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

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>14/03/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Organizational Effectiveness: People and Performance
Issue number1
Number of pages21
Pages (from-to)70-90
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Organizational justice research has become the main paradigm of research in the field of HRM. The purpose of this paper is to outline 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 the 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 – awareness of hidden structures that preclude the option for real fairness; and new variables that are being added to the consideration of organizational justice.

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.