Distributive and Procedural Justice as Related to Satisfaction and Commitment

By Tang, Thomas Li-Ping; Sarsfield-Baldwin, Linda J. | SAM Advanced Management Journal, Summer 1996 | Go to article overview

Distributive and Procedural Justice as Related to Satisfaction and Commitment


Tang, Thomas Li-Ping, Sarsfield-Baldwin, Linda J., SAM Advanced Management Journal


For the past two decades, managers in human resources have recognized the important relationship between organizational justice and organizational effectiveness (Cropanzano & Folger, 1991). There are two forms of organizational justice: distributive justice and procedural justice. Distributive justice deals with the ends achieved (what the decisions are) or the content of fairness, whereas procedural justice is related to the means used to achieve those ends (how decisions are made) or the process of fairness.

Factors Related to Perceived Fairness

Performance appraisals have been the major focus of early studies of procedural justice. Perceptions of the fairness of performance evaluations are related to managerial and professional employees' opportunities to express their feelings, the existence of a formal appraisal program, the supervisor's knowledge of the subordinate's performance, the existence of action plans to improve performance weaknesses, and the frequency of evaluations. There are several additional fairness criteria, such as: supervisors' ability to suppress bias, create consistent allocations, rely on accurate information, be correctable, represent the concerns of all recipients, and focus on prevailing moral and ethical standards.

Greenberg (1986) suggested that soliciting and using input prior to evaluations, two-way communication, ability to challenge evaluations, the rater is familiar with the ratee's work, and applying standards consistently are all related to the procedural dimension. Performance-based ratings and rating-based recommendations for salary or promotion are related to the distributive dimension. Employees' trust in management has also received a lot of attention (Fulk, Brief, & Barr, 1985).

Justice and Other Work-Related Variables

It has been argued that distributive justice predicts satisfaction with the outcome (i.e., pay satisfaction), whereas procedural justice influences the evaluation of the organization and its authorities (i.e., trust in supervision and organizational commitment) (Cropanzano & Folger, 1991). Further, if employees can be guaranteed fair procedural treatment, they are more likely to become loyal, a sign of organizational commitment. When procedural justice is fair, it is more difficult to question the outcomes (distributive justice). Distributive justice accounted for more unique variance in pay satisfaction, a personal-level evaluation, than did procedural justice.

Sweeney and McFarlin (1993) found that distributive justice predicts personal-level evaluations (e.g., pay satisfaction) whereas procedural justice affects organizational-level evaluations (e.g., organizational commitment). In that study, only one variable was employed for distributive justice, procedural justice, job satisfaction, and commitment. All measures were obtained in one survey.

The Present Study

The purpose of the present study was two fold: First, we compiled a questionnaire to measure distributive and procedural justice related to performance appraisal. The factor structures of the questionnaire were investigated. Second, we measured perceived distributive and procedural justice before the performance appraisal (Time 1). These measures were used to predict several aspects of satisfaction (e.g., with pay, promotion, supervisor), self-reported performance rating, satisfaction with performance appraisal, commitment (e.g., Organizational Commitment Questionnaire [OCQ], Porter, Steers, Mowday, & Boulian, 1974; Index of Organizational Commitment [IOC], Hrebiniak & Alutto, 1972), and job involvement (Lodahl & Kejner, 1965) measured after the formal performance appraisal (Time 2). Following the suggestions by Sweeney and McFarlin (1993), we predicted that distributive justice would be related to pay satisfaction. On the other hand, procedural justice would be related to various measures of commitment. …

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