Workplace fairness versus unfairness: Examining the differential salience of facets of organizational justice

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In three studies, we show that employees bring to mind different facets of justice when focusing on workplace fairness versus unfairness. In Study 1, descriptions of recalled fair versus recalled unfair events are shown to be less multifaceted, more likely to include distributive justice, and less likely to include interactional justice. In Study 2, when asked to assess event fairness versus unfairness, participants posed fewer questions relating to interactional justice in relation to fair events. In Study 3, the results of a scenario experiment show that the relationship between unfairness/fairness and the salience of justice facets is mediated by the construal of work in more abstract terms in relation to fairness. We discuss the implications of our findings for organizational justice research and for organizations managing employee perceptions of fairness.Practitioner pointsEmployees pay attention to different aspects of workplace experience when they focus on fairness versus unfairness.When employees consider fairness, they focus on workplace outcomes, whereas when they consider unfairness, they are more likely to also consider communication and interpersonal treatment.Employees tend to examine work experiences in terms of specific, concrete details when focusing on unfairness, but not when focusing on fairness.

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