A taxonomy of organizational justice theories


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A taxonomy of organizational justice theories

  1. 1. A Taxonomy of Organizational Justice TheoriesAuthor(s): Jerald GreenbergSource: The Academy of Management Review, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Jan., 1987), pp. 9-22Published by: Academy of ManagementStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/257990Accessed: 13/08/2009 13:19Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTORs Terms and Conditions of Use, available athttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTORs Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained athttp://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=aom.Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to build trusted digital archives for scholarship. We work with thescholarly community to preserve their work and the materials they rely upon, and to build a common research platform thatpromotes the discovery and use of these resources. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. Academy of Management is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The Academy of Management Review.http://www.jstor.org
  2. 2. ? Academy of Management Review, 1987, Vol. 12, No. 1, 9-22. A Taxonomy of Organizational Justice Theories JERALDGREENBERG Ohio State University A taxonomy is presented that categorizes theories of organizational justice with respect to two independent dimensions: a reactive- proactive dimension and a process-content dimension. Various theo- ries within each of the four resulting categories are identified. The implications of the taxonomy are discussed with respect to clarifying theoretical interrelationships, tracking research trends, and identify- ing needed areas of research. Stimulated by conceptualizations of justice in of such newer approaches and because theseorganizations by such theorists as Homans (1961), may be less familiar to organizational scientists,Adams (1965), and Walster, Berscheid, and Wal- the present paper will categorize various con-ster (1973), organizational researchers devoted ceptualizations of justice around a taxonomicconsiderable attention in the 1960s and 1970s to scheme. This taxonomy will not only offer a par-testing propositions about the distribution of pay- simonious way of organizing these various con-ment and other work-related rewards derived ceptualizations, but in so doing, will highlightfrom equity theory (for reviews, see Campbell & their interrelationships and their importance toPritchard, 1976; Greenberg, 1982). Although the study of organizations.reviews and critiques of equity theory once domi-nated the pages of organizational journals (e.g., Dimensions of the TaxonomyGoodman & Friedman, 1971; Pritchard, 1969;Weick, 1966), more recently it has been the sub- The present taxonomy is derived by combin-ject of far less attention (Reis, 1986). It would be ing two conceptually independent dimensions:a mistake, however, to view this trend as an a reactive-proactive dimension and a process-indication that organizational scientists are less content dimension. It is not assumed that theseinterested in matters of justice and fairness in are the only organizing dimensions that may beorganizations than they used to be. Indeed, con- identified. Indeed, it is possible that different tax-cerns about fairness have been expressed in such onomic schemes may be proposed that are basedorganizational domains as conflict resolution on completely different conceptual dimensions.(Aram & Salipante, 1981), personnel selection However, the dimensions identified in the pres-(Arvey, 1979), labor disputes (Walton & McKersie, ent taxonomy appear to be very useful ones for1965), and wage negotiation (Mahoney, 1975), to organizing a wide range of conceptualizationsname just a few. Although research inspired by of interest in the field of organizational behavior.equity theory has slowed down greatly, therehave emerged a variety of different approaches Reactive-Proactive Dimensionto justice that are at least as useful in explaining The reactive-proactive dimension was sug-behavior in a broader variety of organizational gested by a distinction made by Van Avermaet,contexts. Because there has been a proliferation McClintock, and Moskowitz (1978), and was used 9
  3. 3. to organize the equity theory literature by Green- Two points must be made regarding the theo-berg (1982). The distinction is between seeking to ries in this taxonomy. First, no attempt has beenredress injustice and striving to attain justice. made to be exhaustive. Instead, the theories iden- A reactive theory of justice focuses on peoples tified and described are ones that are either well-attempts either to escape from or to avoid per- established or promising ones within psychol-ceived unfair states. Such theories examine reac- ogy or sociology, fields within which the study oftions to injustices. By contrast, proactive theories justice in organizations traditionally has beenfocus on behaviors designed to promote justice. rooted. Limiting the examples does not imply thatThey examine behaviors attempting to create just other theories would not fit in. Rather, in view ofstates. the clarifying function of the present work, ex- cluding them is more reflective of a judgmentProcess-Content Dimension regarding the limitations of their demonstrated The second dimension, the process-content or potential value for organizational study.dimension, was inspired by legal research dis- Second, although some of the theories classi-tinguishing between the way verdicts are derived fied by the present taxonomy have been widelyand what those verdicts are (Walker, Lind, & applied to organizational contexts, none wereThibaut, 1979). Mahoney (1983) made a similar formulated with organizations in mind as theirdistinction by differentiating between the pro- exclusive focus. Even Adamss (1965)popular the-cesses by which wages are determined and the ory of inequity, originally tested in work settings,outcome of those processes. As such, we may has been described as a general theory of socialdistinguish between approaches to justice that behavior (Walster et al., 1973). Other theoriesfocus on the ends achieved and the means used presented here originated within the legal milieuto acquire those ends. (e.g., Thibaut & Walker, 1975). Nonetheless, A process approach to justice focuses on how because the theories have been, or are nowvarious outcomes (in organizations, pay and rec- being used to explain organizational behavior,ognition are good examples) are determined. they will be referred to collectively as theories ofSuch orientations focus on the fairness of the pro- organizational justice.cedures used to make organizational decisionsand to implement those decisions. In contrast,content approaches concern themselves with the Table 1fairness of the resulting distribution of outcomes. Taxonomy of Organizational Justice TheoriesThese perspectives address the relative fairness with Corresponding Predominant Exemplarsof the outcomes received by various organiza-tional units (typically either individuals orgroups). Reactive- Content-Process Dimension Proactive Dimension Content Process Identifying Theories Within the Taxonomy Reactive Content Reactive Process Itis assumed that the reactive-proactive dimen- Reactive Equity theory Procedural justicesion and the process-content dimension are inde- (Adams, 1965) theory (Thibautpendent of each other, thereby yielding four dis- & Walker, 1975)tinct classes of justice conceptualizations when Proactive Content Proactive Processthe two dimensions are combined. Table 1 organ- Proactive Justice judgment Allocation preference theory (Leventhal theory (Leventhal,izes these approaches and identifies a primary (1976a, 1980) Karuza, & Fry, 1980)exemplar of each. 10
  4. 4. Reactive Content Theories ers perceiving an inequitable state may react behaviorally by altering their performance Reactive content theories are conceptual ap- levels, and/or cognitively by attempting to justifyproaches to justice that focus on how individuals the outcomes received (Walster et al., 1978).respond to unfair treatment. Organizational sci-entists are probably most familiar with this class It was, no doubt, because the theoretical met-of justice theory because most popular conceptu- rics were so explicitly suited to work-relatedalizations of justice in organizations fall within exchanges that equity theory became so popu-this category. Included among these theories are larly applied to organizational research. Indeed,Homanss (1961) theory of distributive justice, and it was within simulated work settings that mostAdamss (1965) and Walster et al.s (1973) ver- of the research on equity theory was conductedsions of equity theory (see also Walster, Walster, (e.g., Lawler & OGara, 1967; Pritchard, Dun-& Berscheid, 1978). Despite several differences nette, & Jorgenson, 1972). In the prototypical testin the specifics of their formulation (see Cohen & of equity theory, the experimenter manipulatedGreenberg, 1982), these theories share an impor- inequity by leading worker-subjects to believetant common orientation in explicitly stating that that the basis for their payment was unfair-people will respond to unfair relationships by thereby creating either "underpayment inequity"displaying certain negative emotions, which they or "overpayment inequity." For example, thiswill be motivated to escape by acting so as to may have included: (a) leading subjects to be-redress the experienced inequity. It is this aspect lieve that an error occurred that caused them toof the theories that qualifies them as reactive receive the same wage as their more qualifiedcontent theories: They focus on how people react co-workers, thereby manipulating overpaymentto unfair distributions of rewards and resources. (e.g., Adams & Rosenbaum, 1962), or (b) allow- Conceptually rooted in the tradition of balance ing subjects to discover through conversationstheories popular in the 1950s and 1960s (e.g., with co-workers that they were equally qualifiedFestinger, 1957; Heider, 1958) these approaches but unequally paid (e.g., Garland, 1973).to justice conceptualized "equitable," or "distri- Typically, performance on some work task- butively just" relations as ones in which there popularly a proofreading task for which quan- was an equal balance between the ratio of a tity and quality measures could be taken-con- persons contributions and his or her outcomes. stituted the dependent variable. According to Unequal balances, such as those that existed equity theory, underpaid workers should be less whenever workers were either overpaid or un- productive and less satisfied than equitably paid derpaid relative to another person with equal workers and overpaid workers should be more contributions, were assumed to be unpleasant, productive and less satisfied than equitably paid which were theorized to prompt changes in job workers. In general, and over a wide variety of satisfaction and/or performance. In particular, experimental settings, support was found for Adamss (1965) theory of inequity, the approach these predictions (for a review, see Greenberg, that inspired most of the justice-related research 1982). in organizational settings, specified that over- Several sociological theories that have devel- paid workers would feel "guilty" and that under- oped in response to certain aspects of Adamss paid workers would feel "angry." These nega- conceptualization, particularly the nature of tive states were expected to motivate behavioral social comparisons, also should be included and/or attitudinal changes on the part of the within the category of reactive content theories. workers involved that altered, either behavior- Among these is the status value version of equity ally or perceptually, the relationship between theory proposed by Berger and his associates their own and anothers contributions and out- (Anderson, Berger, Zelditch, & Cohen, 1969; comes (cf., Greenberg, 1984). For example, work- Berger, Zelditch, Anderson, & Cohen, 1972). 11
  5. 5. According to this formulation, a persons feel- relatively less privileged than their civilian coun-ings of inequity and reactions to inequity result terparts in the north. Although most of the subse-not from comparisons made to a specific other quent relative deprivation research focused onperson (referred to as a "local comparison"), but violent attempts to change political systemsfrom comparisons to a generalized other (referred (Crosby, 1976), some efforts have focused on howto as a "referential comparison"), such as an aggrieved employees react to organizationallyoccupational group. Extending this approach, induced discontent (Martin, 1981). For example,Jassos (1980) theory of distributive justice ignored large-scale survey studies by Crosby (1982, 1984)the outside comparisons in justice evaluations found that working women, especially those inaltogether, and defined justice in terms of the high prestige jobs, who although they may becomparisons people make between their actual more advantaged than nonworking women, tendshare of goods and their beliefs about a "just to be more aggrieved because they compareshare." Despite some important conceptual dif- themselves to working men, relative to whomferences between these theories and the more they are less advantaged. Research of this typefamiliar Adams formulation, their similar focus is typical of that generated today by relativeon how people react to beliefs about the unfair deprivation theory. Because it examines howdistribution of outcomes (regardless of the com- people will respond to perceived unfair rewardparative basis on which these judgments are distributions, relative deprivation theory clearlyformed) allows these theories to be clearly cate- can be identified as a reactive content theory.gorized as reactive content theories. Proactive Content Theories More closely related to traditional equitytheory, and the final reactive content theory of In contrast to reactive content theories, whichjustice to be identified, is the theory of relative focus on how workers respond to fair and unfairdeprivation (Crosby, 1976). Based on findings dat- outcome distributions, proactive content theoriesing back to World War II (Stouffer, Suchman, focus on how workers attempt to create fair out-DeVinney, Star, & Williams, 1949), but also more come distributions. The major theoretical state-recently examined in organizational contexts ments in this category have come from Leventhal(Crosby, 1984; Martin, 1981), the relative depriva- (1976a, 1980), who in the late 1960s and earlytion orientation to justice is becoming increas- 1970s conducted a series of laboratory studies iningly more popular among organizational scien- which the basic pattern of independent andtists. In its most general form, the relative depri- dependent variables found in traditional reac-vation approach asserts that certain reward dis- tive accounts of justice were reversed. That is,tribution patterns will encourage people to make Leventhal and his associates typically manipu-certain social comparisons, which will lead to lated concerns about justice (through appropri-feelings of deprivation and resentment, causing ate instructional sets) to examine their impact ona variety of reactions ranging from depression reward allocation decisions (for reviews, seethrough the outbreak of violent riots (Martin, 1981). Freedman & Montanari, 1980; Mikula, 1980). The term "relative deprivation," first used by Leventhal (1976b) contended that people some-Stouffer et al. (1949), refers to the counterintuitive times proactively strive to create equitable distri-finding that black soldiers stationed in the south butions of reward-those in which the rewardsfelt more satisfied with military life than black received are proportional to the contributionssoldiers stationed in northern bases despite socio- made-because these will be the most benefi-economic conditions being more favorable in the cial to all concerned parties in the long run.north. These effects were attributed to the ten- Indeed, many studies (e.g., Greenberg & Leven-dency for black soldiers in the south to feel more thal, 1976; Leventhal & Michaels, 1969) haveprivileged than their civilian counterparts in the shown that allocators often divide resources equi-south, whereas, black soldiers in the north felt tablv between recipients (for reviews, see Adams 12
  6. 6. & Freedman, 1976; Freedman & Montanari, ing an allocation decision. Similarly in more dis- 1980). However, additional research has shown tant relationships, people are expected to followthat allocators of rewards sometimes distribute the parity norm when the other is recognized asthose rewards in ways that violate the equity an individual, and the equity norm when react-norm-such as by distributing rewards equally, ing to the other as a role incumbent. Researchor in accordance with recipients needs (Schwin- relating various reward allocation practices toger, 1980). Recognizing that such violations of the nature of the relationship between peoplethe equity norm may be completely fair under has been supportive of justice motive theory (e.g.,appropriate circumstances, Leventhal (1976a, Carles & Carver, 1979). 1980)formulated his justice judgment model. This Despite some differences in underlying philo-model proposed that individuals attempt to make sophies, both justice judgment theory and jus-fair allocation decisions by variously applying tice motive theory make similar predictions aboutseveral possible allocation rules to the situations how people will allocate rewards under variousthey confront. For example, in situations in which circumstances-predictions that largely havethe importance of maintaining social harmony been supported by research (for a review, seebetween group members is stressed, the per- Deutsch, 1985). Both of these approaches clearlyceived fair allocation practice would call for fol- qualify as proactive content theories of justicelowing the equality norm-dividing rewards because they deal with how people seek to makeequally regardless of possible differential contri- decisions about the allocation of reward.butions among recipients (Deutsch, 1975). Whereas Leventhals approach to reward allo- Reactive Process Theoriescation practices is instrumental in character, Although it appears that theories focusing onanother proactive content theory of justice, Ler- the fairness of the processes used to make deci-ners (1977; Lerner & Whitehead, 1980) justice sions (process theories) do not differ appreciablymotive theory is decidedly more moralistic. Ler- from those theories focusing on the fairness ofner (1982) argued that justice is the preeminent the resulting decisions (content theories), this isconcern of human beings and the quest for jus- not the case because process theories stem fromtice as a means to a profit-maximizing end (as a different intellectual tradition-in particular,Leventhal proposed) is a mythical illusion. Like the law. In fact, legal scholars have commonlyLeventhal, however, Lerner recognized that allo- accepted that the procedures used to make judi-cation practices often go beyond the possibility cial decisions will have a profound influence onof proportional equity. In fact, Lerner identified the publics acceptance of them (Fuller, 1961).four principles that are commonly followed: (a) At approximately the same time when proac-competition-allocations based on the outcome tive content theories were formalized and re-of performance, (b) parity-equal allocations, (c) searched (the early 1970s) a team of researchersequity- allocations based on relative contribu- at the University of North Carolina, John Thibauttions, and (d) Marxian justice-allocations based and Laurens Walker, influenced by the traditionon needs. of research on legal procedures, undertook a Briefly, justice motive theory stipulates that the series of investigations designed to compareform of justice that will be followed in making reactions to various dispute resolution proceduresallocation decisions will depend on the nature of (for a review, see Thibaut & Walker, 1975). Theirthe relations between the parties involved in con- theory of procedural justice distinguished be-junction with the focus of the parties on each tween three parties: two disputants (such as theother as individuals or as occupants of positions. litigants in a court case), and an interveningFor example, the theory predicts that an individ- third party (such as a judge); and two stages ofual reacting to a close friend as an individual the dispute-resolution process: the process stage,will emphasize that persons needs when mak- during which evidence is presented, and the 13
  7. 7. decision stage, during which the evidence is used Musante, Walker, & Thibaut, 1980; Walker, Lind, to resolve the dispute. The ability to control the & Thibaut, 1979) have supported this claim (for selection and development of the evidence used reviews, see Folger & Greenberg, 1985; Thibaut to resolve the dispute is referred to as process & Walker, 1975). Interestingly, procedures giv- control; the ability to determine the outcome of ing diputants a voice in the decision-making pro- the dispute itself is referred to as decision control cess tend to enhance the acceptance of even (Thibaut & Walker, 1978). unfavorable decisions (LaTour, 1978; Lind et al., The procedures used can vary regarding the 1980.) degree of control the various parties have over Other research has generalized the Thibaut each stage. In particular, procedures may be and Walker findings to less formal settings. For identified that give third parties control over: both example, Tyler and his associates found that outcomes and procedures, autocratic procedures; reactions to encounters with police officers (Tyler decisions but not processes, arbitration proce- & Folger, 1980), politicians, and teachers (Tyler dures; processes but not decisions, mediation & Caine, 1981) also are heavily influenced byprocedures; and neither processes nor proce- the procedures that these authorities follow in dures, bargaining procedures. Finally, moot treating their clients. Recently, organizationalprocedures are those in which the disputants and researchers have actively attempted to extend third parties share control over outcomes and and apply Thibaut and Walkers theory of proce- processes. (Recently, Sheppard, 1984, has pro- dural justice to a variety of organizational con- posed a more extensive system.) texts, such as the resolution of labor disputes Although reactions to all of these procedures (Sheppard, 1984) and the appraisal of job perfor-were assessed, Thibaut and Walker were most mance (Greenberg, 1986a, 1986b), among oth-interested in comparing autocratic and arbitra- ers (for reviews, see Folger & Greenberg, 1985;tion procedures because these most closely dis- Greenberg & Folger, 1983; Greenberg & Tyler,tinguished between the major legal systems. For in press).example, the adversary system, used in Ameri-can and British courts, gives judges control over Proactive Process Theoriesthe verdict but leaves the process (e.g., selectionof attorneys, presentation of evidence) in the Of the theories identified in this taxonomy,hands of the disputants themselves. However, probably the least well-known fall into the proac-the inquisitorial system, used in continental tive process category. The predominant theoreti-Europe, gives judges control over the collection cal position within this category is Leventhal,and presentation of evidence as well as the Karuza, and Frys (1980) allocation preferenceverdicts. The theory is concerned with how peo- theory. This is an outgrowth of Leventhals (1976a,ple will react to each of these decision-making 1980) justice judgment model (described earlier)procedures, thereby qualifying as a reactive pro- and is proposed as a general model of alloca-cess theory. The theory predicts that both liti- tion behavior. However, because the theory hasgants and observing disinterested parties will been applied almost exclusively to proceduralbe more satisfied with procedures giving them decisions rather than distributive ones (e.g., Fryprocess control (e.g., the adversary system) than & Cheney, 1981; Fry & Leventhal, 1979), it hasthose that do not (e.g., the inquisitorial system). operated as a proactive process theory. Thus, inThe verdicts resulting from procedures offering contrast with the emphasis on dispute-resolutionprocess control are hypothesized to be perceived procedures typical of the reactive process theo-as fairer and to be better accepted than those ries, the proactive process orientation tends toresulting from procedures denying process con- focus on allocation procedures. By using thistrol. Many studies using a simulated legal deci- orientation, one seeks to determine what proce-sion-making methodology (e.g., Lind, Kurtz, dures people will use to achieve justice. 14
  8. 8. Allocation preference theory asserts that allo- the consistent application of evaluation stan-cation procedures will be preferred to the extent dards.that they help the allocator attain valued goals, Finally, in several role-playing investigationsincluding the attainment of justice. In particular, Fry (Fry & Cheney, 1981; Fry & Leventhal, 1979)the theory proposes that people hold expectan- found that consistency was believed to be thecies that certain procedures will be differentially most important procedural determinant of fair-instrumental in meeting their goals, and that the ness across a variety of allocation settings. In aprocedure believed to be most likely to help attain more extensive study, Barrett-Howard and Tylerones goal will be the most preferred one. Eight (1986) confirmed that consistency was a pow-procedures are identified that may help promote erful determinant of perceived fairness across athe attainment of justice. These include proce- wide variety of situations and social relationships.dures that: (a) allow opportunities to select the However, the other procedural elements identi-decision-making agent, (b) follow consistent fied by Leventhal et al. (1980) were found to berules, (c) are based on accurate information, (d) perceived as differentially important as determi-identify the structure of decision-making power, nants of fairness in different types of social(e) employ safeguards against bias, (f) allow for relationships.appeals to be heard, (g) provide opportunitiesfor changes to be made in procedures, and (h) Implications of the Taxonomyare based on prevailing moral and ethical stan-dards. The present taxonomy serves several useful The limited research inspired by allocation functions. Among these are its ability: (a) to clar-preference theory offers general support for it. ify conceptual interrelationships, (b) to trackThe studies have been of two types-those in trends in organizational justice research, and (c)which the subjects respond to open-ended re- to identify needed areas of research and concep-quests for examples of perceived fair or unfair tual development.procedures, and those in which subjects ratethe importance of various allocation procedures Clarifying Conceptual Interrelationships manipulated in written scenarios. In one open- Given the proliferation of research and theory ended questionnaire study, Sheppard and about organizational justice, the present taxon- Lewicki (in press) asked white-collar managers omy is a useful clarifier. By showing how the to identify unfair incidents across a variety of various theories are distinct and interrelated, the managerial roles. Among other principles, they taxonomy provides a schema for conceptually found that subjects identified consistency, bias organizing a growing body of work. One result suppression, correctability, and ethicality, all of such a framework is reduced conceptual principles of procedural justice proposed by confusion. Leventhal et al. (1980). An important beneficial effect of this clarifying Similarly, Greenberg (1986a) asked middle role is that it encourages researchers to be cogni- managers to identify determinants of perceived zant of existing conceptualizations and to apply fair performance evaluations, and found proce- the most useful ones to their own work. In the dural determinants consistent with Leventhal et absence of such a taxonomy, it is too easy for al.s (1980) theory, namely: (a) the soliciting of researchers to use terms and apply concepts in workers input prior to evaluations and using it ways that fail to incorporate existing precedents, as the basis of evaluations, (b) the availability of thereby potentially adding confusion to the liter- two-way communication during appraisal inter- ature. views, (c) the opportunity to challenge/rebut the To illustrate this point, consider the recent pro- evaluation received, (d) the degree of the evalu- gram of research on "workplace justice" by Dal- ators familiarity with the ratees work, and (e) ton and Todor (1985a, 1985b). In several archival 15
  9. 9. studies, these researchers uncovered evidence ous types of theories and the correspondingthat females were more preferentially treated dependent measures used appears in Table 2.than males in grievance-resolution settings. Although there have been some recent investi-These findings of objective differences in outcome gations inspired by equity theory (e.g., Green-distributions were then taken as evidence of dif- berg & Ornstein, 1983) and some conceptualferences in "workplace justice outcomes." Al- clarifications (e.g., Cosier & Dalton, 1983), it isthough it is conceivable that these findings reflect clear that interest in reactive content approachesperceived unfair states, it is not possible to con- has waned (Reis, 1986). Instead the emphasisclude from the Dalton and Todor data that sub- has been on more proactive and more process-jective feelings of unfairness resulted from the oriented conceptualizations. In essence, then,objective outcomes identified. Because this was two shifts are identified-a shift from reactive tonot their intent, and because they make no such proactive theories and a shift from content to pro-claim, the investigators cannot be faulted. cess theories. However, the point is that they are using the In reaction to the reactive approach of Adamssterm "justice" in a way that is not in keeping work in the 1960s (e.g., Adams & Rosenbaum,with a voluminous literature that emphasizes jus- 1962) investigators such as Leventhal (Leventhaltice as a subjective state or quality. This is not to & Michaels, 1969) and Messe (1971) pioneered asay that new, more objectively defined perspec- more proactive approach in the late 1960s andtives are without merit, but simply that current early 1970s. With this, there was a shift from ask-researchers on organizational justice should be ing how workers reacted to inequitable paymentsaware of previous conceptual advances, such to how they attempted to create equitable pay-as those identified through the present taxonomy. ments. Research of this proactive content type continues, and is especially popular among Euro-Tracking Trends in pean social scientists. For example, recent repre- sentative efforts have focused on issues such as:Organizational Justice Research (a) the distinctions allocators make between vari- The present taxonomy identifies trends in the ous types of contributions in making fair alloca-questions about justice posed in organizational tions (Tornblom & Jonsson, 1985), (b) the commit-research. A summary of the representative ques- ment to justice principles among different classestions asked by researchers developing the vari- of people (Montada, Schmitt, & Dalbert, 1986),Table 2Representative Research Questions and Dependent Measures for Each Type of OrganizationalJustice TheoryType of Theory Representative Question Prototypical Dependent MeasuresReactive Content How do workers react to inequitable Reactions to overpayment or underpayment payments? inequity (reviewed by Greenberg, 1982)Proactive Content How do workers attempt to create fair Adherence to justice norms in reward allocations payments? (reviewed by Freedman & Montanari, 1980)Reactive Process How do workers react to unfair policies Reactions to unfair payment methods or dispute- or legal procedures? resolution methods (reviewed by Folger & Greenberg, 1985)Proactive Process How do workers attempt to create fair Perceptions of procedural fairness (reviewed by policies or procedures? Lind & Tyler, in press) 16
  10. 10. and (c) the reliance upon considerations of need For example, the present taxonomy proves toin the attainment of justice (Schwinger, 1986). be useful in tracing the conceptual roots of twoWith the continuation of such research there rapidly evolving and related lines of theoryappears to be developing a better understand- development in organizational justice. One ofing of the ways workers behave in the interest of these, Folgers (1986, in press) referent cogni-being fair. tions theory, expands upon relative deprivation When Thibaut and Walker (1975) began their theory and equity theory when explaining rela-research on procedural justice in the early 1970s, tive satisfaction with work outcomes. The theoryit was not a reaction against the shortcomings of extends the reactive content orientation of its pre-reactive process theories. Rather, it was inspired decessors by distinguishing between two typesby an interest in the attributes of various dispute- of reactions-those based on relative com-resolution techniques. It was theorists such as parisons, leading to feelings of dissatisfactiono,Deutsch (1975) and Leventhal (1976b) who first and those based on beliefs about what shouldpointed out that procedural justice research may have happened, leading to feelings of resent-be viewed as an extension of equity theory ment and moral outrage. Resentment reactionsresearch into the domain of allocation processes. are theorized to be based on the procedures usedFolger (1977) was among the first researchers to bring about various outcomes, whereas satis-whose work reflected a shift from how workers faction with those outcomes is based on beliefsreact to inequitable outcomes to how they react about the relative outcome levels themselves. Into unfair procedures. His work showed that giv- terms of the present taxonomy, it can be saiding workers the opportunity to have a voice in that referent cognitions theory expands the con-the decisions affecting them under some condi- cept of relative deprivation to a process prospec-tions enhanced their reactions to the outcome of tive beyond its more traditional, content per-those decisions (for a review, see Greenberg & spective.Folger, 1983). Similarly, related research by Bies (1987; Bies The question of how workers react to various & Moag, 1986) focuses on feelings of moral out-organizational procedures is not only the newest rage. Bies asserts that justice perceptions areone to interest organizational justice researchers, better explained by the social accounts given forbut also one of the most actively researched areas them than by the appearance of an inequity today (for a statement on the state of the science, based on comparisons of relative outcomes andsee Greenberg & Tyler, in press). Indeed, the inputs. Social accounts of events-including attention procedural justice has received in those that claim mitigating circumstances, in-recent professional symposia (e.g., Folger, 1986) voke superordinate ideological goals, refer toand special publications devoted to the topic likely future states, and offer apologies for cur- (Greenberg & Tyler, in press; Lind & Tyler, in rent states-are offered as likely determinants ofpress) attests to the current high level of interest reactions to injustice. Bies also claims that socialin applying proactive process orientations to the accounts can be used to explain reactions to out-study of organizational justice. As more organi- come distribution procedures as well as the out-zational researchers continue to develop a rap- come distributions themselves. As such, Biessprochement between their interests and a pro- conceptualization, like Folgers, provides acess orientation to justice, there has been a shift framework for integrating process-based and theaway from legal-based questions regarding fair content-based reactions to injustice. In addition,procedures to more organizationally based ques- Biess work sheds some light on an importanttions. The growing body of research and theory deficiency of reactive theories of organizationalconsidering these questions promises to extend justice-namely, the conditions under which dif-our knowledge of organizational justice. ferent reactions are likely to be exhibited. 17
  11. 11. The present taxonomy helps us recognize the ous procedural decisions would be useful to the-conceptual traditions from which new theoreti- ory development in the proactive process area.cal developments, such as those of Folger (1986) Two types of investigations are warranted. First,and Bies (1987) were derived, and as such facili- laboratory studies could be conducted in whichtates appreciation for their integrative nature. personal and situational factors are manipulatedThinking of these developments as markers of to see how they influence decisions about whatjustice theories, the taxonomy may be viewed as procedures should be used. Second, a post hoc,a road map that helps chart the course of theoreti- policy-capturing investigation could be done incal progress. which investigators analyze the conditions under which various actual procedural decisions areIdentifying Needed Areas made.of Research and Theory One area in which a contribution of the pres- By highlighting the relationships between the ent taxonomy may be realized is pay satisfaction.various types of organizational justice theories, In particular, Heneman (1985)identified "pay poli-the present taxonomy helps identify areas of the- cies and administration" as a class of variablesoretical and empirical deficiency. In particular, that need to be included in his model of payit helps spot research areas across categories in satisfaction. Citing evidence (Dyer & Theriault,which parallel types of investigations have not 1976; Weiner, 1980) showing that understandingbeen undertaken. Most notable are questions how pay raises were determined added to thestemming from the proactive process orientation. explained variance in pay satisfaction beyondIn the abstract, this should not be surprising given pay level alone, Heneman (1985) concluded thatthat the proactive process approach is the new- "perceptions about how pay is administered doest theoretical approach to organizational justice. appear to have a bearing on peoples pay satis-However, questions should be asked about the faction" (p. 132). In making this claim for a direc-type of research that needs to be conducted in tion in which to extend theories of pay satisfac-this area relative to that which already has been tion beyond equity theory, Heneman recognizeddone. As described earlier, in studies inspired the distinction between content and process the-by the proactive process, subjects were asked ories of organizational justice articulated here.either to generate and categorize lists of per- Henemans insight may have been realized ear-ceived fair/unfair job behaviors or to assess the lier given the present taxonomy. Still, seeing howimportance of various theoretically derived pro- well the taxonomy fits Henemans conceptualiza-cedural determinants of fairness manipulated in tion provides encouragement for using it to derivewritten scenarios. Both types of research essen- further insight about pay satisfaction. Indeed,tially serve as validation studies of the research process theories of organizational justice mayfrom which they were derived. Although these be used to suggest factors likely to enhance satis-investigations are useful, they are not parallel to faction with pay and the consequences of per-those found in the proactive content category ceived unfair pay-determination practices.because how subjects make procedural decisions Finally, it should be noted that the present tax-was not observed directly. onomy provides a useful framework for appreci- Although in proactive content studies the ating the context within which several newlyresource allocation decisions made by subjects emerging lines of research are derived. Forare observed under a variety of different con- example, Greenbergs line of research on perfor-ditions (see Freedman & Montanari, 1980), in- mance appraisal (Greenberg, 1986b, in press)vestigators interested in procedural issues have was inspired by attempts to apply research andas of yet conducted analogous studies. Indeed, theory on procedural justice to employee eval-a program of research designed to determine uation situations. Similarly, Sheppards (1985)the conditions under which people make vari- efforts at applying his model of organizational 18
  12. 12. dispute resolution (1984) were inspired by a tradi- justice it addresses. Yet, questions about justicetion of research applying procedural justice still arise in many organizational milieus, amongnotions to legal disputes. Both these lines of them contexts as diverse as pay plans (compar-research represent areas made salient by the able worth) (Mahoney, 1983), grievance proce-present taxonomy. dures, selection and placement practices, and evaluation policies (Folger & Greenberg, 1985; Conclusion Greenberg & Folger, 1983). The questions raised about justice in these contexts are not ones that In 1966, Weick referred to equity theory as equity theory, or any of the other reactive con-"among the more useful middle-range theories tent theories, are equipped to address. However,of organizational behavior" (p. 439). In 1984, there are other theories of organizational justiceMiner classified equity theory among those in presented in this article that may be particularlyhis list of "not so useful" theories of organiza- well-suited to such matters. To the extent that thetional behavior. Equity theory has fallen into taxonomy presented in this article has broughtdisfavor partially because of its limited applica- them to the attention of organizational resear-bility and partially because of its internal valid- chers, then it has paved the way for increasedity as a theory (Furby, 1986). Also it may be understanding to emerge an understanding ofbecause researchers have grown weary of the various organizational phenomena, and of jus-restricted range of questions about organizational tice itself. ReferencesAdams, J. S. (1965) Inequity in social exchange. In L. Berko- Bies, R. J. (1987) The predicament of injustice. The manage- witz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology ment of moral outrage. In L. L. Cummings & B. M. Staw (Vol. 2, pp. 267-299). New York: Academic Press. (Eds.), Research in organizational behavior (Vol. 9, pp. 289-319). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.Adams, J. S., & Freedman, S. (1976) Equity theory revisited: Comments and annotated bibliography. In L. Berkowitz & Bies, R. J., & Moag, J. S. (1986) Interactional justice: Commu- E. Walster (Eds.), Advances in experimental social psy- nication criteria of fairness. In R. J. Lewicki, B. H. Sheppard, chology (Vol. 9, pp. 43-90). New York: Academic Press. & M. H. Bazerman (Eds.), Research on negotiation in organizations (Vol. 1, pp. 43-55). Greenwich, CT: JAIPress.Adams, J. S., & Rosenbaum, W. B. (1962) The relationship of worker productivity to cognitive dissonance about wage Campbell, J. P., & Pritchard, R. A. (1976) Motivation theory inequities. Journal of Applied Psychology, 46, 161-164. in industrial and organizational psychology. In M. D. Dunnette (Ed.), Handbook of industrial and organizationalAnderson, B., Berger, J., Zelditch, M., & Cohen, B. P. (1969) Reactions to inequity. Acta Sociologica, 12, 1-12. psychology (pp. 63-130). Chicago: Rand McNally.Aram, J. D., & Salipante, P. F., Jr. (1981) An evaluation of Carles, E. M., & Carver, C. S. (1979) Effects of person salience organizational due process in the resolution of employee/ versus role salience on reward allocation in the dyad. employer conflict. Academy of Management Review, 6, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 2071-2080. 197-204. Cohen, R. L., & Greenberg, J. (1982) The justice concept inArvey, R. D. (1979) Fairness in selecting employees. Reading, social psychology. In J. Greenberg & R. L. Cohen (Eds.), MA: Addison-Wesley. Equity and justice in social behavior (pp. 1-41). New York: Academic Press.Barrett-Howard, E., & Tyler, T. R. (1986) Procedural justice as a criterion in allocation decisions. Journal of Personality Cosier, R. A., & Dalton, D. R. (1983) Equity theory and time: and Social Psychology, 50, 296-304. A reformulation. Academy of Management Review, 8, 311-319.Berger, J., Zelditch, M., Anderson, B., & Cohen, B. P. (1972) Structural aspects of distributive justice: A status-value Crosby, F. (1976) A model of egoistical relative deprivation. formulation. In J. Berger, M. Zelditch, & B. Anderson (Eds.), Psychological Review, 83, 85-113. Sociological theories in progress (Vol. 2, pp. 21-45). Boston: Crosby, F. (1982) Relative deprivation and working women. Houghton Mifflin. New York: Oxford University Press. 19
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  15. 15. Sheppard, B. H. (1985) Justice is no simple matter: Case for Tyler, T. R., & Folger, R. (1980) Distributional and procedural elaborating our model of procedural fairness. Journal of aspects of satisfaction with citizen-police encounters. Basic Personality and Social Psychology, 49, 953-962. and Applied Social Psychology, 1, 281-292. Van Avermaet, E., McClintock, C., & Moskowitz, J. (1978)Sheppard, B. H., & Lewicki, R. J. (in press) Toward general Alternative approaches to equity: Dissonance reduction, principles of managerial fairness. Social Justice Review. pro-social motivation and strategies accommodation.Stouffer, S. A., Suchman, E. A., DeVinney, L. C., Star, S. A., European Journal of Social Psychology, 8, 419-437. & Williams, R. M., Jr. (1949) The American soldier: Adjust- Walker, L., Lind, E. A., & Thibaut, J. (1979) The relation ment during Army life (Vol. 1). Princeton, NJ: Princeton between procedural justice and distributive justice. Virginia University Press. Law Review, 65, 1401-1420.Thibaut, J., & Walker, L. (1975) Procedural justice: A psycho- Walster, E., Berscheid, E., & Walster, G. W. (1973) New direc- logical analysis. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. tions in equity research. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 25, 151-176.Thibaut, J., & Walker, L. (1978) A theory of procedure. Walster, E., Walster, G. W., & Berscheid, E. (1978) Equity: California Law Review, 66, 541-566. Theory and research. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.Tornblom, K.Y., & Jonsson, D.R. (1985) Subrules of the equal- Walton, R. W., & McKersie, R. B. (1965) A behavioral theory ity and contribution principles: Their perceived fairness in of labor negotiations. New York: McGraw-Hill. distribution and retribution. Social Psychology Quarterly, Weick, K. E. (1966) The concept of equity in the perception of 48, 249-261. pay. Administrative Science Quarterly, I1, 414-439.Tyler, T. R., & Caine, A. (1981) The role of distributional and Weiner, N. (1980) Determinants and behavioral consequences procedural fairness in the endorsement of formal leaders. of pay satisfaction: A comparison of two models. Personnel Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 41, 642-655. Psychology, 33, 741-757. Jerald Greenberg (Ph.D., Wayne State University) is Associate Professor of Management and Human Re- sources at Ohio State University. Correspondence regarding this article may be addressed to him at: Faculty of Management and Human Resources, Ohio State University, 1775 College Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1399. 22