Fairness in Organizations

Fairness refers to employees’ judgments of the appropriateness of outcomes, processes, and treatment they receive in the workplace. Employees’ perceptions of being fairly treated at work is associated with a host of beneficial outcomes for both employees (e.g., satisfaction, well-being) and organizations (e.g., higher performance, reduced turnover). Although managers intuitively recognize the importance of fairness and are constantly exhorted to be fair, many of them still struggle to act fairly. My research attempts to explain why.

My work focuses on two broad questions.

First, why do people often behave in ways that are seen as less fair by their others (e.g., employees, peers) despite the benefits associated with acting in ways that are perceived as fairer? For example, my research explores how contextual factors, such as the managers’ workload, their cultural beliefs, or their social closeness to others, sometimes lead them to act in ways that may be perceived as less fair. My work also explores the actions people take to ensure that they are treated others fairly, such as frequently seeking feedback.

​Second, why do people react differently to similar outcomes, processes, and interpersonal treatments? That is, why would a similar situation be seen as fair by one person but as less fair by another? For example, I explore how employees’ relationships with co-workers shape their evaluations of how fair an outcome allocation is. In another example, I explore how similar behaviors by peers can be seen as unfair (and lead to aggression towards a peer) for people who hold different cultural beliefs.

Selected Fairness Research 

Too busy to be fair? The effect of workload and rewards on managers’ justice rule adherence

With Vijaya Venkataramani and Ravi Gajendran

Read the full article in the Academy of Management Journal  

For summaries and further discussions see:

  1. Harvard Business Review: "Research: When Managers Are Overworked, They Treat Employees Less Fairly"

  2. Academy of Management Insights: "The Real Reasons Why Some Bosses Treat Employees Unfairly"

  3. UNC Kenan-Flagler News & Stories: "When companies treat employees fairly, everyone wins"

Friend or foe? The impact of relational ties with comparison others on outcome fairness and satisfaction judgments