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Int. J.

of Human Resource Management 16:7 July 2005 1176-1194 i) Routledge

Performance appraisal, employee
development and organizational justice:
exploring the linkages

Lawrence Nurse

Abstract Much has been written about performance appraisal (PA) in such a manner as
to suggest that the process is politically driven, even though one of its primary purposes is
said to be the development of the individual employee. Our examination of a cross-section
of workers' perceptions of this process was therefore motivated by the need to determine
whether they believed that they experienced fair outcomes from PA, and whether its usage
was seen to contribute toward their career advancement.
Given the role unions are expected to play in shaping human resource outcomes, we
hypothesized that workers in the non-union environment would experience lower levels of
procedural and interactional justice than their trade-union counterparts. We also
hypothesized that, since unions might be asked to walk a tightrope in contesting PA
decisions affecting different persons who were union members, employers would be able
to exercise much discretion in making those decisions, with the result that there would not
be any appreciable difference in justice perceptions between union member and non-union
member. A third hypothesis that informed the research was that workers' perceptions
about the treatment received from performance appraisal were likely to influence their
expectations regarding career advancement, as expressed through opportunities for
training and development, pay for performance and promotions.
No significant differences in perception were found among union and non-union
respondents' perceptions about the vast majority of procedural elements used in this study.
Contrary to our hypothesis, non-union respondents expressed less unfavourable
perceptions about the interactional elements than their trade-union counterparts. The
results confirmed the hypothesis that workers who believed that performers were not
treated fairly as a result of performance appraisal would also agree that their expectations
regarding development and advancement were not being met. We found significant, but
relatively moderate relationships between perceptions about treatment of performers and
their expectations about career advancement.

Keywords Organisational justice; organizational politics; due process; career
development; trade unions; employment relationship.

This paper explores workers' perceptions about the contribution performance appraisal
makes to organizational justice in a cross-section of organizations in Barbados. Its

Lawrence Nurse, Senior Lecturer, Department of Management Studies, University of the West
Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Bridgetown, Barbados (tei: +246 417 4300; fax: +246 438 9167;
The Imemational Journal of Human Resource Management
ISSN 0958-5192 print/ISSN 1466-4399 online © 2005 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/09585190500144012
Nurse: Performance appraisal, employee development and organizational justice 1177

principal concerns are whether workers believe that the process and its outcomes are fair.
The paper highlights the importance of justice as an important human resource
management outcome. The point of departure is that, even as contemporary human
resource strategy is being driven by a concern with cost-discipline, cost-containment and
the creation of value-added through productivity-enhancing initiatives, there is an
equally important need for management to ensure that organizational justice is served. In
this connection, it is timely to recall that

Atttiough HRM practices are often guided by tectinicat,financiat,tegat, and strategic concerns,
most emptoyees do not have ttie information or expertise to evaluate practices from these
perspectives. Employees evaluate HRM practices from ttie users' perspective that is largely
driven by desires for fair and equitable treatment.
(Bowen et al., t999: 3)
Performance appraisal activity can be shaped by different orientations to justice and can
also lead to justice outcomes. The organizational justice literature addresses three
principal types of justice - procedural, interactional and distributive justice. The study of
distributive justice deals with the perceived fairness of the outcomes or allocations that
individuals in organizations receive (Folger and Cropanzano, 1998: xxii). The study of
procedural justice focuses on the fairness of methods that are used in organizations to
arrive at distributive justice. It addresses 'fairness issues concerning the methods,
mechanisms, and processes used to determine outcomes' (Folger and Cropanzano, 1998:
26). Perceptions of procedural justice reflect an appraisal of the process by which an
allocation decision is (or was) made (Folger and Cropanzano, 1998: xxii). In conceptual
and practical terms, it is different from distributive justice, yet the attainment of the latter
may depend on the existence of the former. Indeed, the presence or absence of justice as a
feature of human resources management may influence employees' behaviour towards
organizational outcomes (Folger and Greenberg, 1985; McFarlin and Sweeney, 1992;
Lind, 1995).
Interactional justice refers to 'justice appraisals based on the quality of the
interpersonal treatment [people] receive' (Bies and Moag, 1986, as quoted in
Cropanzano and Randall, t993: 12). A concern with interactional justice therefore
involves raising questions about the type of 'interpersonal sensitivity' and other aspects
of social conduct that characterize social exchange between parties, including the
explanation offered for certain decisions made about the individual (Folger and
Cropanzano, 1998). It focuses on 'how formal agents of the organization treat those who
are subject to their authority, decisions and actions' (Cobb et al., 1995). Such a
distinction allows us 'to include nonprocedurally dictated aspects of interaction such as
explanation content and the persuasive features of communication efforts'(Folger and
Cropanzano, 1998: 29).
The first part of the paper reviews the conventional wisdom about performance
appraisal. This review is followed by a discussion of some of the political realities that
constitute part of the context for understanding the dilemma that appraisers face.
Thereafter, we outline the methods used in conducting the study, present the findings and
suggest areas for future research.

Performance appraisal: the conventional view
Conventional thought about performance appraisal (PA) has addressed it as a process
intended to provide a 'rational' basis for managerial decision-making about people's
1178 The International Journal of Human Resource Management

performance. Accordingly, PA is seen as a measurement tool for evaluating individual
performance, and, depending on the purpose(s) the system is ultimately intended to
serve, management is then able to use its results to determine, inter alia, how effective
employees are in the performance of their jobs; whether they require further training and
exposure; whether they qualify for additional pay, promotion or some other related
benefit and so on.
Viewed in this fashion, PA then becomes an element of managerial control and has
certain linkages with other human resource management practices. However, it is also
commonly felt that the effectiveness of a PA system and the strength of those linkages
depend, inter alia, on a number of factors. These include: the existence of relevant
dimensions of job performance that are used for the purpose; the development and
communication of appropriately determined performance standards and expectations;
the availability of trained and knowledgeable appraisers such that appraiser bias and
emotional contamination are minimized; a high level of system credibility; the use of
timely, specific, accurate, understandable and non-threatening feedback; the fair
application of the appraisal results and opportunities for appeal against the results if
employees deem them unfair (Ivancevich, 1995; Mondy and Noe, 1996; Schermerhorn
et al., 1997). If, in addition to the above, managers can effectively use 'social accounts'
as justification for or explanation of PA decisions that are not in the employee's favour,
then it is felt that employees will be more inclined to accept the results of performance
appraisal (Cobb et al., 1995; Bowen et al., 1999; Folger and Cropanzano, 1998).
The reality, however, is that, in spite of the widespread practice of performance
appraisal and the extensive academic research that has been done on this subject, these
systems constitute 'a human resource management paradox and their effectiveness an
elusive goal' (Taylor et al., 1995). For example, in referring to performance review as
'the job nobody likes'. Rice claims that there is general dissatisfaction within
organizations largely because there is no consensus about their purpose, and that
'confusion about conflicting purposes often undermines attempts at evaluation' (1996:
242). He identifies some of the flaws of the forms and procedures used that lead to unfair
evaluations in performance appraisal - the use of vague qualities and irrelevant
measurement criteria, superficial checklists that do not provide for individual evaluation
and monologues as opposed to dialogues. Baron and Kreps (1999), too, observe that the
different purposes and different constituents with a stake in PA outcomes cannot be well
served by the same evaluation methods.
Other obstacles stand In the way of PA effectiveness. Lawler observes that most
appraisers are uncomfortable doing appraisals and that '[e]ven in the best-managed
organizations, employees sometimes are treated unfairly by unreasonable or misguided
supervisors' (1992: 196). Some supervisors may be reluctant to offer feedback, and, even
when they do, the desired effects are not realized because the process is psychologically
complex (Fedor and Parsons, 1996). Folger and Lewis (1993) regard performance appraisal
as being stressful for both manager and employee, and liken reactions to the practice to the
way people feel about paying taxes, notwithstanding the important links between
performance appraisal and other aspects of human resources management. The extent to
which those links can be strengthened in both the employee's and employer's interests may
in some respects depend on how politicized the PA process becomes or is allowed to become.

Performance appraisal and organizational politics
Longnecker et al. found that 'behind a mask of objectivity and rationality, executives
engage in much manipulation in an intentional and systematic manner' (1996: 183). They
Nurse: Performance appraisal, employee development and organizational justice 1179

suggest that objectivity and rationality suffer because the performance appraisal process
is an emotional one. Moreover, one of their principal findings is that 'the formal appraisal
process is indeed a political process, and that few ratings are determined without some
political consideration'. Their study also concluded that 'accuracy [was] not the primary
concern of the practising executive in appraising subordinates. The main concern [was]
how best to use the appraisal process to motivate and reward subordinates. Hence
managerial discretion and effectiveness, not accuracy, are the real watchwords' (1996:
258, 259, emphasis added),
Longnecker et al. point to one of the realities of organizational life that most
traditional approaches to performance appraisal ignore, but which becomes relevant in
discussions about the connection between justice and performance appraisal. That reality
is that the employment relationship is managed within a political environment in
Organizations are arenas in which negotiations, networking, the formation of alliances
and power blocs as well as the development of political strategies are commonplace
events that play an important role in determining who gets what, what gets done and
within what context. If we accept that organizations as presently constituted and
managed are 'political arenas', 'political tools' for use by 'whoever is able to master
them' and political systems with finite resources, then we should be able to appreciate the
circumstances that give rise to the practice of different forms of political behaviours
(Dubrin, 1990; Bolman and Deal, 1991; Culbert and McDonough, 1989), That
acceptance makes it easier to appreciate how administrative activity, including human
resource practice, takes place within and is influenced by a political environment within
Given the reality of organizational politics and organizational politicking, one of
the myths about life in organizations is that hard work, per se leads to success, Dubrin
would argue that we have been misled into thinking that 'hard work is its own
reward', that if one 'keep[s] plugging away at [one's] job,,,[one]) will be noticed by
the company' (1990: 3), Sometimes there is a tendency to forget that there are no
universally agreed-upon standards of measurement, that 'subjective measures,,.con-
tribute to politicking' (Dubrin, 1990: 4), and that hard work is situational. Pursuing
this line of argument would lead to the conclusion that what matters might very well
turn out to be not what one knows or how well one performs, but whom one knows.
The reality might very well be that hard work is defined by the person with the most
power, and the hard work equation might not be that hard work equates with success,
but that hard work is equal to style plus results, both of which are defined by the boss
(Kennedy, 1980),
It should therefore not be a surprise that some organizational members understand the
PA system as a mask for the boss's 'hidden agenda', or that individuals will play politics
to counteract the effects of the system and to advance their own interests. One of the
questions that follows logically from the above discussion is whether PA is or can be an
effective medium for the dispensation of fair outcomes in organizations.

Performance appraisat and organizationat justice
Academics with an interest in the employment relationship and organizational behaviour
have begun to address issues that are connected to the broad theme of developing fair
working environments. As such, there has been a growing body of research that looks at
procedural, interactional and distributive justice in organizations, Examplars of this trend
include Greenberg (1987, 1988, 1993a, 1996), Alexander and Ruderman (1987), Lind
1180 The International Journal of Human Resource Management

(1995), Lind and Tyler (1988), Fryxell and Gordon (1989), Folger and Konovsky (1989),
Sheppard et al., (1992), Cropanzano and Randall (1993), Gordon and Fryxell (1993),
Hartley (1995), Alexander ef a/., (1995), Taylor ef a/., (1995), Cropanzano and Kackmar
(1995), Beugre (1998) and Folger and Cropanzano (1998).
Following the early generation of interest in distributive justice that was sparked by
Homans (1961) and Adams (1965), researchers turned their attention to other dimensions
of justice that were considered just as important in influencing individual behaviour in
organizations. Thibaut and Walker (1975), Leventhal (1980) and Lind and Tyler (1988)
set the stage for what has since become a justifiable academic concern with individuals'
responses to perceptions of procedural injustice. It soon became evident from the work of
Greenberg (1993b, 1993c), Bies and Moag (1986), Bies and Shapiro (1987), Bies et al.,
(1998) and Tyler and Bies (1990) that, in addition to the role that formal procedures
played in the justice equation, it was also important to focus on the 'enactment of
procedures', the social context within which they were applied, and individuals'
perceptions of the type of treatment they received in applying those procedures.
Scholars and practising managers who are concerned about the existence of
organizational justice cannot afford to ignore the potential contribution that performance
appraisal and human resources management on the whole can make to such an outcome,
as well to other outcomes of interest to management (Fryxell and Gordon, 1989; Folger
and Konovsky, 1989; Cobb and Frey, 1991; Moorman, 1991; McFarlin and Sweeney,
1992; Robinson, 1995; Lind, 1995; Bowen et al., 1999).
Recent work by Folger et al.,{\992) and Folger and Cropanzano (1998) has widened
our perspectives in thinking about performance appraisal, insofar as it employs three
metaphors for understanding the relationship between performance evaluation and
organizational justice - the test, political and trial metaphors. Neither the 'test', nor the
'political' metaphor, in their view, best captures the essence of performance appraisal. In
the former case, performance appraisal is seen as 'a special type of psychological
assessment', and performance appraisal 'is "fair" to the extent that it accurately assesses
performance' (Folger and Cropanzano, 1998: 109). The use of the political metaphor is
intended to expose and transcend the limitations inherent in the assumptions behind the
use of the test metaphor. Accordingly, accurate evaluations and 'cold but balanced
scientific activity', become hostage to the 'rough-and-tumble organizational context in
which these evaluations occur' (Folger and Cropanzano, 1998: 113).
The use of the political lens draws attention to the poor management of the
performance appraisal process, including lack of rater training, low levels of supervisory
motivation for doing a good job and manipulation of the process for personal reasons,
with the result that performance appraisal is seen as a non-event, characterized by
'corrosive sloppiness' (Folger and Cropanzano, 1998). This view of the process and its
results is similar to that expressed by Longnecker et al., (1996). However, Folger and
Cropanzano (1998) suggest that the 'trial' metaphor offers more hope as an approach for
understanding performance appraisal in ways that accept the reality of the other
metaphors, transcend their limitations and facilitate a better appreciation of the
interpersonal dynamics that are central to the process.
In essence, the trial or 'due process' metaphor 'distinguishes between the goals of
accuracy and justice in PA and highlights the importance of fairness as a legitimate PA
goal' (Folger et al., 1992). Further, it assumes that accuracy does not guarantee fairness,
human dignity or personal worth, outcomes that performance appraisal should deliver
(Folger and Cropanzano, 1998). The due process metaphor, too, recognizes the
inevitability of conflicting interests, the corresponding need for procedures appropriate to
the 'management of disagreement', and the importance of trying to be fair if there is
Nurse: Performance appraisal, employee development and organizational justice 1181

uncertainty about being correct (Folger et al., 1992). Folger and Cropanzano conclude
that '[jjustice is a way of building the close interpersonal bonds of effective working
relationships, because just treatment affirms the dignity and worth of the individual. This
affirmation helps to build the kind of positive working relationships that produce
successful organisations' (1998: 131).
It seems almost axiomatic that the nature of praxis implied in the due process
metaphor would be embraced by trade unions, given the perceived relationships between
due process and trade-union practice, the role trade unions play in the management of
disagreement and the emphasis they place on different rules of justice enshrined in
collective agreements as compared to the arrangements that exist in and govern non-
union establishments (Alexander et al., 1995). Reference is made to these rules of justice
because 'their usage is likely to produce outcomes in unionised workplaces that
reflect the operation of justice principles that may not even be considered in non-
union workplaces' (Nurse, in preparation). When note is also taken of the fact
that workers have historically joined trade unions because of their attractiveness as
organizations for promoting and strengthening job security and for protecting them
against unfair treatment (HoUey et al, 2001; Brett, 1980), it seems plausible that the
management of performance appraisal might result in higher levels of perceived
procedural and interactional justice in the unionized environment than in the non-union
By insisting on certain rules of justice, trade unions also ensure that certain principles
apply with respect to the design of performance appraisal systems, one of which is union
oversight of and agreement to the use of the performance appraisal form itself. Unions
insist on this in an attempt, inter alia, to ensure that workers are not required to discharge
obligations under the system that are not in keeping with their job descriptions, to shape
decision-making regarding the allocation of weights for different performance
dimensions and to have a say over any appeals procedure that may be contemplated
by management. Management may also approach the management of the process in ways
that suggest a concern for the use of fair procedures in an attempt to avoid undue union

The first hypothesis that this study tests is therefore as follows:

Hypothesis 1: Given the nature of trade-union activity and the role trade unions play or
are expected to play in shaping the employment relationship, workers in
the non-union sector will experience lower levels of procedural and
interactional justice than their trade-union counterparts.

If there is any truth in the statements that PA is 'a mask for the boss' hidden agenda',
that the process is highly politicized and can be easily manipulated by management, and
that employees are at times treated unfairly by unreasonable or misguided supervisors,
then it is easy to understand why the PA process is seen as being problematic. It is also
easy to understand the academic and practical interest in the presumed links between PA
and justice outcomes. Under such circumstances, the question that can be legitimately
posed is: what options are available to workers in unionized environments in securing
justice from the process?
Trade unions can and do raise questions about some of the substantive FA
decisions made by management. Contesting such decisions, however, might
constitute politically dangerous behaviour, especially since such a course of action
1182 The International Journal of Human Resource Management

may pit the interests of one union member against those of another. Unions,
however have an obligation to raise such matters with management when they arise,
even if only for 'political' purposes. And it is under such circumstances that trade-
union leaders may engage in 'social accounting' in an effort to have the complainant
accept the decision made by management. Complainants may therefore benefit only
from the comfort of dicta. The second hypothesis tested is that there will be no
appreciable difference in justice perceptions between unionized and non-unionized
respondents about the treatment of performers, given the nature of the tightrope that
trade-union leaders may be forced to walk in dealing with contested PA decisions
involving union members, and the corresponding 'freedom' management has in
making PA decisions.
It was acknowledged earlier that there are important links between performance
appraisal and other aspects of human resources management. It was also implied in an
earlier statement that the politicization of the PA process might serve to weaken, rather
than strengthen those linkages. If the practice is politicized and does not reflect the
principles of due process, then PA results will not serve to validate the effectiveness of
other human resource practices, including training, career pathing and compensation
strategy (Baron and Kreps, 1999). If management cannot rely on the results of
performance evaluation as an indicator of how effective practice is in any of these areas,
then it will hardly be able to assess the contribution human resource strategy is making to
the accomplishment of business purpose.
Much more to the point, if employees consistently meet and exceed performance
standards and requirements but are not appropriately rewarded, through increased pay or
promotion or other appropriate forms of recognition, the linkage between PA and
employee career advancement is weakened. If the results of PA suggest the need for
employee training, counselling, transfer or some other course of action for the
improvement of behaviour and performance, but no recommendations are made to that
effect or they are made but ignored for political reasons, again PA cannot be said to have
any forward linkages with employee training and development in organizations where
such occurrences are commonplace.
Answers to questions such as those posed above can assist in an attempt to determine
whether PA produces fair outcomes in organizations. If management is interested in the
promotion of fair outcomes, there are certain obligations it would be expected to
discharge to the individual. One such obligation would be to assist individuals with
career management. Based on information generated through PA, management develops
a good sense of employee training and development needs, against the background of its
own strategic human resource strategies and objectives, and taking into account the
structure of opportunity within the organization. The final hypothesis tested is that
workers who perceive that they are not treated fairly from performance appraisal are also
likely to agree that their expectations regarding training, development and promotions
have not been met.

Design of the study, research and data collection methods
Our principal focus is to examine how a cross-section of workers in Barbados perceive
the performance appraisal process as a mechanism for delivering justice. First, we
outline the procedures used for conducting this study. Next, we present information
that highlights the characteristics of the respondents in the sample. Thereafter, we
analyse and discuss the results of the study and draw some implications from the
Nurse: Performance appraisal, employee development and organizational justice 1183

Measures and procedure
From a sample frame of 400 establishments, we randomly chose 120 organizations from
the private and public sectors in Barbados. Forty of the organizations were large and
eighty were small. We targeted 1000 employees for interviews - five from each of the
small organizations and fifteen each from the relatively larger ones. In order to ensure
gender balance among the respondents, we chose a ratio of three males to two females in
the small organizations and eight males to seven females from the larger ones. We used
this approach to ensure that our results would fairly reflect the views of the working
The data were collected by the use of a semi-structured questionnaire containing
seventy-nine questions, with sixteen multi-part questions. The questionnaire also
included several multidimensional questions intended to generate measures of a variety
of respondent attitudes toward the trade union. In particular, the instrument was designed
to enable us to test respondents' perceptions about grievance management, performance
appraisal and promotions practice, compensation and benefits management and the
effectiveness of collective bargaining. The analysis in this paper is restricted to the
workers' perceptions about performance appraisal and promotions practice. The issue of
grievance management is addressed in another paper (Nurse, in preparation).
The results are based on the questionnaire responses of 660 employees, a response rate
of 66 per cent. Over the period April to June 2000, university students administered to the
respondents a semi-structured questionnaire addressing a range of issues dealing with
different aspects of organizational justice. We included a cover letter with the
questionnaire stating the purpose of the research. We also indicated to the respondents
that participation in the study was voluntary. Table 1 provides some basic background
information about the respondents.

Characteristics of the respondents
Table 1 summarizes the background information about the respondents. Fifty-three per
cent were females and 47 per cent were males; 36 per cent were members of a trade
union; 56 per cent were not and 6 per cent did not reveal their trade-union status. A large
proportion were graduates of the secondary school system. Note also that the number
graduating with certificates was almost double those graduating without. Forty-one per
cent were in the 25-35 age group and 42 per cent in the 35-55 age group. Thirty-six per
cent of the respondents had been employed in their organizations for under five years, 34
per cent for over ten years and 28 per cent between five and ten years. The sectors are
widely representative of the economy. The largest number of respondents were drawn
from commerce (26 per cent) and the smallest number from government (10 per cent)
and construction (8 per cent). In addition, there was a relatively even distribution of
respondents across the other four sectors, ranging from 11.7 per cent to 15 per cent.

Factor analysis
Using varimax rotation, a principal-components factor analysis of the items' that we used
to constitute the practice of performance appraisal loaded the performance appraisal
items on three separate factors. There is an nine-item procedural justice factor that
includes items such as 'awareness of performance standards', 'performance issues
discussed freely' and 'interview used to improve performance'. There is a two-item
interactional justice factor - 'supervisor knows how to appraise' and 'I have opportunity
to express my views freely', as well as a three-item factor that we label 'treatment of
1184 The International Journal of Human Resource Management

Table 1 Selected background characteristics of the respondents

Selected dimension % Subtotals Totals

Male 47 301
Female 53 337 638
Educational qualifications
Primary only 9 56
Secondary without certificates 24 144
Secondary with certificates 45 273
University 14 86
Other 8 51 610
Union status
In trade union 38 248
Not in trade union 56 326
Won't say/don't know 6 35 609
Employment tenure
Under 5 years 36 220
5-10 years 28 173
Over 10 years 34 207
Won't say 2 13 613
Under 25 years 13 80
25-35 years 41 253
Over 35 years-55 years 42 261
Over 55 years 4 22
Won't say .5 3 619
Sector employed
Construction 8 52
Commerce 26 174
Tourism 15 99
Other services 14 92
Agriculture 12 77
Manufacturing 15 100
Government 10 64 658

performers'. Two of the items in the last-mentioned factor are 'good performers are
rewarded by management' and 'poor performers receive same rewards as good
performers'. Cronbach's alpha for the procedural justice factor was .90. It was .88 and
.90 for the interactional justice and treatment of performers factors respectively. The
procedural justice factor explained 53 per cent of the variance, the interactional justice
factor explained 8 per cent while the treatment of performers factor explained 5 per cent.
Using this information, we present the results for procedural justice perceptions of our
respondents first, followed by those for interactional justice and 'treatment of
performers' respectively.

Procedural justice and performance appraisal
tn the background to this paper, the different forms of justice that are applied to
performance appraisal were discussed. Following Cobb et al.'s approach towards the
application of forms of justice to organizational development, we begin this section by
Nurse: Performance appraisal, employee development and organizational justice 1185

exploring the particular respects in which procedural justice is relevant to the issue of
appraising performance.
The activities and outcomes represented by the items under procedural justice
constitute some of the critical points of contact between procedural fairness concerns and
performance appraisal and the intermediate results that are expected from engaging in
performance appraisal. Reference to them helps answer the questions - 'what are the
mechanisms available to supervisors to ensure PA procedural justice?' and 'what are
some of the practices in which they must engage effectively to create the pathways to
procedural justice?' These contact points also suggest the need for certain types of
ground rules and skill that supervisors are expected to bring to the process, as well as the
wider obligations that management has for establishing the system itself and
communicating its objectives to employees.
The use of the f-test showed that significant differences in perception existed between
union and non-union respondents regarding one procedural element only - the existence
of formal performance appraisal systems (p :£,05), The means were 2,66 for union
member and 3,05 for non-union member respectively, indicating that union members
were more likely to say that formal performance appraisal systems existed in the
organizations where they worked.
The results for the remainder of the procedural elements were not statistically
significant. The relatively high means ior get regular feedback (3,16 for union and 3,03
for non-union respectively, p > ,05) and get regular formal interviews (3,15 for union
and 3,23 for non-union respectively, p > ,05) reflect respondents' uncertainty about such
outcomes. Respondents tended to lean more towards uncertainty than agreement with
respect to get useful feedback (2,87 for union and 2,82 for non-union respectively,
p > ,05), interview used to improve performance (2,73 for union and 2,80 for non-union
respectively, p > ,05), performance issues freely discussed (2,75 for union and 2,63 for
non-union respectively) and feedback related to job performance (2,60 for union and
2,67 for non-union respectively,/? > ,05), However, the means for awareness of required
performance standards (2,18 for both union and non-union respectively, p > ,05)
suggest that respondents in both union and non-union environments agreed that they
were aware of those standards.
These results suggest general uncertainty or ambivalence among union and non-union
respondents about the procedural environment as it applies to performance appraisal. If
such uncertainty existed about important procedural elements that constitute integral
aspects of performance appraisal, it is open to speculation whether respondents were able
to determine from formal communication received how management felt about their
The general level of uncertainty may be an expression of the absence of formal
systems in many organizations. It may also reflect poor management of the process, with
managers and supervisors engaging in PA activities in an ad hoc fashion, not paying
attention to important process issues. Our own experience consulting to several
organizations in the private sector tends to bear this out, as a number of organizations
have only recently considered the introduction of formal appraisal schemes. Teachers'
unions in the public sector have for some time now been engaged in an ongoing debate
with the Ministry of Education over an as-yet unimplemented decision by the latter to
introduce a formal appraisal system for teachers.
1186 The International Journal of Human Resource Management
Other perceptions about performance appraisal
Several opportunities exist for interaction between supervisor and employee at different
stages of the performance appraisal process. It is from these experiences that workers are
able to judge the type of interpersonal treatment they receive from their supervisors, and
assess the character of interpersonal relations between them. Table 2 presents
information that shows how respondents feel about opportunities for promoting
interactional justice, using the results of factor analysis and f-test results.
Interactional justice as applied to PA would involve a consideration of the tone and
tenor of the interaction between appraiser and appraised. If supervisors know how to
appraise, they will ensure that certain conditions exist for the development of meaningful
exchanges and a meaningful, productive, helping relationship between themselves and
workers. They must know how to create a climate in which employees are willing to
share their views about performance issues and to receive critical comment about those
issues from supervisors.
The results in Table 2 show differences in the means by union status for supervisors
know how to appraise and opportunities exist to express views freely (p < .05). The
means for these items for union members are 2.99 and 2.45 respectively, and 2.73 and
2.24 respectively for non-union members. The inference that we draw from these data is
that, while both groups tended to doubt whether supervisors know how to appraise, union
members were more inclined to that view than non-union members. Non-union members
were also more inclined to say that opportunities existed for them to express their views
freely during the interview.
We hypothesized that, given the nature of trade-union activity and the role trade
unions play or are expected to play in shaping the employment relationship, workers in
the non-union sector would experience fewer opportunities for procedural and
interactional justice than their trade-union counterparts. The results of our analysis in
the two preceding sections disconfirm our hypothesis. Workers in both sectors
experienced generally low levels of procedural justice from performance appraisal.
While interactional justice perceptions, too, were generally negative, they were more so
for union members than non-union members, thereby raising important questions about
the role the trade union plays or can play in shaping workers' experiences with
performance appraisal.

Performance appraisal and the reward for performance (treatment of performers)
In discussing the 'due process' metaphor of performance appraisal, Folger and
Cropanzano (1998) argue that performance appraisal should deliver outcomes such as
fairness, human dignity and personal worth. According to equity theory, employees'

Table 2 Respondents' general perceptions about PA interactional justice

Selected dimension Means SDs t-test

Union Non-union Union Non-union
Performance appraisal effective 3.1467 2.8627 .1453 1.1321 .008
Perfomiance issues freely di.scussed 2.7500 2.6364 .1687 1.0299 .298
Performance appraisals are fair 2.7056 2.5856 .1190 1.0053 .260
Supervisors know how to appraise 2.9873 2.7330 .1173 1.0548 .020
Have opportunity to express views freely 2.4524 2.2438 .1748 .9825 044
Nurse: Performance appraisal, employee development and organizational justice 1187

satisfaction with outcomes is likely to be influenced by comparing expected outcomes
with actual outcomes, as well as by making comparisons between their outcomes and
those of other significant referent sources, including their colleagues within their
organization (Adams, 1963). Referent cognitions theory suggests, too, that, even if
distributive justice is low, there will be minimal resentment if people believe that the
procedures used are fair (McFarlin and Sweeney, 1992).
It seems plausible that one of the circumstances under which this 'fair process effect'
can be realized is when the performance appraisal data are used fairly. A concern for
relevance requires us to establish how poor performers are treated relative to the
treatment of good performers. We therefore asked respondents whether they thought that
good performers were rewarded by management; poor petformers were disciplined by
management and poor performers received the same rewards as good performers.
r-test results for the items in this 'treatment of performers' factor indicate no
statistically significant differences in perceptions, by union status, of the way either good
or poor performers were treated. Respondents in both union and non-union organizations
were uncertain whether poor petformers received the same rewards as good performers
(means 3.09 and 3.04). They were almost equally uncertain whether good petformers
were rewarded by management (means 2.98 and 2.83) and whether poor performers were
disciplined by management (means 2.87 and 2.85). Our results therefore suggest that
union status may not have an effect on respondents' perceptions about the treatment of
either poor or good performers.

Employee development and advancement
One of the criteria for determining the potential effectiveness of human resource practice
is the extent to which forward and backward linkages exist between the different
elements of human resource management and how they are managed. Effective and fair
performance appraisals should therefore inform the development of managerial
strategies for training and development. They should also influence an organization's
practice governing promotions. Given these presumed relationships, organizational
justice research can play an important role in determining the faimess of career
development (CD) programmes and practices in organizations. Wooten and Cobb
propose that 'a justice framework can be used to link CD concepts and constructs to
related aspects of organizational phenomena and subsequently provide greater
explanatory power and practical application' (1999: 178).
While procedural and interactional justice are important concerns in attempting to
understand the relevance of justice research to career development issues, this paper is
restricted to a consideration of distributive justice and career development, focusing
primarily on employee perceptions of the links between performance appraisal and
training, development and promotions. This approach is in keeping with Wooten and
Cobb's notion that 'the rewards and opportunities that come with promotions, highly
desired development opportunities, select training programs, and specialized counseling
are ... examples of how CD outcomes would be relevant to [distributive] justice' (1999:
174). Accordingly, we examine below employee perceptions about promotions practice
and promotional opportunities in their organizations.

Perceptions of promotions practice and promotional opportunities
Employees' career development and mobility depend not only on the effectiveness of
performance appraisal activity and its results, but also on the policy and practice
governing promotions. Some companies have open systems for managing promotions,
1188 The International Journal of Human Resource Management

while in others supervisors and managers identify persons whom they consider worthy of
such rewards. Organizations may also use variants of this approach, depending on
whether or not their employees are members of a trade union.
A principal-components analysis using varimax rotation loaded six promotions
practice items on two factors^ - a three-item promotions fairness factor and a two-item
promotions information availability factor."* The former factor included items such as
'adequate promotional opportunities exist' and 'will be fairly considered for vacancy for
which I am qualified'. The two items in the second factor were 'receive information
about vacancies' and 'vacancies advertised internally'. There was good correlation
between the factors and the items in the scale. Cronbach's alpha for the promotions
fairness factor was .82 and .90 for the promotion information availability factor. The
promotions fairness factor explained 57 per cent of the variance and the information
availability factor explained approximately 18 per cent.
T-test results indicate no statistically significant differences in perceptions between
union and non-union respondents about the existence of adequate promotional
opportunities in their organisations, expectations about being fairly considered for
vacancy for which they were qualified, whether they received information about
vacancies and whether vacancies were advertised internally. Union and non-union
respondents were uncertain about the existence of adequate promotional opportunities
(means 3.21 and 3.02 for union and non-union respectively, p > .05). Regarding their
expectations about being fairly considered for vacancies (means 2.22 and 2.60
respectively, p > .05); whether they received information about vacancies (means 2.63
and 2.61 respectively, p > .05); and whether vacancies were advenised internally
(means 2.58 and 2.55 respectively, p > .05), both categories of respondents tended to
waver between agreement and uncertainty. However, r-test results revealed statistically
significant differences in perceptions between union and non-union respondents about
the fairness of promotions practice. Union members expressed higher levels of
uncertainty than non-union members about this outcome (means 3.10 and 2.91
respectively, p < .05). The results in this section suggest that, for the most part, both
union members and non-union respondents tended to be equally uncertain or ambivalent
about the existence of promotions fairness or promotions information availability as a
result of organizational practice governing performance appraisal.

Workers' perceptions of development and advancement
Respondents were asked whether their expectations were met regarding pay for
performance, advancement, training and development and security. T-tcst results
reported in Table 3 reveal statistically significant differences in perception between
union and non-union respondents for pay for performance (means 3.30 and 3.07 for

Table 3 Mobility and advancement perceptions by union status

Expectations met in following Means SD t-test
areas sig.
Union Non-union Union Non-union
Pay for performance 3.3043 3.0683 1.2414 1.3379 .031
Advancement 3.2490 3.0757 1.1855 1.2125 107
Development 2.9073 2.8401 1.2036 1.2727 .534
Security 2.9659 2.6351 1.2000 1.3687 .003
Nurse: Petformance appraisal, employee development and organizational justice 1189

union and non union respectively, p > .05) and for security (means 2.97 and 2.64 for
union and non union respectively, p > 05). Union members, more so than non-union
members, tended to doubt whether their expectations were met in these areas.
A comparison of the means for advancement and training and development respectively
shows that workers from both the union and non-union sectors were not sure that their
expectations were being met in these areas.

Performance appraisal, promotions practice and employee advancement: testing
the relationship
We hypothesized that workers who perceived that they were not treated fairly as a result
of performance appraisal were also likely to agree that their expectations regarding
promotions, training and development were not met. To test this hypothesis, we applied
bivariate analysis to determine the nature and strength of the relationship between the
independent variables treatment of performers and promotions practice and the
dependent variables of interest - expectations regarding training development, pay for
performance, promotion/advancement and security respectively. We report the results
There were significant, but relatively moderate relationships between respondents'
perceptions about treatment of performers and their expectations about pay for
performance {r= .43, p = .01), promotion and advancement (r = .40, p = .01) and
training and development (r = .32, p = .01). The relationships between respondents'
perceptions of promotions practice and their expectations regarding pay for performance
(r= .47, p = .01), training and development (r = .50, p= .01) and promotion and
advancement (r = .57, p = .01) respectively were also significant but of moderate

The intention in this paper was to ascertain whether workers in a cross-section of
organizations in Barbados perceived that performance appraisal activity resulted in
fairness. A related purpose was to determine whether they felt that performance appraisal
outcomes helped them realize their expectations regarding development and
advancement. Union membership was used as the primary basis for establishing
differences in perceptions. Our results suggest that respondents expressed much
uncertainty about a majority of the performance appraisal items measured in this study.
The results do not paint a favourable picture of this practice.
Notwithstanding the generally high reported level of awareness of the standards
respondents were expected to meet, formal performance appraisal systems, according to
their responses, did not exist in many organizations. It is therefore plausible to argue that,
where established guidelines governing performance appraisal did not exist, supervisors
were not necessarily bound to engage in the process in ways that reflect genuine concerns
about procedural and interactional justice or due process.
It seems legitimate to speculate about a number of factors that shaped the outcomes
identified by respondents, especially in those organizations that did not have formal
systems. Here reference is made to some of the factors identified by Folger and
Cropanzano (1998) that could account for some of the negative perceptions held by
respondents - 'poor management of the process', 'low levels of supervisory motivation'
and poor supervisory preparation for engaging in the process. If supervisors are not well
trained and they do not possess high levels of interpersonal competence, then they will
1190 The International Journal of Human Resource Management

not be able effectively to manage the procedural environment or shape the type of
interaction between themselves and appraisees that makes the latter feel respected or well
treated, based on the way supervisors engage in the process.
If there is no formal system in many of the sampled organizations, appraisal outcomes
may also benefit those who do not deserve the benefit and disadvantage others who may
be entitled to it. Such ad hoc allocation of rewards creates a sense of perceived injustice.
It also affects individuals' development and advancement opportunities.
The research was guided by the argument that workers in non-union organizations will
experience fewer opportunities for procedural and interactional justice than their
counterparts in the unionised environment, but that they will both share similar
perceptions about the treatment of performers. This argument is based on the
presumption that the trade-union concern about due process will serve to shape some of
the procedures in use in the unionized environment. Accordingly, management will be
forced to pay more careful attention to the process than it does in the non-union
The results do not support the above argument. Our results did not reveal any
significant differences in perception among union and non-union respondents about the
vast majority of procedural elements used in this study. Moreover, and contrary to our
hypothesis, non-union respondents expressed more favourable perceptions about the
interactional elements than their trade-union counterparts, even though their responses
were not favourable in each case, but less unfavourable than that of union members.
It can be inferred from the results that, while non-union respondents, like their trade-
union counterparts, might not receive regular or useful feedback through regular formal
interviews, they might have benefited from more effective informal interaction with their
supervisors on the occasions that it occurred. It is also possible that management
practices in their organizations reflect more paternalism than in those with trade-union
membership, perhaps in an attempt to keep their organizations non-union.
In light of the above, how can the finding about the treatment of performers be
explained? Speculation about this outcome is difficult. If formal systems are not
widespread, it is possible that respondents do not have a fair or rational basis on which to
base their perceptions, since they would not be aware of the yardsticks used by
management. The informality that presumably characterizes most of the systems in use
may also be a factor worth considering here. The argument does not assume that workers
are unaware of the contributions made by their colleagues. The concern is that they do
not have an objective meter by which to assess that contribution. Supervisors may
dispense justice based on favouritism, bias or other criteria that have nothing to do with
individual performance.
In any event, the generally negative perceptions about the treatment of performers
might be partially explained in reference to what respondents perceive as limited
promotional opportunities in their organizations. Such a conclusion may, however, be
open to question if we interpret rewards for good performance to include more than
The results confirmed the hypothesis that workers who believed that performers were
not treated fairly as a result of performance appraisal would also agree that their
expectations regarding development and advancement were not being met. Training and
development, promotions and salary progression are some of the visible steps towards
and means of individual advancement in an organization. Apart from the perception that
promotional opportunities were inadequate, one wonders whether employers assisted the
respondents with the management of their careers, thereby better enabling them to
envisage their future in the organization.
Nurse: Performance appraisal, employee development and organizational justice 1191

Direction of future research
The writer is not aware of any study that has been undenaken on this subject in Barbados.
Virgin territory therefore awaits the researcher with an interest in this phenomenon.
Research on the way supervisors perceive performance appraisal, how they understand
their role and engage in the process and the nature of the training they receive as raters
would fill some of the gaps in our knowledge about this phenomenon. It would also be
useful to determine what rules exist in both union and non-union environments for the
promotion of due process in performance appraisal. In a related connection, this line of
research should, following Longnecker et al, (1996), also focus on the extent of
intentional and systematic manipulation that characterizes performance appraisal, and
the roles played by politics, objectivity and rationality.
Given the speculative comment that we made earlier about the structure of rewards
available to management for influencing or rewarding performance in organizations in
Barbados, research is required that sheds light on the structure and practice of rewards
management. Hardly any published work exists about compensation practice in the
country. It would also be useful, following McFarlin and Sweeney (1992), to undenake
research to determine the mitigating effect of fair procedures if workers believe that low
levels of distributive justice resulted from performance appraisal.
The results of this research also suggest the need to study contemporary career
development (CD) practice, and its links to the different forms of justice explored in this
paper. Some of the issues for examination would include 'the allocation of CD resources,
the policies and procedures used to decide who receive them and the interaction between
those who provide them and those who not only receive CD rewards but also experience
its losses' (Wooten and Cobb, 1999: 173). This line of research would serve to enrich our
understanding about the programme, process and people focus of career development
initiatives in organizations in Barbados.

I am grateful to Joseann Small and Grace-Ann Jackman for their generous research

1 We threw out five of the items that did not seem to be captured by or fit the definitions of
procedural, interactional or distributive justice. Information regarding the items used in the factor
analysis may be obtained through correspondence with the author.
2 We discarded the item 'can apply for vacancy at higher level' since it did not appear to load
clearly on either factor. Information regarding the items used in the factor analysis may be
obtained through correspondence with the author.
3 This label is used since the items reflect more a measure of the extent to which information is
made available than a measure of justice.

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