Organizational Politics, Justice, and Support: Managing the Social Climate of the Workplace

By Russell S. Cropanzano; K. Michele Kacmar | Go to book overview

decision heuristic or whether the effect comes about because of some other mechanism, it is clear that people are using fairness judgments to decide when to obey. Given the importance of effective authority to effective organization, it seems to me that this is enough to show that we must work to discover more about organizational fairness.

I chose datasets with cross-national comparisons because I wanted to demonstrate, in the context of recent discussions about cultural diversity and the problems it poses for modern businesses, that there may well be some universals in organizational behavior and that fairness might be one such universal. Managers might be well advised to treat all their subordinates with benevolence, to accord them obvious and sincere status as full members of the organization, and to avoid any hint of bias, regardless of the mix of cultures and nationalities in the work force. The results reported above suggest that the fairness judgment process is so fundamental and so powerful that, whatever minor variations might exist in the antecedents of procedural justice, one cannot go wrong by giving people consideration, dignity, and impartial treatment. The benefits of such actions are substantial: clean lines of authority and obedience and a cleanly operating organization. Absent these basic elements of organizational justice, all the organizational charts in the world will not make people obey against their immediate interests, and policy becomes mostly an exercise in wishful thinking.


NOTES

My work on this chapter was supported by the American Bar Foundation and by National Science Foundation Grant SES-9113863.

1.
There is, to be sure, a huge body of research and theory on leadership, as opposed to authority. My concern in this chapter is in what leads people to obey those who are in positions of legitimate power; the concern in most leadership research has been in how to lead in a manner that will motivate others to follow. The difference is most clearly seen in the ultimate subject of study: Those of us who study authority tend to focus on the perceptions and actions of the subordinate while those who study leadership tend to focus on the actions of the leader. It is arguable that both perspectives are needed if one is to make sense of the workings of the supervisor-subordinate relationship.
2.
See, for example, Tyler ( 1990) for survey evidence showing that the great majority of Americans accept the proposition that laws are needed and that they should, in general, be obeyed.
3.
It is likely that this fundamental social dilemma and the use of fairness judgments to resolve it extend well beyond the organizational authority context that is the topic of this chapter. Concerns about exploitation and rejection are present in all social relations, one could argue, and it is not at all unlikely that in most social settings we look to the fairness of our treatment by important others to decide how much to accede to their wishes.

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