Organizational Justice, Do You Have My Back?
June 20, 2014
When a company’s reputation is on the line, a little confidence goes a long way. Three attributes an individual can lean on during this time of trouble are being loyal, motivated, and a sense of well-being. I cannot think of anyone who likes to play a game when someone else cheats. She/he will either call them out, “Hey, I saw that”, or tell him/her “I quit”. In the workplace, fairness and justice are not always common occurrences, there is usually some “shaking” (doing a little bit of manipulating) going on. If someone discovers unfairness while working for a company or experienced unfair treatment, there are some things to consider.
The two types of organizational justice to consider that affect an employee's attitude and behavior are distributive justice and procedural justice. First lets take a look at distributive justice defined as perceived fairness in the individual’s ratio of outcomes to contributions compared with another’s ratio of outcomes to contributions. In other words, distributive justice is perceived fairness to the distribution of the procedures conducive to the outcome (pay, recognition, learning, promotions, workspace, or interesting job) that equals the contribution or input (skills, effort, performance, reputation, hours, and experience (151).
In stating the facts concerning distributive justice, equity theory is expounded upon to clarify equity and inequity variables. Equity in the workplace consists of working at a certain pay scale and using the skills and knowledge to receive compensation. If most workers paid equally doing the same types of work, a concept referred to as the equality principle, then that relationship is fair. On the other side of the coin, the need principle is a distinct difference of equality regarding needs, those who need more should receive more.
In other situations of distributive justice, an individual who has higher pay contributes significantly more than his/her co-worker, which is imperative in describing distributive justice really well. Distributive justice means that an individual who works as hard as say one who receives higher pay, will question why is this so? Emotions motivate one to delve into a uncertain modality to have room to maneuver, to do something about that situation. This example of unfairness may be manageable if one who works longer hours, have more relatable skills to the job, or more focused on details, under certain conditions can change under-rewarded equity, comparison other’s over-rewarded equity, or go to another department in the workplace
Is It About Being Fair?
Equity theory is where everyone is treated equally and a condition known as perceived justice. Under-rewarded equity is e.g. pay distributed unfairly as pointed out earlier, longer hours or job-related skills as to the comparison other’s input/outcomes. A person who is experienced with under-rewarded equity ironically could deviate his/her efforts to compensate for this derivative (negative emotional tension). He/she may decide to perform at a lesser pace than normal or withdraw from social interaction with others in the workplace. On the flip side, he/she could ask for a raise and argue her/his efficiencies and smooth workflows. Some have even gone as far as take resources home without permission. If this individual was bold, he/she would confront the comparison other and demand the reason for their overcompensation. By confronting the comparison other, this individual can rectify their inequity by giving out more or less work, and by forming a belief that the comparison other is someone else who is more equal in status and compensation. In comparison, an over-rewarded worker in compensating his/her emotional tension could work harder for higher pay, start believing this is what he/she deserves, or relax the role of the under-rewarded worker by compensating him/her with easy work. Although those approaches may be as tacit as if fair, some individuals are prone to develop equity sensitivity.
Even though an under-rewarded individual who is tolerant and acts as if the sensitivity of a higher paid worker does not concern his/her job status, that could be no further from the truth. Whenever unfairness resides, sensitivity is present, whether compensation is minimal or hefty. In all honesty, the solutions remain the same, rather than except unfair justice, a worker needs to open up a dialogue between the manager and themselves. Frankly, an individual who is paid fairly, has gained access to employee engagement with management; and this involves decision making and communicating on own terms to a degree.
Procedural justice is another way of perceiving if fair treatment abides in our society and in our workplace. It is the procedures used to determine if the distribution of resources is fair. A proven method of initiating procedural justice is best when an individual is given a voice to speak (like in decision-making, addressing issues, or perceived unfairness). The fairness of having a say in the matter is such that the person on the other side of the continuum has got your back. All this boils down to is that a manager or supervisor admonishes listening to the individual with as much pure intention as the job in which they supervise.
If that person has your back and listens with unbiased opinions, branding supportive and important facts in which to consider the procedure of fairness, and existing rules and regulations are noted, at least satisfaction can and will be realized. And, there is no harm done if the party may proceed and if questioning is clarified to the point of “voice expressive”.
Still, if the individual is not satisfied, the option to appeal to a higher authority is in the mist!
“The Pharisees were almost always questioned about their lifestyle. They fasted, prayed, tithed, loved the Lord, and only ate certain foods. But their ways were not what was needed at that time? Could this be because there was too much inequity in Jesus’ day?”
What Is The Worst That Can Happen in This Scenario?
What could happen in judging the outcome of the case is the individual cannot seem to figure out how the case went to the other’s favor. Again, emotional tension when one perceives unfairness and inequity is pointing toward aggressive behavior or withdrawing from the conflict (which is a route some companies choose to take to avoid a problem). In mentioning theories, the drive theory comes to mind including the attribute defend, (the others are acquire, bond, and learn) or to fight or flight. The fight or flight concept is such that every moral fiber of one’s self-concept has been bruised. It is like a coach waiting to change behavior only to find that his/her trainee is not ready for change. Instead of going through some changes and trying to change behavior, one needs to change beliefs and feelings, to minimize the conflict and to find something good out of it all.
Case In Point
A retail clothing store with a new incentive system in place encourages employees' to increase sales volume and service while managers are encouraged to provide better inventory management. When a store manager at this retail clothing store witnessed employees "hoarding" customers by standing closer to the front entrance and forgetting to restock the shelves with reordered inventory, some employees were told they could be replaced with someone who could.
The problem with employees who refuse to restock shelves of reordered inventory or restock merchandise when managers were not looking or off the floor was due to less traffic in those areas, and less of a paycheck because of customer base. Employees pay was regular pay plus commission at 30% the paycheck; less customers, less pay.
References: McShane, S. L. and Glinow, M.A.V. (2013). Organizational Behavior