Management. Organisational Justice and Fairness

Quite often, managers have to make or deliver decisions that hurt employees’ feelings, and this measure is inevitable. The employee’s perception of the decision fairness depends on many factors, such as the personal expectation of specific changes, relationships in the team, the attitude of the management, the way the decision is delivered and made. However, a disappointing decision is not necessarily unfair for the employee if the manager took all steps to create such a perception. These steps can be ensuring and demonstrate a fair decision-making process, as well as deliver the message appropriately. In this case, the manager also needs to overcome the cultural features associated with different perceptions of justice and fair attitude by employees and choose the approach that will reduce the negative impact of the decision. The importance of choosing this approach is justified by the fact that the quality of an employee’s work depends on his or her perception of the organisation justice. Consequently, employees can perceive decisions as fair even if they have negative consequences for them if the manager takes appropriate measures to ensure organisational justice.

The main task of the manager is to make fair decisions about his or her subordinates. Various solutions can relate to the appointment of one employee as the project leader, the promotion, resolution of conflicts or dismissal. Employees’ perceptions of decision outcomes are characterised as distributive justice, which displays in individuals’ understanding that he or she have received a ‘fair share’ according to their skills and efforts (Cropanzano, Bowen, and Gilliland, 2007). There are some simple examples of distributive justice, such as higher salaries for more experienced employees, or annual bonuses for workers who demonstrated the best performance. However, it is most challenging to implement this component in practice if the conditions are almost equal for a few employees since each person wants to get a positive outcome for him or her. For example, if a manager needs to choose a person worthy of promotion, then for someone who does not receive a decision, it can seem unfair. Nevertheless, the opinion of employees can change if the manager shows that such a decision was made in a balanced and rational manner, which is a manifestation of procedural justice.

Procedural justice can reduce the negative effect of an adverse decision and convince the employee of its fairness. It consists of many components, such as the absence of bias and discrimination, the completeness of information, hearing the opinions of all parties and the possibility of an employee to correct mistakes (“Fairness in Organisations,” n.d). Blader and Tyler (2003) also highlight such components of the procedural justice perception by a person as the compliance with the formal rules in the company and informal behaviour of the supervisor. The authors also emphasize formal and informal quality decision-making and treatment as elements of injustice perception. In both cases, the main task of the manager is to show employees the logic and fairness of decision-making. In the case of choosing a candidate for promotion, such methods can include a demonstration of selection criteria, face-to-face conversations with subordinates, opportunities to demonstrate their advantages and feedback. The same option is also suitable for the process of hiring and firing workers and resolving conflicts. Thus, employees who receive a rational explanation for the decision do not feel negative emotions about their management, other employees, or the organisation.

However, managers cannot always control outcomes and the process of decision-making, since the most critical solutions for problems or strategic development of the company are taken on the highest level. In this case, the most important role is played by interactive justice, which is expressed in the way information is delivered to employees. This component is also divided into two categories, such as information justice, which is displayed in honest explaining the reasons for the decision, and interpersonal justice, which refers to a dignified and respectful treatment (Cropanzano, Bowen, and Gilliland, 2007). A face-to-face conversation combined with justification can help perceive the decision as fair. This approach also helps to solve a problem with breaking a psychological contract, or employees’ expectations, which is a significant part of fairness perception (“Fairness in Organisations,” n.d). For example, an employee is informed that he cannot go on a planned vacation, since he will be needed in an important project due to the absence of his colleague. This decision can cause outrage in the employee, but an explanation of the reasons and the value of the person as a worker reduce negative emotions.

Nevertheless, even with all the steps taken, some employees can still react negatively to adverse decisions because of their cultural characteristics. Kim and Leung (2006) determined that distributive justice, as well as materialism, is much higher for Koreans and Chinese compared to Americans and Japanese. For this reason, the salary cuts even with ensuring procedural and interactive justice have a more substantial effect on job dissatisfaction of Koreans and Chinese workers. At the same time, interactive justice is more important for Americans, and overall fairness and job satisfaction have a more significant impact on staff turnover than in Korean and Chinese societies (Kim and Leung, 2006). Consequently, despite the dissatisfaction of the Chinese employee with the decision, he or she is less likely to quit than the American worker who feels a lack of respect or information. Thus, managers in international companies should pay attention to various aspects of organisational justice for different employees and understand that it is not always possible to convince a subordinate to perceive decisions as entirely fair.

The previous remarks on staff turnover partially demonstrate the importance of organisational justice in the company, since unfair decisions affect employee satisfaction and productivity. This feature can be explained by the Fairness theory, which emphasizes that if employees doubt the fairness of choice, the measure taken by management to ensure justice and ethically deliver its decision, they work worse (Coyle-Shapiro and Dhensa, 2011 ). In other words, if one or more of the components of organisational justice is not respected, an employee can sabotage his or her work or perform only the necessary minimum. For example, Hershcovis et al. (2007) demonstrate that there is a connection between procedural injustice and organisational aggression of employees, as well as between distributive injustice and interpersonal aggression, although it is nonsignificant. Nevertheless, low job satisfaction and a constant lack of a sense of fair treatment reduce the motivation of workers to be loyal to the company and either decrease their performance or force them to quit.

At the same time, a respectful and fair approach to employees encourages them to work more productively, show initiative and loyalty to the company. This feature is called Organizational Citizenship Behaviour that can be expressed as actions that benefit the organisation due to the high performance of employees of their desire to colleagues to fulfill their tasks (“Fairness in Organisations,” n.d). For example, a worker takes initiative and offers solutions that help the team or company work efficiently, is responsible for his or her duties, and also helps with support or working tips to other employees. In addition, if workers several times faced fair decisions that positively influenced them, then in cases with adverse outcomes, they would have less doubt about their fairness. Therefore, the constant maintenance of organisational justice contributes to the loyalty of employees and their performance, on which the company’s profit depends.

In conclusion, even though employees understand decisions made by management in different ways, the supervisors can influence their perception of these decisions as fair. For this purpose, management needs to implement measures to maintain organisational justice. The most effective steps are a demonstration of procedural and interactive justice, which reduces perceived injustice due to the logical justification of the decision, taking into account the views of employees and respect for them. However, this approach need also be flexible, since representatives of different cultures are affected by these components of organisational justice to varying degrees. Nonetheless, managers need to understand that they can influence the perception of organisational justice of employees and shape it by using various methods. The right combination of actions increases employee satisfaction, helps them work more productively, and be loyal to the company. Consequently, the profit of a company is significantly dependent on its organisational justice.

Reference List

  1. Blader, S. L. and Tyler, T.R. (2003) ‘What constitutes fairness in work settings? A four-component model of procedural justice,’ Human Resource Management Review, 13 (2003), pp. 107–126.
  2. Coyle- Shapiro, J. and Dhensa. R.K. (2011) ‘Justice in the twenty-first-century organisation,’ in Townsend, K. and Wilkinson, A. (eds.), Research handbook on the future of work and employment relations. Cheltenham. Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, pp. 385-404.
  3. Cropanzano, R., Bowen, D. E., and Gilliland, S.W. (2007) ‘ The management of organisational justice,’ Academy of Management Perspectives, 21(4), pp.34-48.
  4. ‘Fairness in Organisations’ (no date) [PowerPoint presentation].
  5. Hershcovis et al. (2007) ‘Predicting workplace aggression: A meta-analysis,’ Journal of Applied Psychology, 92(1), pp. 228–238.
  6. Kim, T-Y. and Leung, K. (2006). ‘Forming and reacting to overall fairness: a cross-cultural comparison,’ Organisational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes, 104 (2007), pp. 83–95.

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