Procedural Justice


Procedural Justice

  • By Ian Bradley
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As a reader of various scholarly journals in Occupational Psychology, I have often been struck by the seemingly amorphous nature of some of our concepts.  One clear example is the term organizational climate- a concept for which we all have an innate feel for, but a concept that academicians apply multiple definitions.

The term has been used to describe such diverse areas as formal lines of authority, level of risk-taking, norms and company values.  The latter aspect of organizational climate is often expressed in the way a company makes decisions, or applies policy.

Well, that’s all well and good but when you see first-hand example of violations of procedural justice and their consequences for employee work behaviour then those amorphous concepts quickly take real meaning.

Recently, I had an executive who related a story about how his own management team targeted a senior manager for dismissal.  The ploy involved enticing the senior manager away from one division to a foreign subsidiary with a job that somehow disappeared in the putative transition.

Although the company was successful in having the targeted employee leave, there was a message that was sent to everyone in the organization:

This could happen to you too.

Almost instinctively, everyone began to fear his own job demise, and like a creeping virus senior managers began protecting their jobs by guarding information or procedures.  The reasoning that spread silently through the company was almost:

I show that no one can do my job, then I can’t be fired

The costs for the company of this one egregious example of injustice were profound with a long lasting impact of the working climate.

The bottom-line:

When decisions are taken, especially decisions regarding unfavourable events such as downsizings, terminations or re-assignments, play fair; if not a company risks long-term alienation of your key asset- your employees.