Topic: Health & Safety, Organizational Justice, Fairness, Burnout, Stress
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (2012)
Article: Perceived Unfairness and Employee Health: A Meta-Analytic Integration
Authors: Robbins, Jordan M.; Ford, Michael T.; Tetrick, Lois E.
Reviewed By: Lauren A. Wood, M.S.
Practitioners and employers alike have expressed concern around the effects of poor employee heath. When employees are not well, the organization can not only incurs costs due to direct medical expenses, but can also pay for poor employee health in the form of absenteeism, decreased productivity and moral, and even turnover.
Recent research has linked employee perceptions of organizational unfairness to employee health. There are four ways in which perceptions of unfairness are thought to be experienced. These are through feelings of distributive injustice (i.e., fairness of outcomes of decisions), procedural injustice (i.e., fairness of the process of the decisions), interactional injustice (i.e., fairness of the exchanges between individuals in the organization), and psychological contract breach (i.e., failure of the organization to live up to the expectations of the employee).
In general, perceived organizational unfairness was found to be associated with poor employee health indicators such as mental health conditions, physical health conditions, and number of absences. Moreover, unfairness was most strongly related to more proximal health indicators such as employee feelings of burnout, negative mood, and job related stress.
Additionally, the four types of unfairness were related to different health related indicators. For instance, procedural justice was more strongly related to physical health problem, while distributive justice was more predictive of mental health issues. Psychological contract breach was most strongly associated with employee perceptions of burnout. Of the four, interactional justice was the least predictive of the health indicators.
What can be done to promote employee health and well-being in the workplace?Well, one good thing is that perceptions of fairness are malleable aspects of the workplace, meaning that organizations have a great deal of control managing fairness (and unfairness) perceptions. To increase feeling of distributive justice, organizations should strive to make policies with outcomes that are the same for all employees regardless of gender, race, and tenure. While, increasing perceptions of procedural justice can be accomplished by insuring that decision-making processes treat all employees equally. Finally, to increase perceptions of a sturdy psychological contract, openly and clearly communicate to employees, provide them with information, direction, and support in times of change, and treat employees with respect.