated fairly. Layoffs sometimes occur in a company in bad situations. It is difficult for managers to handle because distributive injustice will obviously occur, and the survivors may feel guilty or worried about themselves. Lastly, it is hard to do a rewards assignment that everyone considers it fair. A due process is very complex and can create many problems if the procedure is not designed appropriately. It raises expectations, but it upsets employees by the way conducted. As described by Kim and Leung (2007), cultural differences have a great impact on the perceptions of individuals. For instance, employees from China and Korean may take distributive justice more seriously than those from America and Japan. In contrast, interactional justice is considered as more significant to overall fairness for American and Japanese employees. Therefore, it is not possible for managers to make decisions that everyone considers fair, especially for managers working in international companies. Blader and Tyler (2003) found that procedural justice consists of the quality of decision making and the quality of treatment. Managers would have problems in making decisions that make everyone feel fair because in different places and for different people, how they define overall fairness and how they perceive the quality of decision making and the quality of treatment may vary.

In conclusion, the perceptions of employees may differ across different people and different cultures. Managers can make relatively fair decisions, but it would be extremely difficult for them to let everyone consider fair. Organisational justice has a great influence on both individuals and organisations. Justice can create several positive effects, such as establishing a relationship of trust and commitment, improving job performance and generating employee organisational citizenship behaviours (OCB). Instead, organisational injustice can increase the incidence of counterproductive work behaviour (CWB), workplace deviance, absence, stress and aggression, which all causes harm to the organisation and its members. Different factors, such as job discontent and interpersonal conflict, can also cause counterproductive work behaviour. Employee expectations form the concept of a psychological contract and if the contract is broken, counterproductive work behaviours are likely to appear. Both procedural justice and interactional justice can mitigate the negative effect of perceived unfairness. It is vital for managers to take into considerations how to treat each employee fairly and how to handle organisational injustice. Managers who focus on organisational justice can create many benefits for their organisations in the long-run management.

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