Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

A Comparison of Faking on Equity Sensitivity Measures Using the Overclaiming Instrument

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

A Comparison of Faking on Equity Sensitivity Measures Using the Overclaiming Instrument

Article excerpt

Equity theory (Adams, 1965) proposes that individuals evaluate the fairness of their exchange relationships by comparing the ratio of their own outcomes to inputs to the corresponding ratios of referents. If the outcome/input ratios of individuals and their referents are unequal and thus inequitable (i.e., under-reward or over-reward), then individuals are assumed to be motivated to resolve the inequity via cognitive or behavioral approaches. The greater the perceived inequity, the harder the individual will work to restore equity. Since Adams (1965) proposed equity theory, a substantial body of research has emerged on what factors lead employees to feel fairly or equitably treated by their work organizations. Importantly, research has found that individuals who experience the same inequitable situations may respond differently, suggesting that there may be individual differences that affect reactions to inequity (Huseman et at., 1985; Miles et at., 1994; Sass et at., 2011). This is in contrast to Adams' (1965) original conceptualization of equity theory, which assumed that individuals universally preferred equity.

One individual difference factor that has received substantial attention in the last three decades is a construct termed "equity sensitivity," proposed by Huseman et at. (1985, 1987). The central proposition behind the equity sensitivity construct is that individuals are differentially sensitive to the level of equity in their exchange relationships with their organizations, with individuals classified as benevolent, entitled, or equity sensitive on a single continuum. Initially, Huseman et at. (1985, 1987) described benevolents as individuals who prefer their outcome/input ratios to be lower than the outcome/input ratios of their referents, and thus they prefer to be under-rewarded. In contrast, entitleds were considered to experience distress when their outcome/input ratios failed to exceed their referents' ratios, and thus they prefer to be over-rewarded. Equity sensitives were described as those who prefer their ratios of outcomes to inputs to be equal to the ratios of their referents, and who would be expected to experience distress when either under- or over-rewarded. Thus, equity sensitives may be viewed as the most consistent with Adams' (1965) original conceptualizations and predictions of behavioral reactions to under- or over-rewarded situations.

King et al. (1993) expanded on this approach and instead of using the preference/distress conceptualization of the equity sensitivity construct, suggested that benevolents focus on the inputs in the equity ratio and are thus more tolerant of under-reward, whereas entitleds focus more on the outcomes they receive and thus are more tolerant of over-reward. Equity sensitive individuals in this conceptualization would focus on both inputs and outcomes. In sum, the equity sensitivity construct proposes a way to understand why individuals react differently to the same inequitable exchange relationships and seem to prefer different exchange relationships, due to their attention to different aspects of the equity ratios.

Since the equity sensitivity construct was first proposed, a significant amount of research has been conducted on the topic, amounting to approximately 100 published articles and dissertations, with over one-half of those articles occurring in the last ten years. This clearly indicates a continuing interest in the construct and its applicability to issues of organizational importance. However, there have been various criticisms with respect to Huseman et al.'s (1985, 1987) original measurement of equity sensitivity (see Davison and Bing, 2008; Sauley and Bedeian, 2000). In the current paper, the original ESI and the criticisms of its measurement approach will be reviewed. Then an alternative approach to measuring equity sensitivity (i.e., a multidimensional, single-stimulus version; Davison and Bing, 2008) will be discussed, and concerns addressed regarding response distortion on the different measures of equity sensitivity. …

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