When Organizational Justice Changes Over Time

Topic(s): fairness
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (2011)
Article: Justice as a Dynamic Construct: Effects of Individual Trajectories on Distal Work Outcomes
Authors: Hausknecht, J. P., Sturman, M. C., Roberson, Q. M.
Reviewed by: Thaddeus Rada

Organizational justice continues to play a prominent role in the science and practice of I-O psychology. Many readers are probably familiar with some of the basic types of organizational justice, such as procedural, interactional, and distributive justice. However, although much research on justice (and injustice) in organizations has been conducted, the interactive effect of time and justice perceptions on important employee outcomes has not been addressed. In a recent paper, John Hausknecht and colleagues begin to address this gap in the literature.


The importance of understanding the interaction of justice perceptions with time can be understood with an example used by the authors of the current article. If an organization is interested in understanding the relationship between justice perceptions and some outcome, such as turnover intentions, measuring justice perceptions at only one point in time misses out on crucial information that measurement at multiple time points can give us. Two employees may report identical justice perceptions at the present time, but if one employee’s perceptions were very high six months ago, while the other employee’s were very low, the implications of this difference are obviously important. Despite their equivalent levels of current justice perceptions, the first employee may be substantially more likely to leave the organization, since their perceptions have decreased a great deal, which the other employee’s perceptions have increased.


Utilizing a sample of over 500 employees, the authors found support for all three of their hypotheses: namely, that employees who reported a positive justice trend were more satisfied, more committed to the organization, and likely to have lower turnover intentions, relative to employees that reported a negative justice trend over time. This research highlights the important role that time can play in our measurement and assessment of justice perceptions (and other constructs more generally). Practitioners might take findings such as these into account when conducting assessments in organizations, by obtaining measurements at multiple time periods in order to gain an understanding of how trends and changes in the levels of variables impacts important organizational outcomes.


Hausknecht, J. P., Sturman, M. C., & Roberson, Q. M. (2011). Justice as a dynamic construct: Effects of individual trajectories on distal work outcomes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96, 872-880.

Image credit: istockphoto/