ORGANIZATIONAL JUSTICE PERCEPTIONS
NOTES TO ACCOMPANY POWERPOINT SLIDES
- This document contains
lesson notes to accompany each powerpoint slide, additional references, sample
test questions, and an in-class exercise. The lesson notes include suggestions
for classroom discussion and additional information that may be incorporated
into the lesson.
shorten this lesson, slides 6, 7, and 12 can be omitted without harming the
continuity of the lesson.
introduction: instructors may wish to begin by talking about some of the
ways that organizational justice perceptions relate to psychology in
of psychology is understanding and predicting behavior.
I-O psychologists are interested in workplace behaviors such as job
performance, quitting jobs, and stealing from an employer, all of which
are related to justice perceptions. Instructors may wish to compare the
prediction of these behaviors to theories of motivation or to theories
predicting other types of behaviors.
other types of psychology (e.g., social psychology) focus on the
measurement of attitudes and cognition. Justice perceptions could be
offered as an example of the study of attitudes in organizations.
NOTES BY SLIDE
2: Think of a time youve been unfairly treated at work
This slide is intended to serve as a stimulus to get students
thinking about how the content of this lesson will be directly applicable to
their lives, no matter what occupation they ultimately decide to enter. Its
my experience that students love to tell these kinds of stories (i.e., complain
about work). The instructor can make this discussion as long or short as is
appropriate, but should try to frame the discussion around the concepts to be
discussed later in the lesson.
If most students have not had work experience,
suggest that they think about when theyve been unfairly treated in the
3: Lesson Objectives: No notes
4: Justice Perceptions are Important
The instructor may wish to note that most of the outcomes of justice
perceptions can have an economic impact on the organization.
Counterproductive behaviors refers to theft, sabotage, or even
lawsuits against employers. With respect to the last outcome on the list, we
should keep in mind that organizations are comprised of human beings, and
organizational actions can have substantial effects on employees well-being.
All of these reasons are important given the current economy.
Many organizations have been forced to lay people off were these
layoffs perceived as fair by employees? What do the employees who werent laid
off think? Additionally, some organizations have gone bankrupt, using practices
that destroyed the retirement savings of its employees (e.g., Enron). How will
these employees react?
See Colquitt et al. (2001) for meta-analytic
estimates of these (and other) relationships between specific justice dimensions
Here, or at some later point in the lesson, it
could be discussed how the domain of organizational justice emerged from related
research in social psychology, particularly from studies on relative deprivation
and in the social psychology of legal phenomena. Several prominent
organizational justice researchers were actually trained as social
psychologists. See Byrne & Cropanzano, 2001, for a brief history of
5: Types of Justice Perceptions
The instructor should mention that justice
and fairness are both used in this literature interchangeably. Research
and theory in this domain have been conducted in social psychology as well, but
has been applied specifically to organizational contexts by I-O psychologists.
NOTE: The precise dimensionality of justice
perceptions is still debated. Various contemporary theorists have argued that
justice is anything from a single dimension to four dimensions (the missing
dimension here is Informational Justice, which refers to the appropriateness of
the amount of information you have been provided about the decision and the
process; see Colquitt et al., 2001). The present three-dimension typology is
similar to that of Folger and Cropanzano (1998), among others.
The outcome is usually thought of as some
decision that has been rendered regarding the employee.
Typical examples include hiring decisions, and the outcomes of
performance appraisals, raise requests, decisions about downsizing/layoffs, etc.
Example: You apply for a job at a local temp
agency with your friend. You
believe that you are more qualified than your friend, but your friend is offered
the job and you are not.
The instructor should emphasize that this
perception has to do only with the outcome, not with whether the process behind
the decision was unfair.
The instructor may choose to ask students why
outcomes are fair (i.e., generate rules for deciding distributive justice).
For instance, how would you allocate pay raises across a group of
employees? Whats the fairest way to allocate health care benefits?
Example: The woman making the hiring decision at
the temp agency was your friends aunt, so she offered your friend the job
even though you were more qualified. The
element of procedural fairness that was violated was the consistency of the
hiring procedures used (i.e., she bent the rules for her relative).
The instructor may choose to have students
generate rules for making particular decisions here. Suggestion: Whats the
fairest way to distribute tickets for college football games (or whatever sport
has hard-to-come-by tickets at your institution).
The instructor might want to note that sometimes
procedures themselves can be viewed as an outcome, and vice versa (see
Cropanzano & Ambrose, 2001), making distinctions between these two aspects
of justice somewhat ambiguous at times.
6: Distributive Justice
Note: Slides 6, 7, and 12 can be omitted in the
interest of time without detracting from the continuity of the lesson.
The phrase allocating resources refers to
situations where the organization has some outcome that can be distributed to
some employees (for instance, a certain number of promotions or new jobs, or a
certain amount of money that can be allocated for raises or bonuses).
Although distributive justice perceptions are
merely the perceptions of whether the outcome was fair or not, it has been
argued that people use one or more of these rules to decide whether an
allocation decision was fair.
The distributive justice rules mentioned here have
been argued to be used in different types of situations, but there is scant
research about when employees use one rule instead of another to evaluate a
decision in an organization. Some
psychologists have recently argued that one of the factors may be the
employees culture. For instance, someone from a more collectivist
culture may be more likely to use an equality rule of justice, especially among
members of his or her close work group.
Equity Rule: When several employees apply for a
promotion, it should be given to the person who is most qualified (that is, the
person who has the strongest abilities, or the person who is capable of
contributing the most to the organization).
Equality Rule: When health benefits are given out,
they should be given to all employees, not just those people who are the hardest
Need Rule: If an employee has a family emergency,
a supervisor might give him or her time off. Note that this time off might
contrast with the equity rule in that the needy employee might not necessarily
be the person whose job performance has been the best.
Most research in Organizational Justice has explored the equity
7: Distributive Justice: Equity Theory
Equity Theory was first proposed by Adams (1965). Adams proposed a theory
regarding how people arrive at decisions regarding whether a decision was fair.
The instructor may wish to illustrate this comparison out as an equation:
Important Point: If the Other employee is receiving
more from the organization (such as getting paid more), the employee wont
think its unfair if the Other contributes more to the organization too (by
being a better performer, working longer, etc.).
If inequity is perceived, the employee may
experience emotional reactions (such as anger) as a result. Adams proposed a
number of ways that an individual would act to resolve the inequity, but
research has not yet clarified when an individual would choose one path instead
Employee could decrease inputs (that is, work slower or more
sloppily), thus equating the ratios
Employee could try to get outcomes increased (by asking for a raise)
Employee could try to get Other to work harder, thus equating the
Employee could try to get the Others Outcomes reduced (e.g., by
Employees could choose a different (i.e., more appropriate) Other.
Note that this Other might not even be a fellow employee.
People could compare themselves to people outside the company (for
instance, old friends in the same type of job).
Employees could cognitively distort the comparison they make (e.g.,
they could end up convincing themselves that they were in an equitable situation
when in fact they were not).
Employees could leave the situation (i.e.,
The above notes focus on situations in which the
person was underpaid. Other
research has explored what happens when an individual perceives that they have
been overpaid (they may increase their productivity to make the situation more
equitable, but this effect gradually wears off, possibly because they
cognitively reevaluate their inputs to justify the differences in pay).
8: Procedural Justice
Voice was proposed by Thibaut and Walker
(1975), and refers to when individuals (i.e., employees) are given a chance to
speak on their own behalf. They distinguished between instrumental voice,
in which their comments may influence the decision, and noninstrumental
voice, in which the comments will have no bearing on the outcome (e.g., comments
were only allowed after the decision had been made). Various studies have shown
both to be effective in various contexts.
The other attributes of procedural fairness come
from Leventhal (1976; 1980).
Consistency: A procedure
should be consistent across time and employees
Bias Suppression: The
decision-makers personal biases should not play a role
Accuracy: The procedures
should be perceived as accurate (e.g., the procedure should correctly identify
the person who is most qualified for the job).
Correctability: There should be an appeals mechanism in case
mistakes are made
The decision should be made according to prevailing ethical standards
Leventhal did mention one other attribute (Representativeness: all
affected parties should be considered when making this decision), but this
attribute has been argued to overlap with the construct of voice, and it
has thus been omitted from the present list.
Why does Procedural Justice matter? There are two
different theories (see Lind & Tyler, 1988). One proposes that employees use perceptions of the current
process to predict how theyll fare in future encounters with the
organization. The other states that employees want to feel that they are part of
the organization, and fair procedures are a sign that they are indeed valued and
accepted by the organization.
9: When is Procedural Justice Most Important?
See Brockner and Weisenfeld (1996), from which the figure is adapted (see
Main Point: Procedural Justice is more important
when the outcome was unfavorable. Or, alternatively, the favorability of the
outcome matters more when procedures are perceived as unfair.
A good way of summarizing this plot is that the
means justify the ends. That is, even if the outcome is unfavorable, people
will still react well if the procedure was fair.
Example of actual research on procedural justice (Brockner et al., 1994,
Brockner et al. (1994) studied 147 employees who
knew they were about to be laid off from a large unionized manufacturing
facility in the south central United States. They were surveyed two months
after they found out they were told about the layoff, but one month before they
actually stopped working.
The positivity / negativity of the outcome was assessed by asking the
employees to consider how much other support they had to meet their needs (e.g.,
unemployment insurance, severance pay, company help with finding another job).
The Reactions measured in this study was a measure of Organizational
Support (questions such as I am proud to tell others I am a part of ____,
I would have no problem recommending ______ as an employer to a friend or
The interaction between procedural justice and outcome favorabliity was
found (see slide).
Note, however, that this graph is specific to reactions to the
organization. A related, but
different, pattern, exists for the interaction between PJ and Outcome on
perceptions of the self (see Brockner, 2002).
For instance, people with a negative outcome gained through a process
perceived to be fair will experience lower self-esteem than people who receive a
negative outcome through an unfair process.
10: Interactional Justice
There is some evidence that these
two components of interactional justice could be separated into two separate
dimensions of justice (e.g., Colquitt, 2001).
Bies (2001) provides an in-depth
discussion of many factors that could be considered interactional justice (such
as the deception of employees or the use of abusive words or actions).
11: Research Example
See Greenberg (1990) for the report of this
interesting study. The pay cut was
temporary (about 10 weeks). The inventory of such items as tools and supplies
was collected unobtrusively, and factors such as normal use were taken into
There was also a third plant in the study that
served as a control. Theft did not
change in this plant over time. Before
and after the pay cut, theft in all three plants was similar.
It was only while the pay cut was in effect that differences in theft
that theft in both plants returned to normal after the pay was returned to
12: Improving Fairness Perceptions
In order to improve distributive fairness
perceptions, employers can make sure that the situation is perceived as
equitable is the right allocation rule being applied? Will employees see
their outcomes/input ratio as equal to others?
In order to improve procedural justice perceptions,
employers can make sure that none of the various rules of procedural justice are
violated (see slide #8).
In order to improve interactional justice
perceptions, employers can make sure that employees are given adequate
explanations, and that they are treated with sincerity and respect (see slide
For the second point (change perceptions of
fairness), note that perceptions of fairness can be inaccurate.
It is hoped that this line of research can be used to adjust employees
incorrect perceptions of justice, although this line of research could
conceivably be used to make employees think their situation was fair when it
Additional supplemental points:
Folger and Cropanzanos
(1998) Fairness Theory provides a more complex discussion of the mechanisms by
which perceptions of justice might be changed (see Chapter 7).
The social psychological
literature on attribution theory can be integrated here if desired. Some
organizational justice researchers (e.g., Ployhart & Ryan, 1997) have begun
to look at how attribution theory plays a role in justice judgments and in
reactions to organizational decisions.
might be interested in how one might measure perceptions of organizational
justice in the workplace. Several different scales of organizational justice
perceptions exist see Colquitt, 2001, for an example.
For a discussion of justice issues related to layoffs, students may wish
to read a recent article in the APA Monitor (Murray, 2002).
Summary: No notes
Resources to get
a basic understanding of organizational justice:
Folger, R., & Cropanzano, R. (1998). Organizational justice and
human resource management. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
This book gives a comprehensive discussion of contemporary justice
issues. Instructors wishing to
familiarize themselves with the basic issues should read the Preface (pp. xii-xxvi).
Colquitt, J. A., Conlon, D. E., Wesson, W. J., Porter, C. O. L. H., &
Ng, K. Y. (2001). Justice at the millennium: A meta-analytic review of 25 years
of organizational justice research. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86,
This article is a comprehensive empirical review (183 studies) of
relationships between justice and various outcomes. Specific components of procedural justice are examined
Greenberg, J., & Cropanzano, R. (Eds.) (2001). Advances in
organizational justice. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
This book includes
advanced discussions of cutting-edge justice issues written by leading justice
Other Works Cited
in this Lesson:
J. S. (1965). Inequity in social exchange. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in
experimental social psychology (Vol. 2, pp. 267-299). New York: Academic
R. J. (2001). Interactional (in)justice: The sacred and the profane.
In J. Greenberg & R. Cropanzano (Eds.), Advances in organizational
justice (pp. 89-118). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
R. J., & Moag, J. F. (1986). Interactional justice: Communication criteria
of fairness. In R. J. Lewicki, B. H. Sheppard, & M. H. Bazerman (Eds.), Research
on negotiations in organizations (Vol. 1, pp. 43-55). Greenwich, CT: JAI
Z. S., & Cropanzano, R. (2001). The history of organizational justice: The
founder speak. In R. Cropanzano (Ed.), Justice in the workplace: From theory
to practice (Vol. 2, pp. 3-26). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
J. (2002). Making sense of procedural fairness: How high procedural fairness can
reduce or heighten the influence of outcome favorability. Academy of
Management Review, 27, 58-76.
J., Konovsky, M., Cooper-Schneider, R., Folger, R., Martin, C., & Bies, R.
J. (1994). Interactive effects of procedural justice and outcome negativity on
victims and survivors of job loss. Academy of Management Journal, 17,
J., & Weisenfeld, B. M. (1996). An integrative framework for explaining
reactions to decisions: Interactive effects of outcomes and procedures. Psychological
Bulletin, 120, 189-208.
J. A. (2001). On the dimensionality of organizational justice: A construct
validation of a measure. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86, 386-400.
R., & Ambrose, M. L. (2001). Procedural and distributive justice are more
similar than you think: A monistic perspective and a research agenda. In J.
Greenberg & R. Cropanzano (Eds.), Advances in organizational justice
(pp. 119-151). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
J. (1990). Employee theft as a reaction to underpayment inequity: The hidden
cost of pay cuts. Journal of Applied Psychology, 75, 561-568.
G. S. (1976). The distribution of rewards and resources in groups and
organizations. In L. Berkowitz & W. Walster (Eds.), Advances in
experimental social psychology (Vol. 9, pp. 91-131). New York: Academic
G. S. (1980). What should be done with equity theory? New approaches to the
study of fairness in social relationships. In K. Gergen, M. Greenberg, & R.
Willis (Eds.), Social exchanges: Advances in theory and research (pp.
27-55). New York: Plenum.
Lind, E. A.,
& Tyler, T. R. (1988). The social psychology of procedural justice.
New York: Plenum.
(2002, April). Psychologists help companies traverse the minefields of layoffs. APA
Monitor on Psychology, 33, 50-51.
E., & Ryan, A. M. (1997). Toward an explanation of applicant reactions: An
examination of organizational justice and attribution frameworks. Organizational
Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 72, 308-335.
J., & Walker, L. (1975). Procedural justice: A psychological analysis.
Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
SAMPLE TEST QUESTIONS
1._________ refers to the study of perceptions of fairness in the
2. If particular decisions in an organization are
made without bias, and are made using the same criteria every time, employees
are likely to have positive perceptions of which component of justice?
3. If I wanted to maximize the interactional
justice in a situation, what would I do?
a. Make my employees talk to
each other more
b. create a peer review system
c. treat my employees with
warmth and consideration
d. elevate self-awareness
Short Answer Question:
Your department at work has decided to create the
position of Workgroup Leader, which would oversee the employees in each work
group and would report to the plant manager.
The manager has asked you to create the procedures that would be used to
select this new person. Given what
you know about Procedural Justice, briefly describe the procedures that you
would use. Then, discuss how your
procedure used at least three of the components of procedural justice discussed
Procedural Justice Exercise
Imagine that you are the human resources director at a
company that manufactures different types of baseball bats. The company employs
approximately 300 people to work on the different machines that produce the
varieties of bats. Employees work in groups of about 5-10 people under the
supervision of a line manager.
Recently, the line managers have been complaining to you
about a problem with many employees. Employees
havent been respecting the line manager they give snide or rude answers
to questions, and theyve been arriving at work late more often than usual
(some people are just not showing up for work). The line managers have asked you
to hire employees who have more respect for authority.
However, you suspect that the hiring process isnt the
problem. You noticed that these
reports of deviant employee behavior first started three months ago.
That was right about the time that all employees were given the results
of their annual performance review. Thus,
you think its possible that these employee behaviors may be linked to their
reactions to the performance appraisal process, and decide to review the
companys policies on performance appraisal.
The current performance appraisal system was put in place
15 years ago. At that time, the
company only made one type of bat and only used one kind of machine to do it.
Thus, even though employees worked in different groups, they all did exactly the
same thing. The company wrote up a
single, detailed job description based on how employees were supposed to do
their jobs. The performance
appraisal is based on this job description. Each step in the job description is
used as one part of the performance appraisal process that is, every
employee gets a rating on his or her performance at each step.
The appraisals are conducted by the line managers, who rate each of their
employees on a 1-5 scale based on how well the employee performs that particular
In recent years, however, the company has expanded its
market into different kinds of baseball bats, which use different machines and
processes to produce. Thus, different groups of employees are performing
slightly different tasks. Thus, parts of the performance appraisal form dont
always match up to what employees are actually doing. In these cases, the line managers have been told to do the
best they can assign ratings on those parts of the form. In order to get
employees to take the ratings seriously, all ratings are considered final.
Questions for Discussion:
procedural justice rules might employees perceive to have been violated?
would you recommend that the organization do to improve perceptions of the
fairness of this process?
Notes for the
Instructor Regarding the Exercise:
Although there may be variability in students responses
based on the ambiguity of the example, the primary rules that have been violated
are accuracy (i.e., the performance appraisal form is based on an outdated job,
so parts of it are irrelevant), correctability (i.e., line managers decisions
are final), and consistency (i.e., since individual line managers have
discretion in the interpretation of the performance appraisal form, they may not
rate their employees using consistent criteria, and different line managers may
rate the same employee differently based on their interpretations of the form).
All of these flaws in the system could lead to perceptions of unfairness,
and then to deviant employee behaviors.
It is anticipated that the students will make several
recommendations. Below, you will
find some follow-up questions to stimulate the discussion of their
The students may recommend re-analyzing the job to come up with a
more updated performance appraisal. At
this point you could discuss how the organization may be unwilling to do
this very often, due to the time and money needed.
Additionally, in some industries, the nature of the job itself is
almost constantly changing (i.e., new machinery may be added frequently).
Thus, the new form may become quickly outdated too.
Regardless of these issues, this is still a good solution.
Even if the performance appraisal instrument cant be changed, students
may argue that line managers could be made to be more consistent in how they
use the instrument. For instance, the HR manager could come up with a strict
policy on how to use the form, and train line managers to follow the
guidelines. One issue you might
bring up with this solution is whether or not the line managers would
see this as fair you are removing some of the discretion they had in
doing their jobs, and are forcing them to do it a certain way.
Use this example to indicate how many different types of people exist
in the organization, and making something fair for one group might increase
perceptions of unfairness for another group. Ask students how they would
handle explaining this decision to the line managers (watch for procedural
and interactional justice principles).
Students may propose instituting an appeals system.
Again, the problems associated with the above issues (i.e., cost,
perceptions of fairness from the line managers perspective) are relevant.
that the economy isnt going very well, and the company doesnt have
much money to spend on changing its performance appraisal process.
How could the organization handle such a situation? Suggestions could
include being careful how to explain the situation to employees, and doing
so in a manner to evoke positive perceptions of interactional justice.
sure you note that the HR directors should not just rely on their own
personal impressions of the process. While
students may be able to come up with some good ideas about why employees
think the procedures are unfair, these perceptions should still be assessed
through interviews or surveys.