Academic journal article International Journal of Management

Employee Relations with Their Organization: The Multidimensionality of the Equity Sensitivity Construct

Academic journal article International Journal of Management

Employee Relations with Their Organization: The Multidimensionality of the Equity Sensitivity Construct

Article excerpt

Whether or not employees feel fairly or equitably treated by their work organizations has been found to be an important determinant of work outcomes, such as organizational citizenship behaviors (Konovsky and Organ, 1996) and job performance (Bing and Burroughs, 2001). However, not all employees react in the same manner to inequitable treatment, due to a construct known as equity sensitivity. To capture individual differences in equity sensitivity, Huseman, Hatfield, and Miles (1985) developed the Equity Sensitivity Instrument (ESI), which utilized a forced-distribution format to allocate points between benevolent and entitlement statements, subsequently forcing the resulting scores to be unidimensional. Recently, Davison and Bing (2008) demonstrated that equity sensitivity may be a multidimensional construct, and that using a single-stimulus format of the ESI reveals this multidimensionality. The current study replicates Davison and Bing's (2008) study, and again demonstrates the multidimensional nature of equity sensitivity. We discuss the theoretical implications of using the original versus the single-stimulus format of the ESI, and address implications of these formats for research in organizations.

Introduction

Research on a construct called equity sensitivity (Huseman et al. 1985, 1987; Miles et al., 1989) has indicated that individuals have different tolerances for the level of equity in their exchange relationships with their organizations, which helps to explain why individuals may react differently to the same inequitable situations. Huseman et al. ( 1985, 1987) and Miles et al. (1989) proposed that these differences in equity sensitivity he on a continuum from benevolent to equity sensitive to entitled. Benevolents are conceptualized as individuals who are focused on what they contribute to the organization (i.e., inputs) and thus have a greater tolerance for under-reward, whereas entitleds are more focused on what they receive from t he organization (i.e., outcomes) and are thus more tolerant of over-reward (King et al., 1993). Equity sensitives are described as individuals who prefer their outcome/input ratios to be equal to the ratios of comparison others, and who experience distress when either under- or over-rewarded (Huseman et al., 1985, 1987).

In order to measure individual differences in equity Sensitivity, Huseman et al. (1985, 1987) developed the Equity Sensitivity Instrument (ESI), a forced- distribution scale consisting of five pairs of statements, where one statement in each pair reflects a benevolent preference and the other reflects an entitlement preference. All items begin with the phrase, "In any organization that I might work for:" and an example item is as follows:

It would be more important for me to:

A. Get from the organization. ____

B. Give to the organization. ____

Respondents are instructed to indicate their agreement with each item by distributing 10 points between the paired statements. For example, an entitled individual would be expected to allocate the majority of the 10 points to the entitlement statement, a benevolent individual would be expected to allocate the majority of the 10 points to the benevolent statement, and an equity sensitive individual would be expected to allocate approximately five points to each statement. The ESI is scored on a continuum from 0 to 50 points, with high scores representing benevolence, middle scores representing equity sensitivity, and low scores representing entitlement.

Because the forced-distribution format of the original ESI forces individuals to allocate a set number of points between benevolent and entitlement statements, benevolence and entitlement are measured as opposite ends of the same continuum and will always be perfectly negatively correlated. Davison and Bing (2008) saw this measurement system as a potential limitation, and suggested that the equity sensitivity construct might instead be multidimensional, with benevolence and entitlement as separate dimensions of a single construct, and might be only moderately correlated or even uncorrelated, rather than perfectly negatively correlated. …

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