Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Time to Regroup: Further Validation of a Fourth Equity Sensitivity Dimension

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Time to Regroup: Further Validation of a Fourth Equity Sensitivity Dimension

Article excerpt

According to Adams (1963: 424), "Inequity exists [when a person's] perceived job inputs and/or outcomes stand psychologically in an obverse relation to what he perceives are the inputs and outcomes of a comparable other." Adams (1963) goes on to explain that when individuals perceive differences (i.e., inequities) between their own outcomes/inputs and the outcomes/inputs of a comparable other, they feel distress and are motivated to restore equity. Moreover, the strength of their motivations results directly from the magnitude of those perceived inequities.

The response to inequity described by Adams (1963) was assumed to be essentially universal until Huseman et al. (1985, 1987) proposed equity sensitivity theory as an extension of Adams' ideas to assert their belief that individuals differed in response to perceived inequities in work situations. Huseman et al. (1987) developed the Equity Sensitivity Instrument (ESI) to measure individual differences to inequity and labeled the different groups benevolents, entitleds, and equity sensitives. They suggested that people preferred these different states of equity.

Modifying Huseman et al.'s (1987) notion of preferred inequities, King et al. (1993) argued that benevolent individuals tolerate, rather than prefer, unfavorable inequity (situations in which their own outcome/input ratios are less than in comparison to others' ratios), that equity sensitive individuals desire classic equity (situations in which their own outcome/input ratios are equal to comparison others' ratios), and that entitled individuals tolerate favorable inequity (situations in which their own outcome/input ratios are greater than in comparison to others' ratios).

A large majority of the equity sensitivity research has used the ESI developed by Huseman et al. (1985) either exclusively or in concert with the Equity Preference Qnestionnaire (EPQ) developed by Sauley and Bedeian (2000). The ESI scale contains five pairs of statements, (e.g., In any organization in which I work: (a) I would be more concerned about what I received from the organization; (b) I would be more concerned about what I contributed to the organization.). Respondents are asked to allocate ten points between the two statements for each pair. Points are then summed for the statements that reflect a benevolent point of view. Respondents whose scores are more than 1/2, standard deviation (SD) above the mean are labeled benevolents and respondents whose scores are more than 1/2 SD below the mean are labeled entitleds. Those whose scores fall between 1/2 SD above and 1/2 SD below the mean are labeled equity sensitives.

Sauley and Bedeian (2000) criticized the ESI's development and argued that its scoring procedure is arbitrary and sample-dependent. They noted that the scoring procedure used with the ESI "arbitrarily" classifies respondents simply by determining the midpoint of the range of scores and the standard deviation of the scores, which may or may not have anything to do with the respondents' actual preferences. Similarly, the ESI is sample dependent because the breakpoints are determined by the midpoint and standard deviation of scores for each sample. The breakpoints change from sample to sample. Thus, the same respondent could be classified as a benevolent in one sample and an entitled in another sample without any change in equity preferences, depending entirely on the midpoint and standard deviations of the samples. In response, Sauley and Bedeian (2000) developed the EPQ, a 16-item Likert-type scale, as an alternative to the ESI. Where the ESI uses cut scores to categorize respondents as entitled, equity sensitive, or benevolent, the EPQ generates a continuum on which lower scores indicate a more entitled respondent and higher scores indicate a more benevolent respondent. Research examining the efficacy of the EPQ has generated mixed results (e.g., Foote and Harmon, 2006; Shore and Strauss, 2008). …

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