Posted by: Katherine Raleigh
Programme Manager on Fri 23 Mar

Welcome to the latest in a series of brief interviews with guest experts from KnowledgeBrief’s Innovation Programme, providing a window into the experts’ latest ideas and new advice for executives.

Following the Innovation Day in March, Jeanne Meinholt, Head of Research at KnowledgeBrief (KB), interviewed Dr Christine Unterhitzenberger (CU) from Liverpool Business School to discuss the importance of adopting fair principles and procedures in the workplace for employee performance and wellbeing.

KB: What’s the key business challenge that organisations need to address that your research tackles?

CU: There is increased uncertainty in today’s working environments which employees and organisations have to deal with. The reasons for this uncertainty might be organisational change, working in projects or economic variability to name just a few. My research focus is on Organisational Justice, which is the perception of fairness in the working environment and research has shown that employees use the perception of fairness as a heuristic in uncertain environments. This means that if employees perceive to be treated fairly by their manager or supervisor they take this into account when making subconscious decisions if to commit to their work, to trust their manager/supervisor or to show extra effort. In general, the adoption of fair principles and procedures is beneficial for the organisation as well as the employees and there are various positive effects.

KB: What advice would you give to executives, based on your findings?

CU: I would recommend to executives to become more aware of fairness and justice in the working environment. Research has shown that it has such a big impact on employees as well as on organisations that it needs to be an element managers and leaders take into account. In general I would recommend to them to:

  • evaluate the equality and equity of the distribution of resources and the individual’s needs,
  • make sure that they have consistent and transparent procedures in place, where their employees can participate,
  • share information appropriately (i.e. be able to justify why they share information and which information) and communicate truthfully, and last but not least
  • consider respect, propriety and dignity when communicating with their employees.

KB: How does your latest research approach this? What do the results indicate?

CU: With my latest research I look at the perception of fairness in temporary multi organisations and/or project environments, which are formed to deliver a project and create unique settings through the behaviours of people interacting across the boundaries of the different firms. The findings of my research indicate that by adopting fair principles and procedures the often poor performance of projects can be enhanced. Furthermore, they suggest that if fair principles and procedures are present, employees (and project team members) are more committed to their work and will demonstrate organisational citizenship behaviour. In contrast to this, the presence of unfairness is perceived to create an absolutely adversarial environment which demotivates employees and lowers their levels of commitment.

KB: How does your latest research approach this? What do the results indicate?

CU: I very much enjoyed the Innovation Day and the great discussions with the executives. Through the discussions it became obvious that Organisational Justice is a very current topic which the executives deal with on an everyday basis, without actually being aware of the concept and its different dimensions. The meeting also provided me with inspiration for potential future areas of research based on questions which were asked and which occupy executives from different industries. 

With thanks to Dr. Christine Unterhitzenberger, Senior Lecturer in Project Management at Liverpool Business School.

Next month, we will be talking to Dr Jan Brown, Liverpool Business School, on the service-ecosystem. Find out more here.

Part of a series of brief interviews with expert guests from our Innovation Programmes, we cover insights from the latest research and key advice for executives to stay ahead in management and innovation.

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