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Fostering Fairness in the Workplace: Why it’s so worth it!

Topic: Citizenship Behavior, Organizational Justice 
Publication: Journal of Organizational Behavior
ArticleMeta-analytic tests of relationships between organizational justice and citizenship behavior: Testing agent-system and shared-variance models.     
Blogger: Benjamin Granger

Fairness Leaders are recognizing that organizations, employees, and customers benefit from non-required cooperative behaviors that go on in the workplace.  These behaviors are referred to as organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs).  Because OCBs are highly valued in organizational settings, business researchers and practitioners are interested in uncovering the causes of these behaviors.

Researchers Fassina, Jones, and Uggerslev (2008) were particularly interested in how employee perceptions of justice (fairness) relate to OCBs.  More specifically, the authors were interested in how different types of justice related to OCBs that are directed toward the organization versus to other individuals in the organization.  Fassina et al. specified three distinct types of justice: (1) procedural justice (the extent to which employees feel organizational practices are fair), (2) distributive justice (the extent to which employees feel organizational outcomes are fair), and (3) interactional justice (the extent to which employees feel they are treated fairly by organizational leaders).

So, based on the findings of Fassina et al.’s meta-analysis, what conclusions can be drawn to help organizations increase the occurrence of OCBs in the workplace?

1) When employees feel that their organizational leaders are treating them fairly (high interactional justice) they are more likely to engage in helpful behaviors targeted toward other individuals and work groups within the organization (e.g., helping coworkers with job-related tasks).  In other words, if a person feels he/she is being treated fairly by an individual (leader), he/she is more likely to be helpful to other individuals,.

2). When employees feel that organizational practices are fair and just (high procedural justice) they are more likely to engage in helpful behaviors aimed at the organization (e.g., going beyond expectations to cooperate with organizational policies).  In other words, if a person feels he/she is being treated fairly by the organization, he/she is more likely to be helpful to the organization. 

Importantly, Fassina et al.’s findings suggest that interactional justice and procedural justice are better predictors of OCBs than distributive justice. This is an important finding because it suggests that when employees receive unfavorable outcomes in the workplace (e.g., demotion, poor performance appraisal), they will not necessarily discontinue engaging in positive workplace behaviors like OCBs.  In fact, if the employees feel that their supervisors are treating them with respect and the procedures by which organizations make decisions are fair (even if outcomes are unfavorable), then they should still engage in OCBs.

The great news is that managers and organizations have the power to influence their employees’ perceptions of justice.  Although negative outcomes in the workplace are inevitable, organizational leaders can affect the ways in which decisions are made and how employees are treated.  If organizations are successful in treating employees fairly and arriving at outcomes (positive or negative) by means which are considered fair by employees, then they will likely increase the occurrence of OCBs in the workplace.  So what exactly can managers do?  By giving employees explanations as to why decisions were made or how outcomes were decided upon, employees are likely to perceive high levels of interactional justice.

    Fassina, N. E., Jones, D. A., & Uggerslev, K. L. (2008). Meta-analytic tests of relationships between organizational justice and citizenship behavior: Testing agent-system and shared-variance models. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 29, 805-828.

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