Academic journal article Administrative Science Quarterly

Culture and Procedural Fairness: When the Effects of What You Do Depend on How You Do It

Academic journal article Administrative Science Quarterly

Culture and Procedural Fairness: When the Effects of What You Do Depend on How You Do It

Article excerpt

Previous research has shown that procedural fairness and outcome favorability interactively combine to influence people's reactions to their social exchanges. The tendency for people to respond more positively when outcomes are more favorable is reduced when procedural fairness (how things happen) is relatively high. This paper evaluates whether cultural differences in people's tendencies to view themselves as interdependent or independent (their self-construal) moderate the interactive relationship between procedural fairness and outcome favorability. In three studies, participants indicated their reactions to an exchange with another party as a function of the other party's procedural fairness and the outcome favorability associated with the exchange. In Study 1, participants' national culture was treated as a proxy for their self-construal. In Study 2, people's national culture and self-construal were assessed. In Study 3, participants were classified on the basis of their self-construals. Converging evide nce across studies showed that the interactive relationship between procedural fairness and outcome favorability was more pronounced among participants with more interdependent forms of self-construal. [*]

A basic tenet of social exchange theory (Blau, 1964) and equity theory (Adams, 1965) is that employees' work attitudes and behaviors are significantly determined by the outcomes that they obtain from their relationships with their employers. For example, the greater the perceived favorability of the outcomes employees obtain from their employers, which may be material (e.g., compensation) or social/psychological (e.g., feeling respected), the more likely they are to reciprocate in the form of greater productivity and morale. Procedural justice theory has shown that employees' work attitudes and behaviors also depend on the fairness of the methods used to plan and implement decisions (Thibaut and Walker, 1975; Lind and Tyler, 1988; Greenberg, 1990, 1996). For example, employees have been shown to be more supportive of decisions, decision makers, and the organizations that decision makers represent when procedures are perceived to be relatively fair. Such research has thus shown that employees respond both to w hat happens (outcome favorability) and to how things happen (procedural fairness). Such findings reflect the adage, "It's not only what you do, but how you do it that matters."

More recent findings suggest that the influence of outcome favorability and procedural fairness is more complex. Many studies have shown that outcome favorability and procedural fairness combine interactively to influence employees' work attitudes and behaviors (see Brockner and Wiesenfeld, 1996, for a review). The nature of the interaction suggests that the tendency for people to respond more positively to favorable outcomes is weaker when procedural fairness is high rather than low. To state the interaction effect more colloquially, "The effects of what you do depend on how you do it."

While the interactive relationship between procedural fairness and outcome favorability has been found repeatedly, the vast majority of studies have been conducted in the United States. But there are theoretical reasons to believe that the magnitude of the interactive relationship between procedural fairness and outcome favorability will vary between national cultures. Thus, our research evaluates whether national culture has a moderating influence on the interactive relationship between procedural fairness and outcome favorability. In so doing, we also hope to contribute to a broader (and growing) body of knowledge in organizational behavior that seeks to explain how national culture influences people's work attitudes and behaviors (Hofstede, 1980; Markus and Kitayama, 1991; Erez and Earley, 1993).

Interaction of Procedural Fairness with Outcome Favorability

Central to people's appraisals of the nature of their social interactions and relationships is their judgment of how much to trust the other party (Kramer and Tyler, 1995). …

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