Why Should Managers Care about Being Fair? (Human Resource Management)

Topic: Fairness, Organizational Justice, Organizational Performance
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: Fairness at the collective level: A meta-analytic examination of the
consequences and boundary conditions of organizational justice climate.
Authors: Whitman, D. S., Caleo, S., Carpenter, N. C., Horner, M. T., and Bernerth, J.
B.
Reviewer: Neil Morelli

Organizational justice, or how fairly an organization treats its workers, is a big deal to employees. To an individual employee, organizational justice helps determine his or her attitude about the job and as well as his or her productivity. But this perception doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Because this perception is often shared with co-workers and team members, called justice climate, Whitman and his co-authors conducted a meta-analysis to summarize and clarify how organizational justice climate exists at the team (unit) level and can influence team effectiveness.

Being an ambiguous term in itself, Whitman et al. defined effectiveness as having four main parts: attitudes (e.g., job satisfaction), processes (e.g., citizenship), withdrawal (e.g., turnover), and performance (e.g., profit). They predicted that a more positive justice climate at the team-level means that workers would be able to trust their leaders to a greater extent, which would result in the team achieving more group goals. The authors also predicted that the different parts of organizational justice, distributive (i.e., how fair rewards are to input), procedural (i.e., how fair company policies are), and interactional (i.e., how fair workers are treated interpersonally by their managers), would be related to the components of effectiveness in different ways.

Using 37 studies that totaled 4,600 teams (units) with 11 employees per team on average, the authors discovered that the mean-corrected correlation between justice climate and effectiveness was .40—this means that how fair the team perceives the organization to be overall, the more likely they are to be effective. As for the separate pieces of organizational justice, the authors found that distributive justice has a stronger relationship (than the other two justice climate types) to both performance and attitudes. This means that the rewards have to be judged as fair when compared to the work performed by the team. Procedural justice had the strongest relationship with how often team members are absent or turnover. And last but not least, interactional justice had the strongest relationship with process effectiveness—teams are unlikely to go above and beyond if they do not view their interaction with leaders as fair.

So, noticing that your team’s performance has leveled off or team attitude and morale is spoiling? You have to make sure you’re seen as being fair. Also, keep in mind that you should not just focus at the individual perception of fairness, you should also focus on making sure rewards are appropriate for the team, team-level policies and procedures are fair, and they have treat each team equitably in their day-to-day interactions.

Whitman, D. S., Caleo, S., Carpenter, N. C., Horner, M. T., & Bernerth, J. B. (2012). Fairness at the collective level: A meta-analytic examination of the consequences and boundary conditions of organizational justice climate. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(4), 776-791.

human resource management, organizational industrial psychology, organizational management

 

 

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