Justice focuses on an individual’s subjective concerns about fairness capturing the extent to which
individuals perceive the outcomes, procedures and interpersonal treatment they receive as fair.
Types of Organizational Justice
Distributive Justice: It captures the extent to which an individual believes that the outcome they
received was fair. Adam postulated the method of knowing if they have been treated fairly or not by
calculating the ratio of their inputs (i.e. education, training and experience) to their outputs (i.e. pay,
job status and rewards) and then comparing this ratio with the corresponding ratios of a comparison
other (i.e. a co-worker). Equity Theory is the basis of distributive justice. Individuals try to maximise
their outcomes and if they find themselves in a situation of unequal ratio, they experience cognitive,
emotional and behavioural responses. For example, underpayment relative to another gives rise to
anger where as overpayment relative to another gives rise to guilt.
Procedural Justice: An individual’s perception of the fairness of the procedures used to determine
the outcomes they receive. Leventhal (1980) postulated that key to process fairness were six
principles: consistency (across persons and times), bias suppression (i.e. personal self-interest),
accuracy (of valid information), correctability (of inaccurate decisions), representativeness (of all the
parties affected) and ethicality (conforming to moral and ethical standards).
Fair process effect or voice effect: When disputants view the procedure fair only if they feel they
have control over the presentation of their arguments as well as time to present their case.
Interactional Justice: The perceptions of how an individual is treated by authority figures as the
procedures are implemented or “how” the procedures have been implemented. It is divided into
two components: Informational justice captures truthfulness and justification and focuses on
explanations provided to people that convey information about why procedures were used in a
certain way or why outcomes were distributed in a certain fashion; interpersonal justice capturing
respect and propriety of treatment reflects the degree to which people are treated with politeness,
dignity, and respect by authorities and third parties involved in executing procedures or determining
outcomes. Four rules underlie interactional justice and have been supported empirically (Tyler,
1984; Bies, 1985): truthfulness (openness and honesty), justification (adequate explanations),
respect (sincerity and dignity) and propriety (avoidance of improper questions/statements, i.e. race,
gender, age).
Retributive Justice: Justice which considers that punishment, if proportionate, is a morally
acceptable response to crime, with an eye to the satisfaction and psychological benefits it can
bestow to the aggrieved party, its intimates and society.
Restorative Justice: Restorative processes bring those harmed by crime or conflict, and those
responsible for the harm, into communication, enabling everyone affected by a particular incident to
play a part in repairing the harm and finding a positive way forward.
Effects of (in)justice
Independent effects of justice dimensions: This perspective maintains that the dimensions of
organizational justice have independent effects.
‘Two-factor model’ (Ambrose & Arnaud, 2005): Distributive justice is related to attitudes about
specific events, such as promotion and satisfaction with one’s performance appraisal, pay
satisfaction (McFarlin & Sweeney, 1992). Procedural justice predicts system related satisfaction, that
is, attitudes and behaviours towards the organization such as organizational citizenship behaviour
(OCB) (e.g., Moorman, 1991) and organizational commitment and trust (Konovsky & Cropanzano,
1991). ‘Three-factor model’ (Ambrose, Hess & Ganesan, 2007): Takes into account interactional
justice which it says is associated with attitudes and behaviours at the agent level (i.e. supervisor)
(Colquitt et al., 2001)
Bies and Moag (1986) demonstrated that interpersonal and informational justice perceptions were
drawn on by individuals when they reacted to authority figures (i.e. boss, supervisor) and procedural
justice was drawn on when reacting to the organization.
Interactive effects of justice dimensions: Independent justice effects interacts with each other. For
example, Brockner and Wiesenfeld (1996) demonstrated the interactive effect between distributive
and procedural justice; when procedural justice is high, it matters less if the outcome was fair or not
but if the procedures are deemed unfair, the favourability of the outcome dictates an individual’s
overall reaction. Skarlicki and Folger (1997) empirically demonstrated an interactive effect between
the facets of justice and retaliatory behavior. Specifically, their findings illustrate that the
relationship between distributive justice and retaliation is only significant when there is low
procedural and interactional justice.
Additive effects of justice dimensions: Ambrose, Hees and Ganesan (2007) investigated the
relationship between the four types of justice, event attitudes (satisfaction with complaint handling)
and system-related attitudes (towards the organization) in relation to complaint handling
experiences. They found evidence for the additive perspective: all types of justice interplayed to
effect event and system related attitudes. Recent work (Ambrose & Schminke 2009) suggests that
overall justice mediates the relationship between specific justice judgments and employee selfreported job satisfaction, commitment and turnover intentions and also supervisory rated
organizational citizenship behaviour (OCB), task performance and organizational deviance.
The independent and interactive models highlighted the importance of procedural and interactional
justice, downplaying the role of distributive justice. As a counteracting force, the additive model asks
not to overlook the role of distributive justice by demonstrating that all types of justice play an
important role in determining an individual’s overall justice judgment.
Theoretical explanation
Counterfactual conceptualisations
1) Referent Cognitions and Fairness Theory: Folger suggested that when judgements of
injustice arise, an individual’s thinking pattern becomes referential – they formulates a
mental comparison of what ‘might have happened instead if things were as they should
have been’. Such thoughts are labelled referent cognitions. A high referent condition
(awareness that alternative procedures would have led to more favourable outcomes) will
result in perceptions of injustice compared to a low referent condition (no awareness that
alternative procedures would lead to better outcomes). Several studies support RCT,
however, although the theory makes explicit the conditions necessary to hold others
accountable for injustice, it fails to explain how such accountability judgements are formed.
2) Fairness Theory: Injustice occurs when the following three judgements are formed:
- Unfavourable condition: Would I have been better off if a different outcome or procedure
had been used?
- Accountability condition: Could the authority have behaved differently, deploying a different
course of action?
- Moral and ethical condition: Should the authority have behaved morally and ethically
The determination of fairness rests upon an individual’s cognitions about what would, could
and should have occurred.
Heuristic conceptualisations
1) Fairness heuristic theory (FHT): Individuals’ social and organizational existence is
characterised by a continual tension, labelled the ‘fundamental social dilemma’, between
social impulses and individual interests (Lind, 2001). Considerations are made about whether
to co-operate with authority or not: although co-operation could lead to longer-term
favourable outcomes, it may leave individuals open to potential exploitation (i.e. will they be
treated fairly and with respect?). Given that it is impossible for individuals to calculate these
factors in each interaction, in order to cope with the dilemma, fairness heuristics are formed
based on experiences with authority for example, by respectfulness of communication by
the authority etc.
2) Uncertainty management theory (UMT): Uncertainty provokes concerns about social
exclusion, exploitation and self-identity harms where as fairness signals to the individual that
they are valued members of their group and enhances their self esteem and self worth
(Tyler, 1994). Uncertainty moderate individual reactions to procedural and interactional
justice in such a way that when individuals faced high uncertainty in terms of performance
standards and appropriate behaviours within the organization, they responded more
favourably to procedural and interactional justice with higher levels of job satisfaction than
individuals who faced low uncertainty. Research on UMT suggests that uncertainty acts as a
trigger for fairness judgments which in turn act as a mechanism to cope with uncertainty.
Individual vs. Social conceptualizations
1) The Instrumental Model: procedural justice is seen as fair when disputants ultimately seek
control by putting forth their argument, which in turn assists them with some guarantee
over favourable outcomes. Results also showed that high process control (‘voice’) increased
fairness, even in the absence of decision control.
2) The Relational Model: A procedure is seen as fair if it enhances one’s status within a group
and if it indicates a positive relationship with an authority figure (i.e. supervisor); the
converse is true for procedures perceived as unfair (i.e. whereby the relationship is negative
or that an individual is a low status member of the group).
3) Moral Virtues Model: Termed the Moral Virtues model (Cropanzano et al., 2001), it is
asserted that justice is important because it appeals to one’s concern for human dignity,
ethics and morality. The individuals possess a deontic sense of fairness and act on injustice
even when they stand to attain very little in the way of tangible gains.
The role of culture and the individual in organizational justice research: For example, Americans
with an individualistic orientation (whereby personal identities are separate from group identities)
prefer equity where as Chinese with a collectivistic orientation (whereby personal identities are
bound with group identities) prefer equality. Studies suggest that both Eastern and Western cultures
place emphasis on outcomes but in different ways: Chinese place emphasis on organizational goals
whereas Americans lay emphasis on humanistic goals; distributive justice is integral to Chinese and
Koreans and interactional justice integral to the Americans and Japanese. Those high on materialists
will place more importance to distributive justice to perceive fairness where as those low will
emphasis more on procedural and interactional justice.
Research shows that regardless of their cultural background, employees care about fair treatment in
the workplace and hence harnessing practices to be in line with culturally diverse workforces is
Negative affectivity (NA) has been examined as an antecedent of fairness perceptions.
Individuals high in trait NA (i.e. experiencing negative emotional states across time and situations)
were more likely to perceive a situation as unfair compared to individuals low in NA.
Van den Bos (2003) found that in conditions of uncertainty (due to incomplete information)
individuals rated procedures as more fair when they were in a positive mood and less fair when they
were in a negative mood.
Risk aversion moderates the effects of justice on task performance and counterproductive behavior.
High risk-averse individuals react more strongly than low risk averse individuals to high fairness.
They are more sensitive to fairness perceptions than low risk averse.
Response to Injustice:
Retribution or Restorative Justice? Revenge (a desire to get even for a perceived harm)? When the
victim is of a lower status than the offender, the victim is more likely to engage in revenge when the
procedural justice climate is low; when the procedural justice climate is high, forgiveness and
reconciliation are more likely, particularly when the victim has a higher status.
Future research could examine organizational factors that inhibit or facilitate revenge and
restorative justice as responses to injustices in the workplace. A second avenue for future research is
to explore the consequences of witnessing injustices in the workplace from a bystander perspective.
Finally, research could explore the extent to which injustice (experienced or witnessed) provokes
mobilization of collective action against the source of the injustice.
Anticipatory justice: expecting injustice in the workplace
Shapiro and Kirkman (1999, 2001) coined the term anticipatory injustice as employees’ expectations
regarding whether one will or will not experience (in)justice in the context of some future event,
arguing that “if employees expect to see injustice in their work situations, unless they have
unequivocal, objective evidence to indicate otherwise, they are likely to
see it” (Shapiro & Kirkman, 2001, p. 153).
Is fairness always preferred? Maybe not! For example, unfair procedures may serve to preserve
individuals’ self-esteem (one’s sense of self-worth) by allowing them to blame someone else for a
negative event. Under some conditions high procedural fairness prevents people from satisfying
basic psychological motives such as a need to feel good about oneself and maintaining an element of
control. At these times, one of three effects occurs (Brockner, Wiesenfeld & Diekman, 2009):
attenuation (people desire high process fairness compared to low process fairness, but in lesser
degrees), elimination (people do not prefer high process fairness over low process fairness) or
reversal (people assign more value to low process fairness than high process fairness).
Behaving justly: Folger and Pugh (2002) argue that one potential explanation for managers behaving
unfairly is the “Churchill effect” that captures interpersonal distancing by harm-doers. Churchill
Effect? Folger and Skarlicki (1998) found that blameworthiness was positively related to the extent
to which managers distanced themselves from a tough decision – other factors might include a lack
of motivation to maintain the relationship or the inability to repair the relationship (Folger & Pugh,
2002). These factors help explain why managerial distancing might be more prevalent when
employees are being laid off.

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