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Int. J.

of Human Resource Management 13:7 November 2002 1091–1104

Understanding organizational justice and its impact on managing employees: an African perspective

Constant D. Beugr´ e
Abstract The past decade has witnessed dramatic social and political changes on the African continent. The present article argues that these political and social changes may spill over in the workplace in the form of a quest for justice and empowerment. Based on the organizational justice literature, the article develops a conceptual framework that advocates the integration of justice concepts in managing African organizations. It also explains how African managers can anticipate this trend by developing and implementing fair organizational practices. Keywords Distributive justice; interactional justice; organizational justice; procedural justice; social justice; spillover model; sub-Saharan Africa.

The past decade has witnessed dramatic social and political changes on the African continent. These changes have ranged from the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa (domination by a white minority) to pluralistic presidential and parliamentary elections in most African countries. Beugr´ (1998a) argued that such social and political e changes are likely to spill over in the workplace in form of a quest for more justice and freedom. Social justice is both an end in itself and a means. As an end, social justice is considered as a virtue that should characterize any civilized society. As a means, social justice fosters the right of the disenfranchised and helps reduce social inequalities. The present article argues that the quest for social justice is likely to spill over in the workplace in form of a quest for organizational justice.1 Thus, African managers should anticipate such new trends and develop appropriate responses. ‘As globalization and modernization cut everywhere deeper into existing social fabrics and give rise to new social patterns, new hopes, new aspirations, new institutions and new authority structures, basic conceptions of social and industrial justice naturally come under review, are challenged (and sometimes exploited) and eventually are changed to de ne a new order’ (Meindl et al., 1994: 198). I limit the scope of this article to sub-Saharan Africa,2 thereby excluding the countries of North Africa that are often associated with the Middle East (Quelch and Austin, 1993). Indeed, sub-Saharan Africa is not a uni ed region but is characterized by diversity, contrasts and contradictions (Beugr´ and Offodile, 2001). However, amid this e great diversity, there are suf cient similarities for a tentative pro le to be drawn (Blunt and Jones, 1992). There is a theoretical ground to the spillover argument. The social environment in which organizations operate shapes their work behaviour. Thus, changes in the social,
Constant D. Beugr´ , Kent State University, Tuscarawas Campus, 330 University Drive, NE, e New Philadelphia, OH 44663–9403, USA (tel: 1 330 308 7476; fax: 1 330 339 3321; e-mail:
The International Journal of Human Resource Management ISSN 0958-5192 print/ISSN 1466-4399 online © 2002 Taylor & Francis Ltd DOI: 10.1080/09585190210131311


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political and economic environment undoubtedly in uence organizational practices. In light of these new developments on the African continent, conceptual as well as empirical studies on organizational justice are needed. Such studies would enhance the internalization of organizational justice research. Organizational justice is important because perceptions of fairness lead to positive attitudes and behaviours, whereas perceptions of unfairness lead to counterproductive behaviours, such as theft (Greenberg, 1993a) and workplace aggression (Baron et al., 1999). Most studies on organizational justice have been limited to the West and speci cally to the United States. Studies conducted in non-Western contexts concern mostly Asian countries (Leung and Lind, 1986; Leung and Park, 1986; Meindl et al., 1994). Conducting justice research in an African context presents two major advantages. First, it adds to the growing body of knowledge on organizational justice and assesses the cross-cultural nature of the concept. James (1993) notes that culture exerts very important and wide-ranging effects on justice behaviour, even including generally shaping the likelihood that individuals will experience feelings of injustice. Second, an African perspective on organizational justice may serve as a guideline for African managers to create fair working environments. In the rst section of this paper, I lay the groundwork for the spillover argument. I explain how a quest for social justice may lead to a quest for justice and fairness in the workplace. Next, I analyse justice issues in African organizations. In so doing, I focus only on African cultural patterns that are relevant to organizational justice issues. I then suggest ways of enhancing justice and fairness in African organizations. Finally, I suggest avenues for empirical research in organizational justice in an African organizational context. From social justice to organizational justice Justice is the virtue of social institutions as truth is of systems of thought (Rawls, 1971). ‘Laws and institutions no matter how ef cient and well arranged must be reformed or abolished if they are unjust’ (Rawls, 1971: 3). Social justice is to a society what organizational justice is to an organization. Emphasizing the importance of fairness for any social system, Sheppard et al. (1992) note that a system that stays unfair long enough will either fail completely or become subject to external procedural and systemic controls. Since organizations are considered as arenas for the interplay of many interests, actions and systems should be evaluated in terms of the degree to which they develop and permit adequate representation of these many separate interests within the rm. ‘In business organizations, considerations of fairness appeal to managers, employees, and other organizational stakeholders who see fairness as a unifying value providing fundamental principles that can bind together con icting parties and create stable structures’ (Konovsky, 2000: 489). Thus, quest for fairness in the social environment may lead to quest for fairness in the workplace. The spillover model Using organizational justice concepts (Greenberg, 1987, 1990a, 1993a; Cropanzano and Greenberg, 1997), I develop a model that postulates a relationship between social justice and organizational justice. The model contends that social justice would lead to organizational justice. Social justice in African countries would include more democracy, the rule of law and political governance, especially accountability of public

Beugr´ : Understanding organizational justice 1093 e of cials. Progress in these three areas would spill over into the workplace in the form of organizational justice. The model contends that if managers were to respond positively to the quest for social justice by enhancing organizational justice, the subsequent result would be positive at both the individual and organizational levels. At the individual level, employees would display positive attitudes and behaviours, such as organizational commitment, trust in management and the organization, organizational citizenship behaviour (OCB), satisfaction and reduced turnover. These positive attitudes and behaviours would lead to higher organizational performance. However, if management were not to respond to the quest for social justice with increased organizational justice, the resulting individual outcomes would be high frequency of counterproductive behaviours, such as reduced commitment and effort, sabotage, and workplace aggression. The organizational outcome would undoubtedly be lower productivity. Organizational justice Organizational justice refers to employee perceptions of fairness (Beugr´ , 1998a, e 1998b; Cropanzano and Greenberg, 1997; Greenberg, 1987, 1990a, 1993a). Organizational justice scholars have generally identi ed three dimensions of justice: distributive justice (Homans, 1961; Adams, 1965; Deutsch, 1985), procedural justice (Lind and Tyler, 1988; Greenberg, 1987) and interactional justice (Bies and Moag, 1986; Cropanzano and Greenberg, 1997). Although Greenberg (1990a, 1993a) considered interactional justice as representing the social aspects of procedural justice, recent research on organizational justice has treated interactional justice as a separate dimension (Cropanzano and Greenberg, 1997; Beugr´ and Baron, 2001). Thus, in this e paper, I treat interactional justice as a separate dimension of organizational justice. The three dimensions of organizational justice, distributive, procedural and interactional, are illustrated in the model. I brie y review each of these three dimensions in the following lines. Distributive justice Distributive justice refers to perceptions of outcome fairness (Homans, 1961; Thibaut and Walker, 1975; Deutsch, 1985). This component of organizational justice is similar to equity theory (Adams, 1965) since both theories deal with outcome distribution. Equity theory postulates that, in an exchange relationship, the focal person compares his/her input/output ratio to that of a comparison other. A balance between the two leads to a feeling of equity. However, perceived inequity creates tension within individuals who are then motivated to restore equity. Individuals restore equity by engaging in a variety of behaviours including reducing effort, quitting the exchange relationship or changing the comparison other (Adams, 1965). Distributive injustice occurs when a person does not get the amount of reward he/she expects in comparison with the reward some other gets (Deutsch, 1985). Perceived unfairness of outcomes distribution leads to resentment and other forms of negative behaviour (Adams, 1965; Greenberg, 1990b, 1993b). Greenberg (1990b, 1993b) found that employees who felt unfairly rewarded tended to steal as compared to those who felt fairly rewarded. Similarly, Janssen (2001) found that managers who perceived effort/ reward fairness performed better and felt more satis ed in response to intermediate levels of job demands than managers who perceived under-reward unfairness.

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Figure 1 The spillover model of social and organizational justice

Beugr´ : Understanding organizational justice 1095 e Deutsch (1985) identi ed three rules of distributive justice: equity, equality and need. The allocator’s goal determines the preferred distribution rule. When the allocator’s goal is productivity, equity is the preferred rule. When the allocator’s goal is to maintain harmony, the preferred decision rule is the equality rule. However, when the goal is to satisfy the need of the less fortunate members of the group, the preferred decision rule is the need rule. Although distributive justice is an important concept in organizational justice, Thibaut and Walker (1975) argue that perception of procedural fairness is as important as perception of outcome fairness. Procedural justice Procedural justice theory focuses on the fairness of decisions underlying the outcome distribution (Leventhal, 1976; Thibaut and Walker, 1975; Lind and Tyler, 1988). Leventhal (1976) and Leventhal et al. (1980) identi ed six procedural justice rules: consistency (procedures must be consistent to ensure fairness), bias suppression (procedures must be developed and implemented without considering the self-interests of those who elaborated them), rule of accuracy (procedures must be based on accurate information), rule of correctability (procedures must allow room for correction), rule of representativeness (procedures must integrate the interests of all parties) and rule of ethicality (procedures must follow moral and ethical standards). According to the authors, a procedurally fair decision should include all these characteristics. Lind and Tyler (1988) contend that procedural justice has especially strong effects on attitudes about institutions or authorities as opposed to attitudes about the speci c outcome in question. Folger and Konovsky (1989) supported these conclusions. They found that perceptions of the procedures used to determine pay raises uniquely contributed to such factors as organizational commitment and trust in supervision, whereas perceptions of distributive justice were uniquely associated with one’s own pay satisfaction. Employees are more supportive of decisions, decision makers and the organizations that decision makers represent when procedures are perceived to be relatively fair (Brockner et al., 2000). In addition to procedural justice, organizational justice scholars have recognized the importance of interactional justice in work settings (Bies and Moag, 1986). Interactional justice Interactional justice refers to the quality of interpersonal treatment people received during the implementation of a procedure (Bies and Moag, 1986). Interactional justice includes such aspects as treating employees with respect and dignity (Cropanzano and Greenberg, 1997) and explanations for a decision, or what Bies (1987) called social accounts. Working on a sample of MBA job applicants, Bies and Moag (1986) found that job candidates believed that corporate recruiters treated them fairly to the extent that they presented honest and candid information and reasonable justi cations for the decisions they made. Fair treatment by the other party symbolizes to people that they are being dealt with in a digni ed and respectful way, thereby bolstering their sense of self-identity and self-worth (Brockner et al., 1992). Bies (1987) identi ed three types of social accounts: causal accounts, ideological accounts and referential accounts. In providing a causal account, the decision maker attempts to reduce responsibility for the negative outcome. The individual recognizes the harm done but does not take responsibility for it. In ideological accounts, the outcome is reframed so that it matches the recipient’s goals and values. The decision maker focuses on the positive effects of the decision. For instance, when managers


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introduce change in an organization, they may focus on the positive effects of the change and consider any negative side effects as a necessary evil to help move the company in the right direction. In referential accounts, the decision maker tends to focus on an alternative situation. Although representing separate organizational justice dimensions, distributive, procedural and interactional justice are intercorrelated (Greenberg, 1993b; Folger and Konovsky, 1989; Beugr´ and Baron, 2001). Brockner and Wiesenfeld (1996) contend e that outcome favourability and procedural justice combine to in uence employee attitudes and behaviors. Greenberg (1993a) notes that distributive justice and procedural justice are somehow related. Indeed, people tend to question the fairness of procedures when the outcomes received fall short of what they expected. Justice issues in African organizations Although most research on organizational justice has been conducted in the United States, studies oriented towards a cross-cultural analysis found a signi cant pattern of culture in justice perceptions (Gundykunst and Ting-Toomey, 1988; Brockner et al., 2000). In discussing justice issues in African organizations, I focus on three key African cultural patterns, collectivism, power distance and strength of interpersonal ties. Although these three cultural patterns are far from representing all the characteristics of African culture, they provide insights into understanding fairness issues in an African organizational context. Collectivism Collectivism refers to the emphasis placed on the group and the community. People in collectivistic cultures are expected to subordinate their own wishes and goals to those of the relevant social unit (Kreitner and Kinicki, 2001). ‘Collectivists emphasize the attainment of group outcomes and subordination of personal interests to ensure that group outcomes are attained. Each member of a group is cognizant of individual responsibility for group success and feels he or she has an indispensable part in a group’s survival’ (Early, 1989: 568). Leung and Lind (1986) and Leung and Park (1986) found that people in collectivistic cultures used different norms of equity and equality than people in individualistic cultures. The authors compared Asian samples to samples from the United States. The main nding is that culture does shape justice judgements. One may draw a parallel between African and Asian cultures since both cultures are collectivistic. Although there is a growing body of knowledge on justice issues in Asian countries (Leung and Lind, 1986; Leung and Park, 1986), there is a paucity of research in sub-Saharan Africa. However, comparative studies between the two cultures may broaden our understanding of the impact of culture on justice judgements. Although, in urban areas, Africans tend to be individualistic, the collectivistic nature of the African culture still prevails. Deutsch (1985) identi ed two types of justice related to in-group and out-group members: inclusionary and exclusionary justice. Justice becomes exclusionary when individuals apply justice principles only to members of the in-group and inclusionary when justice principles and procedures are seen as universally applicable. Beugr´ (1998b) contends that in collectivistic cultures e people tend to use exclusionary justice because they tend to favour in-group members more than out-group members. Thus, in African organizations, one may suspect that injustice to in-group members would be perceived as more salient than injustice to outgroup members.

Beugr´ : Understanding organizational justice 1097 e In a study conducted in Malawi and Tanzania, Ali et al. (2001) found that, in these two countries, the most outstanding feature of organizational values was the salience of the group. The authors note that, in Malawi as in other Eastern and Central African communities, tradition places social achievement above personal achievement. They also contend that, in Malawi, encouragement at work is reserved for family members and friends (i.e. in-groups). Machungwa and Schmidt (1983) found that, in Zambia, tribalism, favouritism and racial discrimination were the main de-motivators at work. To the extent that such practices still prevail in most African countries, they may discourage employees and become the source of perceived unfairness. Even in African countries, such as South Africa and Zimbabwe, where past discriminatory work practices have favoured one group (whites) over others (especially blacks), new measures to correct these practices may raise issues of fairness. For instance, white employees may well consider af rmative action policies as unfair in so far that they tend to favour black employees. African countries that enact laws designed to correct past discriminatory practices should understand how perceptions of fairness might affect the effectiveness of such laws in work settings. In a study conducted in the United States, Parker et al. (1997) found that blacks and Hispanics were more likely to perceive supportive af rmative actions as related to fair outcomes, fair processes and increased career development opportunities. Out-group members in African organizations may also represent employees from other ethnic groups or expatriates. Indeed, most multinational companies in Africa tend to employ both local employees and expatriate employees and managers. Often, these expatriates tend to be better treated, nancially and socially than local employees. In comparing themselves to expatriates, local employees may experience a sense of distributive injustice, leading to feelings of relative deprivation – a state experienced by a victim of a perceived inequity (Crosby, 1984). As Ali et al. (2001: 70) put it, ‘comparative underpayment is likely to generate feelings of social (inter-group) inequity, especially given the often greater group needs (and traditional belief in need) on the host side’. Perceptions of justice may also be in uenced by the focal person’s relationship with the observer. When the focal person is liked or is part of the observer’s inner circle, any perceived injustice would be tolerated. However, when the comparison person is an out-group member, feelings of perceived injustice may be particularly salient. Importance of interpersonal ties In Africa, people value the importance of interpersonal relations. Brockner et al. (2000) note that individuals from cultures that emphasize people’s connectedness to others would be more likely to exhibit the interactive relationship between procedural fairness and outcome favourability than their counterparts from cultures that emphasize people’s independence from one another. To the extent that African cultures may be described as emphasizing people’s connectedness, this assumption may help suggest the importance of procedural justice in African organizations. Culture may in uence the extent to which people value certain dimensions of organizational justice. Since African cultures tend to value interpersonal relationships, one may suspect more emphasis on procedural and interactional justice than on distributive justice. Although African employees may be sensitive to outcome fairness, they may tend to put more emphasis on issues of procedural and interactional fairness. In Africa, there is a saying that states that ‘what you give is less important than how you


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give it’, suggesting that the amount of a gift or a reward is less valued than how it is announced. High power distance Power distance refers to beliefs that power differentials are natural, enduring and based on the characteristics of the actors versus beliefs that power differentials are important for particular purposes in speci c situations (Hofstede, 1980). African cultures may be described as high on power distance. Gundykunst and Ting-Toomey (1988) noted that cultures that inculcate an acceptance of power differences lead individuals to expect, take for granted and, therefore, not get angry about injustices. Such a tendency may be applicable to African organizations, where prevailing cultural patterns make power holders more powerful and often unaccountable to their subordinates and/or constituencies. African leaders bestow favour and expect and receive obedience and deference (Blunt and Jones, 1997). Jones et al. (1996) found that deference to authority gures were high in Botswana. Their ndings, based on an empirical study in the Ministry of Local Government, Lands and Housing, suggest that authority was exercised in a paternalistic way and that subordinates tended to defer to authority gures. In African cultures, rarely do subordinates raise direct concerns about the potential weaknesses and/or abuses of the ‘chief’. In most organizations, managers do not often have to justify their decisions and tend to rule by the stick and carrot strategy. The manager behaves as if he/she were omniscient. Beugr´ (1998a) refers to this style as the e ‘syndrome of the father knows everything’. Authority lies in the formal position rather than in objective criteria of competence, performance and contribution to the organization. People tend to refer to those who have high social status to solve problems. Under such conditions, a decision may not be accepted because of its degree of fairness (or rejected because of its degree of unfairness) but because it has been enacted by a person of a high social status. Such an organizational environment may not be conducive to employee productivity and performance; rather, it may lead to politicking and blind obedience to the superior instead of the organization. However, behaving fairly is important for a manager to instil trust and commitment in his/her subordinates. Mossholder et al. (1998) note that, because of power asymmetries, less powerful individuals desire assurances that power holders will meet their obligations. One way of meeting their obligations is to act fairly. Despite progress in good governance, in most African countries, distribution of outcomes such as nancial rewards, nominations, promotion and the like is still based on ‘ethnic distance’ (tribal ties) rather than on objective measures of competence and individual performance. A United Nations report on the African airline industry (quoted in The Economist, 1995: 69) underscores this type of nomination based on ethnic distance and favouritism. ‘Airline companies are simply treated as an extension of the public administration or government departments under the control of politicians who allot key management posts as political favors without any pure consideration of merit.’ One way for employees to gain favours from their managers is to become part of the inner circle. This tendency may lead to the emergence of a ‘yes men’ mentality (Pendergast, 1993). Pendergast suggested a theory of a ‘yes men’ which postulates that, if workers are rewarded on a subjective basis, they may distort their behaviour towards what they feel their superiors want to hear. In such a professional relationship,

Beugr´ : Understanding organizational justice 1099 e information becomes noisier, implying, for example, less ef cient project selection or monitoring of workers. Enhancing justice in African organizations African managers should anticipate the effects of social changes by creating fair working environments. Such practices can be developed at three levels of organizational justice, distributive, procedural and interactional. Enhancing distributive justice Two areas where African managers may provide distributive justice are employee compensation and promotion. Since the goal of organizations is to enhance productivity, equity should apply to the development of compensation strategies. Employees should see a clear link between their performance and the rewards they get. To the extent that managers live up to their promises, they will get effort and loyalty from their employees. The decision related to promotions is also important. To the extent that the best performers are promoted, employees will see a direct link between their effort, performance and promotion decisions. Failure to provide such an environment may lead to perceptions of distributive unfairness. As Beugr´ put it, ‘one way to increase e perceptions of distributive justice is to tie rewards to performance. In so doing, each employee should be informed about how the pay, raise, or promotion is given, as well as how the level of a salary corresponds to his or her accomplishments’ (1998b: 97). Avoiding favouritism in promotion, compensation and resource allocation would also enhance perceptions of distributive justice. African organizations should also pay a particular attention to the difference in treatment between local employees and expatriates. Indeed, most African organizations employ expatriates from Western and Asian countries. These expatriates are often better paid than the locals and hold higher managerial positions. Local African employees tend to consider this situation as unjust. African organizations may reduce this sense of injustice by explaining to local employees the policies and procedures governing these decisions. Enhancing procedural justice The existence of formal procedures is important for an organization to provide a sense of fairness to its employees. By developing fair procedures and providing voice mechanisms for employees, African managers would be able to provide a fair organizational environment. Failure to provide such voice mechanisms may lead to employee resentment, thereby laying the ground for more disruptive behaviours, such as strikes, insubordination or even sabotage. Arthur et al. (1995) conducted an empirical study on a sample of 166 organizations in Ghana and Nigeria. They found that, in terms of performance evaluation practices, 89 per cent of these organizations tended to use supervisory ratings and 64 per cent subjective ratings. Only 32 per cent of the organizations surveyed reported using formalized rating scales or evaluation forms. In analysing human resource management practices in Kenya, Kamoche (1992) notes that some companies relied on the excessive use of the ‘stick syndrome’ whereby performance appraisal is used more as a punitive tool of control rather than a motivational tool. Such subjective performance measures may raise issues of procedural unfairness. However, using more formal and standardized performance evaluation forms may reduce perceptions of performance evaluation


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unfairness. Employees should receive substantial information related to how their performance evaluation was conducted. In a study conducted on a sample of 2,800 employees of the US federal government, Alexander and Ruderman (1987) found that indices of employees’ assessments of procedural justice were signi cantly related to such key measures as their trust in management, intentions with respect to turnover, evaluation of their supervisor, con ict/harmony and job satisfaction. With the exception of turnover intention, procedural fairness judgements accounted for signi cantly more variance in these dependent measures than distributive justice. Brockner et al. (1994) analysed employee reactions to lay-offs. They found that, if lay-offs are perceived to be procedurally fair, the reactions of lay-off victims, survivors and lame ducks (employees who knew that they would soon be laid off) were affected by outcome-related factors. Outcome negativity was signi cantly, inversely related to organizational trust and support when procedural fairness was low but was not so related when procedural fairness was high. This conclusion con rms previous ndings that justi cation for an adverse decision can lessen the negative consequences associated with that decision (Bies and Shapiro, 1988; Greenberg, 1990a). In a study on the effects of a divestiture on employees, Gopinath and Becker (2000) found that employees who perceived procedural justice in regard to the divestiture reported higher levels of trust in the new ownership and a greater degree of post-divestiture commitment to the organization than those who did not. Enhancing interactional justice Fair interpersonal treatment is particularly salient for African employees. In Africa, people value their relationships with others and do care about how they are treated in the community, especially by those of high status. The group-value model of procedural justice (Lind and Tyler, 1988) may help explain this attitude from African employees. The group-value model emphasizes the importance of being member of a group. People expect an organization to use neutral decision-making procedures enacted by trustworthy authorities so that, over time, all group members will bene t fairly from being members of the group. They also expect the group and its authorities to treat them in ways that af rm their self-esteem by indicating that they are valued members of the group who deserve treatment with respect, dignity and politeness (Greenberg, 1990a). People value relationships because it is through relationships that they develop their self-identity and self-worth. Relationships give people the opportunity to validate the correctness of their beliefs and behaviours and to feel accepted, respected and valued (Tajfel and Turner, 1979) – hence, the importance of interactional justice in a social context where people value relationships with others and care about how fairly they are treated in their interactions with others. In a eld study conducted in the Ivory Coast, Beugr´ (1983) found that leader e consideration enhanced employee satisfaction. Employees whose managers showed respect and consideration reported higher scores of job satisfaction than those who did not. Moreover, the author found that a supervisor’s ‘hand shaking’ contributed to boosting employee motivation and morale. This gesture helps increase a subordinate satisfaction and feeling of respect and consideration. Perceptions of fair treatment lead to employee attitudes and behaviours that enhance organizational performance (Kim and Mauborgne, 1997).

Beugr´ : Understanding organizational justice 1101 e To the extent that managers treat employees with respect and courtesy, they are likely to increase perceptions of interactional justice. By showing concern for employees’ personal problems, seeking their inputs and allowing them to challenge unfair decisions, African managers can instil a sense of loyalty and fairness to employees. ‘Attention and consideration from someone of higher status in the workplace may validate subordinates’ own self-identity and reinforce feelings of a positive standing in relation to that person’ (Mossholder et al., 1998: 536). In an empirical study conducted in the Ministry of Local Government, Lands and Housing in Botswana, Jones et al. (1996) found that respondents were overwhelmingly concerned about the quality of their relationship with their boss, and with interpersonal issues rather than the Ministry’s performance, its clients and its external environment. For these respondents, the effective manager is perceived as one who consults subordinates, treats them considerately, promotes their self-development, supports and helps them and provides them with clear direction. These expectations are clearly justice expectations. The effective manager is the one who can display interactional fairness. The costs of injustice for organizations are momentous and may range from simple dissatisfaction to industrial sabotage. However, perceived fairness bears positive consequences for organizations. ‘Organizations should try to act in a just fashion. To fail to act justly potentially entails costs that organizations do not wish to incur, while to act justly produces direct and indirect bene ts in terms of organizational ef ciency, effectiveness, and quality of life’ (Deutsch, 1985: 202). The rule of law may allow African employees to undertake legal action when they feel unfairly treated in the workplace. Lind et al. (2000) found that feelings of injustice and poor treatment tended to stimulate people towards the possibility of suing their former employers. To the extent that employees in African organizations feel unfairly treated and labour laws give them the opportunity for legal challenges, they may be likely to sue their employers or former employers. To avoid such costly actions, African organizations should devise management practices that take into account employees’ needs, preferences and values. Doing so is not only being nice to employees but makes good business sense. Implications for research and conclusion The present paper has developed a spillover framework that contends that social and political changes in most African countries will lead to demands for fairness in the workplace. Thus, African managers should anticipate this trend by providing fair working environments. Three lines of research can be gleaned from the spillover model. First, scholars studying management practices in sub-Saharan Africa may focus on the extent to which the three dimensions of organizational justice identi ed in Western studies are observed in an African context. Speci cally, it is important to investigate the dimension of justice African employees would prefer. Are African employees more sensitive to perceptions of fair outcomes or fair procedures or interpersonal treatment? Second, African employees’ reactions to perceptions of justice and injustice warrant empirical inquiry. Organizational justice research has demonstrated that perceptions of fairness tend to induce positive attitudes and behaviours such as organizational commitment, trust and loyalty (Folger and Konovsky, 1989). However, perceptions of unfairness tend to elicit negative attitudes and reactions such as theft and workplace aggression (Greenberg, 1993b; Baron et al., 1999). The extent to which such reactions


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occur in an African context is particularly interesting. For instance, do African employees respond to workplace injustices by turnover in a context where employment is scarce and unemployment almost endemic? Under these conditions, what behavioural and cognitive mechanisms do African employees use to deal with workplace injustices? Third, organizational scholars may also attempt to esh out an African concept of justice as it relates to organizational justice. How do African employees view justice? Is organizational justice served by respecting the employee’s basic rights, empowering him or her, or is it served by an equitable outcome? The current socio-cultural changes on the African continent create an opportunity for organizational justice scholars to learn more about the dynamics of justice issues in an African organizational context. Notes
1 In this paper I use the two expressions, justice and fairness, interchangeably . 2 In this paper I use Africa to mean sub-Saharan Africa.

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