March 2018 Business SCAN
The concept of organisational justice focuses on the effect that social relationships in the working environment have on performance. The theory behind this is that an individual’s perception of fairness, relating to aspects of their work, influences their behaviour. This, in turn, can lead to either negative or positive outcomes in terms of performance. This means that the adoption of fair principles has potential positive effects on both organisational performance and employees’ wellbeing.
Most people prefer to be treated fair rather than equal
Research shows that people care as much about the fairness of the process through which an outcome is produced as they do about the outcome itself.
However, adopting fair process in teams and organisations is remarkably challenging and surprisingly subtle.
A very important thing to understand is that fairness does not mean equality. What one person needs and what someone else needs, to reach the same outcome, may be very different. Fairness is not necessarily about treating people the same.
People, in general, appear to always be making procedural judgements and these judgements tend to be important to them. What research shows is that people’s justice perceptions of what a fair process is are determined by similar principles across cultures. So, what’s the key to fair process?
The three E’s of fair process:
- Engagement: This is about involving people in the decisions that affect them by asking for their input and allowing them to challenge and refute the merits of one another’s ideas and assumptions.
- Explanation: It is important that everyone involved and affected should understand why final decisions are made as they are. This does not mean they necessarily agree with the decision (outcome), but they do understand the process that was used as well as the logic and reasoning that the decision is based on.
- Expectation: This is about clarity. Once a new decision is made, for example about a new procedure, those that made the decision must clearly state the new rules of the game – what is now expected of people that was different from before.
Sources: Kim, W. C. and Mauborgne, R. (2005) Value innovation: a leap into the blue ocean, Emerald Group Publishing Limited/Journal of Business Research, Volume 26, Issue 4; Wilkins, A. (2018) Change and Opportunity: How to Lead and Manage Change in Seven Key Steps, Perspectiv LLP, Jan 2018
Assess how well you use Engagement, Explanation and Expectation to strengthen your teams’ perception of fair process.
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