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The changing contours of fairness: using multiple lenses to focus the HRM research agenda

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>8/03/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Organizational Effectiveness: People and Performance
Issue number1
Number of pages21
Pages (from-to)70-90
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Organizational justice research has become the main paradigm of research in the field of HRM. The paper outlines a number of underlying challenges to which this paradigm is ill-suited. It broadens the traditional understanding of what is meant by fairness within the HRM literature to help explain how justice judgements are formed and may be used to influence societal level fairness processes. It develops a framework to aid our understanding of the fairness of decisions that individuals or organizations make.
The paper presents a conceptual review of the main paradigms used in fairness research. It draws upon the organizational justice literature as the dominant paradigm in HRM research, and conducts a cross-disciplinary review that introduces a range of theories less frequently used by HRM researchers – specifically capability theory, game theory, tournament theory, equity sensitivity theory, theories of intergenerational equity and burden sharing. It demonstrates the relevance of these theories to a number of areas of organizational effectiveness.
The paper shows that researchers are now augmenting the organizational justice research paradigm under two important pressures – (1) awareness of hidden structures that preclude the option for real fairness; and (2) new variables that are being added to the consideration of organizational justice.
Research limitations/implications
The fairness theories are used to identify a number of important and future research agendas in the field of HRM. Many of the judgements made by employee suggested by the theories now need measurement at the individual level. It remains to be seen whether these judgements are highly situational and context-dependent or may be used to identify important individual characteristics. It is also likely that fairness judgements act as an important of a range of HRM-related outcomes such as trust and engagement.
Practical implications
HR functions have invested significant resources in employee engagement or insight units, but if their policies trigger significant inequality of outcomes, perceived problems of justice, a lack of burden sharing, no sense proportionality, organizations may not be able to achieve other important HR strategies such as sustaining and deepening employee engagement, developing organizational advocacy, building an employer brand, or being seen to have authenticity in its values. The framework suggests a broadened educational base for HR practitioners around fairness. It also suggests that there may be complex employees segments concerning perceptions of fairness.
The cross-disciplinary perspective taken on fairness helps deconstruct the judgements that employees likely make, enabling organizations and individuals alike to ask more critical questions about their respective behaviour.

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