Academic journal article
By Kurland, Nancy B.; Egan, Terri D.
Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory , Vol. 9, No. 3
Scholars continue to debate the extent to which public and private organizations actually differ (Rainey 1997). Researchers have developed a variety of frameworks for highlighting different aspects of organizational structures and processes (e.g., Dahl and Lindblom 1953; Benn and Gaus 1983; for overviews, see Lan and Rainey 1992; Perry and Rainey 1988; Mitnick 1980). Others have delineated the traits or characteristics that are unique to public organizations and that focus on rules and job formalization, hierarchy, inefficient degree of bureaucratization (Pugh, Hickson, and Hinings 1969; see also Meyer 1982), and greater amounts of red tape (e.g., Bozeman 1993; Rainey, Pandey, and Bozeman 1995). Some investigations yield evidence that public organizations are more rule-oriented and inefficient (e.g., Perry and Porter 1982; Warwick 1975), while others suggest the opposite (e.g., Bozeman and Rainey 1998; Rainey, Pandey, and Bozeman 1995; for a review of both perspectives, see Perry and Rainey 1988).
Traditionally, public organizations have multiple conflicting goals, serve multiple constituencies, and are not tied to market incentives. Some have argued that these factors have led to inflexible, bureaucratic structures coupled with particularist personnel practices (for a review, see Bozeman 1987; Meyer 1982; on a related theme, see Pearce, Branyiczki, and Bigley 1997). Such organizations are characterized by rigid rule structures, formalized job guidelines and responsibilities, formal means of communication, clear division of labor and hierarchical control, civil service systems, inflexible reward systems, strict reporting requirements, regulations, and constraints (Weber 1947; Meyer 1982; Perry and Porter 1982; Rainey 1983; Perry and Rainey 1988; Robertson and Seneviratne 1995). By comparison, private-sector organizations are driven primarily by market preferences, which dictate flexibility and responsiveness in both process and outcomes for survival. In theory then, private-sector organizations are likely to be less encumbered by rules and regulations. In addition, organizational effectiveness is more readily measured in terms of efficiency and profitability in private-sector organizations (Bozeman 1987 and 1993).
Differences in organizational structures associated with public- versus private-sector organizations may have implications for organizational justice. Research has demonstrated that formal organizational structures favorably impact organizational justice perceptions (e.g., Leventhal 1980). Organizational justice is a perceptual and attributional process by which an individual evaluates what he or she receives as a result of organizational membership in terms of a criterion of personal deserving (Egan 1993). Conceptual and empirical evidence point to two related but independent dimensions of organizational justice perceptions: distributive justice and procedural justice. Distributive justice focuses on employees' perceptions about whether or not they receive the outcomes they believe they deserve. Procedural justice focuses on whether or not employees perceive as fair the process by which they received the outcomes. Each of these dimensions affects individual attitudes and behaviors such as job satisfaction (Alexander and Ruderman 1987), organizational commitment (Folger and Konovsky 1989), task performance (Earley and Lind 1987; Konovsky and Croponzano 1991; Egan 1993), organizational citizenship behavior (Niehoff and Moorman 1993; Egan 1993; Moorman 1991; see also Brockner and Siegel 1996), and organizational retaliatory behavior (Skarlicki and Folger 1997).
In this study, we continue the inquiry into whether and to what degree public and private organizations differ. We do so by focusing on public and private employees' perceptions of selected organizational control strategies (elements of general formalization), procedural and distributive justice, and the subsequent impact these perceptions have on employees' satisfaction with their supervisors. …