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Organizational
Organizational justice: what justice
changes, what remains the same?
Maria Rita Silva
Business Research Unit and Center for Social Investigation and Intervention, 23
Instituto Universitario de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal, and
Antonio Caetano Received 14 June 2013
Revised 27 September 2013
Business Research Unit, Instituto Universitario de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal Accepted 15 October 2013

Abstract
Purpose This study aims to examine workers distributive and interactional justice perceptions at
three different moments in time over a period of eight years, assess their degree of stability and
identify their most stable antecedents and outcomes.
Design/methodology/approach Data was collected through an overlapping repeated
cross-sectional design. Of the participants involved, 334 were surveyed in 2000, 259 participated in
2004, and 285 participated in 2008.
Findings Distributive justice is more stable than interactional justice. Organizational support is the
most stable predictor of distributive justice, and the quality of supervisor practices is the most stable
predictor of interactional justice. Contrary to expected, interactional justice has a stronger relationship
to workers attitudes directed both at the organization and supervisor, and at the immediate work
context.
Originality/value This study adopts a long-term perspective covering an eight-year period.
Furthermore, it focuses on two dimensions of justice that have been less studied over time.
Keywords Evolution, Employee attitudes, Distributive justice, Interactional justice
Paper type Research paper

The study of justice perceptions is an important area of research in organizational


behavior because of its relationship to relevant individual and organizational outcomes
(Cohen-Charash and Spector, 2001). In organizations, individuals develop different
types of justice assessments: distributive justice judgments how outcomes should be
distributed; procedural justice judgments how decisions should be made; and
interactional justice judgments how people should interact. When workers feel they
are treated unfairly, absenteeism, turnover, stress, and retaliatory intentions tend to
increase (Colquitt et al., 2001; Nirmala and Akhilesh, 2006). On the other hand, when
workers feel they are treated fairly, there is an increase in positive work-related
attitudes and behaviors, such as, satisfaction, commitment, citizenship behaviors, and
acceptance of organizational change (Nowakowski and Conlon, 2005; Folger and
Skarlicki, 1999). In short, justice keeps people together whereas injustice can pull them
apart (Folger and Cropanzano, 1998, p. xii). Journal of Organizational Change
Management
Vol. 27 No. 1, 2014
Part of this work was supported by the Foundation for Science and Technology, Portugal [PhD pp. 23-40
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Grant number SFR/BD/61417/2009] awarded to Maria Rita Silva and [PEst-OE/EGE/UI0315/2011] 0953-4814
the strategic project of Instituto Universitario de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL). DOI 10.1108/JOCM-06-2013-0092
JOCM Although justice perceptions are relevant to organizational performance, little is
27,1 known about their dynamic over time (Fortin, 2008). Employment relations are not
simply the sum of individual interactions. Workers make connections between the
different events they experience in the organization. Thus, one can assume that
workers justice perceptions are related, not only to present, but also to past work
experiences, and may impact future expectations. A greater understanding of these
24 dynamics can contribute to a better work climate and more positive
employer-employee relationships. There have been few empirical studies that
examine organizational justice perceptions over time (for exceptions see: Aryee et al.,
2007; Holtz and Harold, 2009; Loi et al., 2009). And few focus on the distributive and
interactional justice dimensions (Ambrose and Cropanzano, 2003). Moreover, most of
these studies tend to cover short periods of time, such as a few weeks or months and do
not, therefore, illustrate how justice perceptions develop over the years, nor their
relationships with major justice antecedents and consequences (for an exception see:
Melkonian et al., 2011).
This study aims to overcome these limitations in two ways. First, it conducts an
analysis of organizational justice perceptions over an eight-year period, thus
contributing to the clarification of the development, evolution, and consequences of
organizational justice perceptions. Second, it focuses on two justice dimensions that
have been less studied over time distributive and interactional justice.
This study presents a descriptive framework of distributive and interactional
justice perceptions in a Portuguese organization, in the years 2000, 2004 and 2008. This
data was originally collected for an internal organizational diagnosis. It was made was
available to the researchs when the company commissioned a study, around 2011, and
immediate caught our attention for the possibilities regarding the investigation of
organizational justice perceptions through time. The organization is a large, public
owned enterprise, which works in activities related to the management of public
transportation. It is a stable context regarding operational, financial and human
resource management practices, wish makes it a suitable context for this analyses.
Our aim is to evaluate the degree of stability of distributive and interactional justice
perceptions over time, and to identify the most stable antecedents and outcomes of
each dimension of organizational justice. Short-term longitudinal studies only give us a
glimpse of how justice perceptions relate to other major organizational variables. They
do not allow us to evaluate the temporal stability of these relationships over the years.
Are the correlates of justice perceptions constant, or do they fluctuate over time? Some
employees attitudes will tend to be stable and others will fluctuate more. It is
important for organizations to distinguish what to expect in the short and in the long
term. If we cannot distinguish between sporadic and the systematic correlates of
organizational justice, we cannot fully optimize organizational practices.
Since we were not interested in within-subject attitudinal changes of employees over
time, but rather in the evolution of the relationships between their general work
attitudes, we opted for an overlapping repeated cross-sectional survey. Although
participants in the three waves were not paired, tenure and position were taken into
account to maximize the degree of overlap between survey waves. This type of study
design permits a temporal perspective (e.g. Deaton, 1985; Pelzer et al., 2005), and has
some advantages over classical longitudinal panel designs in that it: facilitates the
collection of information over longer periods of time; takes into account changes in the
constitution of the work force; deals with participants concerns regarding anonymity; Organizational
deals with organizational ethical concerns; and reduces social desirability, maturation, justice
history bias and attrition.
We will analyse the impact of organizational characteristics, such as organizational
culture, communication, leadership practices, and organizational support, on the
development of distributive and interactional justice perceptions. We will also examine
the effect of distributive and interactional justice on individual outcomes, such as, 25
organizational affective commitment and facets of work satisfaction, namely satisfaction
with the organization, with the immediate supervisor, with the work environment, and
with the job itself. These predictors and outcomes of justice were selected because of
their relevant role as drivers of organizational performance, and because they are
recognized in the literature as important to the dynamics of organizational justice
perceptions (Cohen-Charash and Spector, 2001; Colquitt et al., 2001).

The evolution of organizational justice


Considerable empirical support exists for the difference, in terms of predictors and
outcomes, between distributive and interactional justice dimensions (e.g. Colquitt et al.,
2001; Nowakowski and Conlon, 2005). Table I presents some definitions of these
dimensions. However, there is little agreement about what the theoretical justification
for these differences is, how these dimensions relate to each other, and how they evolve
over time.
Greenberg (1994) proposed a taxonomy that distinguishes between structural and
social aspects of justice perceptions. Structural aspects refer to procedural and
distributive dimensions, which are related to stable aspects of the organizational
environment. Social aspects, on the other hand, refer to the interactional dimension,
related to day-to-day events and occurrences in the organization.
Based on this taxonomy, Loi et al. (2009) distinguish between two paradigms: justice
as a reaction to events versus justice as a reaction to entities. The authors argue that
distributive and procedural dimensions are related to stable organizational events,
such as predetermined management practices (e.g. salaries, promotions, decision
making procedures). And so, they would tend to be more stable over time. Interactional
justice, on the other hand is focused on daily personal interactions with authority

Distributive justice Perceptions of the fairness of the outcomes (benefits or punishment) as well as
evaluations of the end state of the allocation process (Cropanzano and
Greenberg, 1997) such as pay or promotion opportunities (Brockner and Siegel,
1996)
Reward allocation corresponding to performance inputs, and equal social
comparisons of reward with relevant referents, is perceived as fair (Adams,
1965). Other allocation rules such as like equality, providing each employee
roughly the same compensation, and need, providing benefits based on personal
requirements can also be followed (Leventhal, 1976)
Interactional justice Quality of the relationships between individuals within the organization, or
fairness of interpersonal treatment received during the implementation of a
procedure. It relates to the aspects of the communication process between the Table I.
source and the recipient of justice, such as treating an employee with dignity, Definitions of distributive
courtesy, honesty, and respect (Bies and Moag, 1986) and interactional justice
JOCM figures, so is more likely change over time. Loi et al. (2009) tested this hypothesis in a
27,1 longitudinal study. Workers evaluations of procedural and distributive justice,
assessed at time 1, interacted with daily interactional justice evaluations, assessed over
20 days, and predicted the workers daily satisfaction. Thus, structural aspects of
justice interacted, in a stable way over time, with social aspects that tended to
fluctuate. However, Loi et al. (2009) only assessed distributive justice perceptions at
26 time 1, which does not allow a direct comparison interactional justice.
In the present study, we assessed the levels of both distributive and interactional
justice perceptions in three different moments in time, making it possible to compare
their evolution. Based on the distinction between structural and social aspects of
justice, and between events and entities based justice perceptions, we expect that
average distributive justice perceptions will tend to be more stable over time, than
those of interactional justice perceptions which will tend to fluctuate more. Thus we
present the following hypothesis:
H1. Distributive justice perceptions will be more stable than interactional justice
perceptions, throughout time.

Predictors of distributive and interactional justice dimensions


One of the theoretical approaches used to explain justice perceptions in organizations is
the social-exchange theory (Blau, 2006). This theory conceptualizes human
relationships as exchanges of resources. Depending on the resources exchanged,
these transactions may be economic or social. The sort of resource interchanged
greatly defines the roles of the social actors in the relationship.
Social-exchange relationships are different from those based purely on economic
exchange, in that they are characterized by the exchange of symbolic and socio-emotional
resources. They develop through a series of mutual interactions that create a pattern of
reciprocal obligation. Reciprocal obligations are unspecified, and the criteria for assessing
relative contributions are not clear. In contrast to economic relationships, the rules of how,
when and by what means, the other party is to reciprocate are implicitly based on cultural
norms or group rules, but are ultimately dependent on the individuals discretion.
One of those implicit norms, found across cultures, is the norm of reciprocity
(Gouldner, 1960). When a party treats the other with kindness or does him/her a favor,
he/she develops diffuse expectations of positive return by the other party, which in
turn, develops a sense of obligation to reciprocate. This increases the degree of
identification, trust and loyalty between parties (Cropanzano and Mitchell, 2005). In the
same way, when one party treats the other negatively, the other may feel justified in
reciprocating in a negative way. Workers may respond to fair treatment from
supervisors by engaging in organizational citizenship behaviors that benefit their
supervisor (Fassina et al., 2008), or may respond to organizational injustice by
engaging in retaliatory behavior targeted at the organization (El Akremi et al., 2010).
Based on social-exchange theory, the agent-system model of justice (e.g. Moorman,
1991), proposes that individuals develop different exchange relationships with the
various organizational actors. Workers come into contact with different authority
figures, including the organization as a system, and their immediate supervisor as its
agent. This model states that individuals may reciprocate attitudinally and/or
behaviorally as a way of rewarding or punishing the perceived source of the (un)fair
treatment they receive at work.
To date, research has mainly explored the impact of the relationship between the Organizational
worker and the organization, and between the worker and the immediate supervisor justice
(Masterson et al., 2000). Findings indicate that procedural, and distributive justice, are
more strongly related to reactions to the organization, while interactional justice is
more strongly related to reactions to the supervisor (Cropanzano et al., 2002; Fassina
et al., 2008; Olkkonen and Lipponen, 2006).
If the predictions for this model are accurate, it is expected that the relationship 27
between organizational structural aspects and distributive justice on the one hand, and
between the leadership practices and interactional justice on the other, will not only be
stronger, but will tend to be more constant and stable through the years. So we propose
the following hypotheses:
H2. Structural organizational aspects, namely organizational culture and
organizational support, will be more related to distributive rather than
interactional justice, throughout time.
H3. Immediate work context aspects, namely communication and supervisor
practices, will be more related to interactional rather than distributive justice,
throughout time.

Outcomes of distributive and interactional justice perceptions


Findings show that employees reciprocate the treatment they receive, directing
attitudinal and behavioral responses at a specific target. Accordingly, it would be
expected that reactions to the fairness of distributive and procedural aspects would
target the organizational system, while reactions to the fairness of interactional aspects
would target the direct supervisor. Masterson et al. (2000) demonstrate that reactions to
interactional justice are related to citizenship-behaviors directed at the supervisor and
job satisfaction, mediated by the quality of subordinate-supervisor relationship.
Moreover, the authors show that procedural justice impacts outcomes directed at the
organization. These outcomes include intention to quit, commitment and citizenship
behaviors, and are mediated by perceived organizational support.
In the context of performance evaluation, Cropanzano et al. (2002) determined that
procedural judgments are related to trust in top management and satisfaction with the
performance appraisal system. Because formal procedures for evaluating performance
are decided by top management, this result supports predictions of the agent-system
model. Perceptions of interactional justice, on the other hand, were associated with
satisfaction with the supervisor in charge of the performance evaluation.
Most studies that investigate the relationships between different dimensions of
justice and specific organizational agents do not focus on the distributive dimension.
However, because distributive justice reflects judgments about the outcomes workers
receive from the organization, and since the policies that define resource allocations in
organizations (e.g. wages, promotions, etc.) are usually defined by top management;
based on assumptions from the agent-system model of justice, one can argue that,
workers will tend to attribute specific outcomes to the organizational system as a
whole. Thus, it is assumed that workers will reciprocate the degree of distributive
(in)justice received, through attitudes and behaviors directed at the organization.
A longitudinal study by El Akremi et al. (2010) related organizational justice
perceptions, evaluated at time 1, with perceived organizational support, leader-member
JOCM exchange and retaliatory-behaviors directed at the organization and immediate
27,1 supervisor, evaluated three months later. Both organizational support and
leader-member exchange are conceptualized as social-exchange mechanisms
between the workers and the organizational system, and between the workers and
their direct supervisor, respectively. A relationship was found between procedural and
distributive perceptions, and organizational retaliatory-behaviors directed at the
28 organization, mediated by perceived organizational support. Likewise, a relationship
was found between interactional justice and retaliatory-behaviors directed at the
supervisor, mediated by the leader-member exchange.
Based on the agent-system model of justice, it is expected that the relationship
between distributive justice and attitudes directed at the organizational system on the
one hand, and between interactional justice and attitudes directed at the supervisor and
immediate work context on the other, will tend to be constant and stable through the
years. We, therefore, propose the following hypotheses:
H4. Distributive justice is more related than interactional justice, to attitudes
directed at the organizational system, such as organizational commitment and
satisfaction with the organization, through time.
H5. Interactional justice is more related than distributive justice, to attitudes
directed at the supervisor and the immediate work context such as,
satisfaction with the immediate supervisor, satisfaction with the work
environment, and satisfaction with the job itself, through time.

Method
Procedure
The senior staff responded to questionnaires in 2000, 2004, and 2008. The present study
applies an overlapping repeated cross-section design. Repeated surveys are a series of
separate cross-sectional surveys. No effort is made to ensure that any of the same
elements are sampled for the individual surveys (Kalton and Citro, 1995). Unlike panel
studies, overlapping surveys are designed to maximize the degree of overlap while taking
into account changes in population composition over time (Kalton and Citro, 1995).
Although participants in the three waves were not paired, tenure and position were
taken into account to maximize the degree of overlapping between survey waves. Data
was collected from individuals who perform the same function in a specific department
of a single company. A high percentage of respondents whose tenure far exceeds the
time interval of data collection for this study, and we eliminated from the sample those
participants that had lower levels of tenure at time 3.
In recent years, this type of design has been increasingly used in organizational
research. Brown et al. (2008), drawing on data from 1998 to 2004, used a repeated
cross-sectional design to explore the relationship between human resource
management practices and job satisfaction. Kowske et al. (2010) examined
generational differences in work attitudes across five generations. In the context of a
real merger and acquisition, Melkonian et al. (2011) explored how the relative
importance of distributive and procedural justice judgments to employees willingness
to cooperate, shifts over time.
Some advantages of repeated cross-sectional design are very useful for
management research. First, it facilitates the collection of information over longer
periods of time than is normally possible with classic longitudinal designs. Typically, Organizational
an employment relationship develops over years, and not over just the few weeks or justice
months measured in most organizational longitudinal designs. Major organizational
events, like mergers or radical changes in operations and management practices, will
definitely have a short-term impact on employees attitudes and behaviors, but the
most important outcomes can only be properly understood years later. The repeated
cross-sectional design provides a more complete view of the evolution of worker 29
attitudes and behaviors (e.g. Brown et al., 2008; Tsitsianis and Green, 2005). Through
the use of this type of study design, researchers could make better use of a hitherto
untapped resource largely available in organizations archive data.
Second, repeated cross-sectional designs allow research to overcome a practical
problem of longitudinal research, participants concerns regarding anonymity. In
classical longitudinal studies, the observations of individual participants have to be
paired. This is done, either through personal information, like name or position, or
through some kind of code devised by researchers. Most researchers go to great
lengths to guarantee confidence and anonymity of data. However, due to ethical
concerns, companies may be reluctant to provide this data and explain to the
employees in the sample that they will be monitored over time (Melkonian et al.,
2011). Particularly in work settings, participants often express concern over the pairing
procedure. We also know that anonymity concerns tend to increase social desirability
bias, with repeated cross-sectional designs this problem is removed altogether.
Third, with longitudinal designs there are coverage drawbacks associated with
selecting and tracking individual respondents in the sample. After recruitment of the
first wave, the study is restricted even though changes in the population may occur, so
they are most suited for stationary populations (Frethey-Bentham, 2011), and a
companys work force is not stationary.
Lastly, longitudinal data are susceptible to maturation and history effects.
Maturation effects involve an internal process, while history effects involve an external
event that occurs between the two measurements (Cook and Campbell, 1979). Also,
there is invariably a fair amount of attrition, meaning that the strength of associations
can be under or overestimated. In fact, in longitudinal studies, as much as 80 percent of
the initial sample has been reported to be lost over a one-year period (e.g. Fugate et al.,
2002).
We do not mean to say that all research that explores time should use repeated
cross-sectional designs. Classical longitudinal designs are preferable for measuring
individual change (Frethey-Bentham, 2011). But, longitudinal study designs per se do
not guarantee valid causal inferences (Taris and Kompier, 2003). Since we were not
interested in the evolution of employees individual attitudes over time, but rather in
the evolution of the relationships between general work attitudes, we opted for an
overlapping repeated cross-sectional survey. Compared to a non-rotating panel survey,
the limited membership of sample elements acts to reduce the problems of panel
conditioning and panel attrition, and the continual introduction of new samples helps
to maintain an up-to-date sample of a changing population (Frethey-Bentham, 2011).

Sample
Of the participants involved in this study, 334 were surveyed in 2000, 259 in 2004, and
285 in 2008. As can be observed in Table II, most participants were male, more than 40
JOCM
2000 (%) 2004 (%) 2008 (%)
27,1
n 334 259 285
Sex
Male 76.8 72.8 81.9
Female 23.2 27.2 18.1
30
Age
Up to 30 years 17.1 19.3 2.2
31 to 40 years 26.5 32.1 31.3
41 to 50 years 27.1 21.3 36.2
More than 50 years 29.3 27.3 30.2
Habilitations
Up to 9th grade 16.2 1.2 26.6
Up to 12th grade 4.3 0 13.1
Middle school 12.5 13.2 6.9
University graduate 57.8 68.8 39.1
Post-graduation 9.2 16.8 14.2
Tenure
Up to five years 24.5 33.5 ...
Six to ten years 14.2 21.9 26.3
11 to 15 years 14.8 8.4 15.9
More than 15 years 46.5 36.3 57.8
Table II.
Percentages of Occupation
socio-demographic Supervisor 60.1 43.7 46.8
variables Subordinate 39.9 56.3 53.2

years old, and had completed some form of higher education. Most participants had
been working for the organization for more than ten years and about half were
supervisors (Table II).

Measures
The organizational justice dimensions scale was adapted from Folger and Konovsky
(1989) and Niehoff and Moorman (1996). These and the other variables, except
satisfaction, were assessed using a Likert scale, from 1 strongly disagree to 5
strongly agree. Distributive justice perceptions were measured through three items
(e.g. Considering my skills and effort, my overall compensation is fair).
Interactional justice perceptions were assessed through two items (e.g. When
making decisions about my work, the supervisor treats me with respect and
consideration).
Communication was operationalized through two items adapted from Robert and
OReillys (1974) scale (e.g. We received adequate information to perform our tasks).
Leadership practices were assessed through four items of the scale by Bass and Avolio
(1997) (e.g. My supervisor often tells me what he thinks about my work).
Organizational support was measured by six items of Eisenberger et al.s (1986) scale
(e.g. The company is concerned with the fact that my well-being). Organizational
affective commitment was assessed by five items on the Mayer and Allen scale (1997)
(e.g. Id be very happy if I spent the rest of my career at the company).
Satisfaction was measured through items adapted from the Spector scale (1997) and Organizational
preceded by the words Please indicate your level of satisfaction with the following justice
aspects of your work. Satisfaction with the work environment, with the organization
and with the job itself, were operationalized by two items each (e.g. The working
environment at company X, The operation of the business at company X and The
work you do at company X, respectively). Satisfaction with the supervisor was
operationalized by three items (e.g. The relationship with your direct supervisor). The 31
response scale ranges from 1 (very dissatisfied) to 5 (very satisfied)
Organizational culture was assessed using the Cameron and Quinn (1999)
competing values scale. Each cultural dimension was assessed by six items. The items
were paired in groups of four and presented to participants as Characteristics that
may be typical of the company. Participants were asked to distribute 100 points
among the items within each group, assigning the highest score to the feature that was
the most accurate description of their company. Corresponding respectively to support,
innovation, goals and rules, and organizational cultures, examples would be: The
company defines success based on human resource development, team work and
employee commitment; The company defines success based on innovation; The
company defines success based on the results achieved; The company defines
success based on efficiency, and planning and low production costs.

Results
In order to evaluate reliability and internal consistency we calculated the Cronbachs
Alpha, or the correlation between items, over various moments in time. As can be
observed in Table III, these levels allowed us to continue our analysis.
In Table IV we can see that all variables were evaluated above the midpoint of the
scale. Employees show positive distributive and interactional justice perceptions,
positive assessment of communication and leadership practices, positive
organizational support perceptions and high satisfaction and commitment levels.
The preponderance of the rules culture dimension over the other cultural dimensions is
evident: (year 2000: t (311) 36.65, p # 0.001; year 2004: t (253) 37.63; year 2008:

Year 2000 Year 2004 Year 2008

Rules culture (a) 0.789 0.809 0.743


Support culture (a) 0.591 0.704 0.696
Innovation culture (a) 0.734 0.706 0.657
Goals culture (a) 0.687 0.698 0.646
Communication (r) 0.528 * * 0.528 * * 0.589 * *
Supervisor practices (a) 0.787 0.705 0.788
Organizational support (a) 0.819 0.788 0.846
Interactional justice (r) 0.655 * * 0.547 * * 0.634 * *
Distributive justice (a) 0.898 0.860 0.886
Satisfaction with the work environment (r) 0.658 * * 0.727 * * 0.672 * *
Satisfaction with the organization (a) 0.691 0.648 0.529
Satisfaction with the supervisor (a) 0.873 0.839 0.687
Satisfaction with work itself (r) 0.563 * * 0.548 * * 0.586 * *
Affective commitment (a) 0.790 0.717 0.734
Table III.
Notes: *p-value # 0.05; * *p-value # 0.001 Reliability measures
JOCM
Year 2000 Year 2004 Year 2008
27,1 M SD M SD M SD

Distributive justice 2.7 0.9 2.6 0.9 2.6 1.0


Interactional justice 3.7 0.8 3.5 0.9 3.5 1.0
Rules culture 32.5 15.6 40.7 17.3 35.6 15.9
32 Support culture 21.3 8.5 19.2 9.5 19.0 8.9
Innovation culture 18.5 8.1 15.4 8.1 18.1 7.6
Goals culture 28.2 10.6 24.4 10.5 27.1 10.8
Communication 2.9 0.8 2.6 0.8 3.0 0.9
Supervisor practices 3.1 0.8 2.9 0.7 2.9 0.8
Organizational support 3.2 0.6 3.1 0.6 3.1 0.7
Satisfaction with the work environment 3.4 0.8 3.1 0.9 3.1 0.8
Satisfaction with the organization 2.9 0.6 2.5 0.7 2.7 0.7
Satisfaction with work itself 3.3 0.8 3 0.8 3.2 0.8
Table IV. Satisfaction with the supervisor 3.5 0.9 3.1 0.9 3.1 0.9
Descriptive measures Affective commitment 3.6 0.5 3.8 0.7 3.9 0.7

t (321) 40.39). Thus, we can assume that the companys organizational culture is
characterized by an appreciation of formal rules and procedures (Table IV).
Our first hypothesis proposes that distributive justice will tend to remain stable
over the years, while interactional justice perceptions will tend to fluctuate over time.
To test this hypothesis, we did a multiple linear regression analysis using the Enter
method, with the years as predictors, and distributive and interactional justice
perceptions as criterion variables. The years had been previously re-coded and paired
for the comparison (e.g. 2000 recoded as 0, and 2004 recoded as 1). As can be observed
in Table V, the data supports the first hypothesis.
Although there are no significant differences in distributive justice in the different
years, the interactional justice levels significantly differ between years 2000 and 2004;
and between 2004 and 2008 (B a 2 0.15, p # 0.001; B a 2 0.09, p # 0.05
respectively). Interactional justice perceptions are consistently higher than distributive
justice perceptions (year 2000: t (327) 81.47, p # 0.001; year 2004: t (258) 62.38,
p # 0.001, year 2008: t (337) 73.89, p # 0.001). The highest levels of interactional
justice were reported in the year 2000 (M 3.7, SD 0.8) and they decreased
significantly between 2000 and 2004 (M 3.5, SD 0.9). In the year 2008 (M 3.5,
SD 1.0), the interactional justice levels remained significantly lower than those
registered in 2000 (Table V).

D 2000 and 2004 D 2000 and 2008 D 2004 and 2008


Justice dimension Ba t Ba t Ba t

Distributive justice 2 0.03 * 2 0.74 20.02 20.58 2 0.05 2 1.34


R 2a 0.00 0.00 0.00
Table V. Interactional justice 2 0.15 * * 2 3.71 20.03 0.89 2 0.09 * 2 2.82
Evolution of distributive R 2a 0.02 0.01 0.00
and interactional justice
perceptions Notes: *p-value # 0.05; * *p-value # 0.001
Regarding the antecedents of distributive and interactional justice we formulated two Organizational
hypotheses. H2 predicts that structural organizational aspects, namely organizational justice
culture and organizational support, will be more related to distributive rather than
interactional justice, throughout time. The relationships with interactional justice were
non-significant so Table VI only present the relationships between predictors and
distributive justice. This hypothesis was supported with regard to organizational
support (year 2000: B a 0.56, p # 0.001; year 2004: B a 0.60, p # 0.001; year 2008: 33
B a 0.45, p # 0.05), but not organizational culture. Contrary to expectation,
communication and leadership practices in 2000 (B a 0.14, p # 0.05; B a 2 17,
p # 0.05, respectively) are also significantly related to distributive justice, but these
relationships are not stable over time. The variables analyzed explain between 20-26
percent of the variation in distributive justice.
H3 predicts that aspects present in the immediate work context aspects, namely
communication and supervisor practices, will be more related to interactional rather
than distributive justice, throughout time. The relationships with distributive justice
were non-significant so Table VII only present the relationships between predictors
and interactional justice. This hypothesis was supported regarding leadership
practices (year 2000: B a 0.603, p # 0.001; year 2004: B a 0. 550, p # 0.001; year
2008: B a 0. 68, p # 0.001), but the effect of communication is limited to the year
2008 (B a 0.20, p # 0.001).

Year 2000 Year 2004 Year 2008


Ba t Ba t Ba t

Rules culture 0.06 0.97 20.05 20.83 0.45 0.68


Support culture 0.13 0.81 20.112 20.619 0.17 0.46
Innovation culture 0.19 1.35 20.161 20.996 0.22 0.70
Goals culture 0.31 1.71 20.174 20.887 0.31 0.73
Communication 0.11 1.74 20.08 21.17 0.05 0.65
Supervisor practices 20.19 * 2 2.54 20.11 21.44 0.05 0.50
Organizational support 0.56 * * 7.38 0.60 * * 7.94 0.45 * 5.45 Table VI.
R 2a 0.22 0.26 0.20 Relationships between
predictors and
Notes: *p-value # 0.05; * *p-value # 0.001 distributive justice

Year 2000 Year 2004 Year 2008


Ba t Ba t Ba t

Rules culture 2 0.06 2 1.01 20.04 20.57 2 0.01 2 0.03


Support culture 0.16 1.26 20.03 20.19 2 0.09 2 0.33
Innovation culture 0.00 0.00 20.06 20.40 0.02 0.07
Goals culture 0.11 0.76 20.09 20.55 2 0.04 2 0.14
Communication 0.05 0.84 0.03 0.52 0.20 * * 3.28
Supervisor practices 0.60 * * 9.43 0.55 * * 7.41 0.68 * * 10.05
Organizational support 0.05 * 0.74 0.08 1.05 2 0.04 2 0.69 Table VII.
R 2a 0.50 0.42 0.55 Relationships between
predictors and
Notes: *p-value # 0.05; * *p-value # 0.001 interactional justice
JOCM In order to test our hypotheses concerning the relationship between both distributive
27,1 and interactional justice and attitudinal outcomes, we performed several multiple
linear regressions using the Stepwise method.
H4 predicted that the relationship with attitudes directed at the organizational
system, such as affective commitment and satisfaction with the company, would be
stronger and more stable for distributive justice perceptions than for interactional
34 justice perceptions. However, as Table VII shows, this pattern is not observed. Both
dimensions of justice have a significant effect on affective commitment (Interactional
2000: B a 0.37, p # 0.001; 2008: B a 0.25, p # 0.001) (Distributive 2008: B
a 2 0.17, p # 0.05) and satisfaction with the organization (Interactional 2000: B
a 0.34, p # 0.001; 2004: B a 0.32, p # 0.001; 2008: B a 0.46, p # 0.001)
(Distributive 2000: B a 0.20, p # 0.001; 2004: B a 0.32, p # 0.001). Also, the effect
of distributive and interactional justice on affective commitment and satisfaction with
the company is not stable over the years.
Regarding the magnitude of the effect of the different justice dimensions over time,
on average, interactional justice explains about 6 percent of the variation in affective
commitment. And there is only a small increase, of about 3 percent explained variance,
when distributive justice is introduced in the model. Regarding satisfaction with the
company, interactional justice explained, on average, about 18 percent of the variation,
and distributive justice explained an additional 4 percent.
H5 predicted that with regard to satisfaction with aspects of the work context, the
effect of interactional justice would be stronger and more stable than the effect of
distributive justice. This was partially corroborated. Interactional justice has a
stronger effect on satisfaction with work itself, with the working environment, and
with the supervisor, than distributive justice. The effect of interactional justice on
satisfaction with work itself (Interactional 2000: B a 0.48, p # 0.001; 2004: B
a 0.34, p # 0.001; 2008: B a 0.42, p # 0.001) (Distributive 2000: B a 0.16,
p # 0.001; 2004: B a 0.32, p # 0.001), the immediate supervisor (Interactional 2000:
B a 0.83, p # 0.001, 2004: B a 0.75, p # 0.001; 2008: B a 0.78, p # 0.001)
(Distributive 2004: B a 0.12, p # 0.001) and the work environment (Interactional
2000: B a 0.46, p # 0.001; 2004: B a 0.49, p # 0.001; 2008: B a 0.44, p # 0.001)
(Distributive 2000: B a 0.11, p # 0.001; 2004: B a 0.19, p # 0.001) remained stable
over the years, unlike the effect of distributive justice (Table VIII).

Discussion
This study had two main goals: first, to examine the evolution of workers distributive
and interactional justice perceptions over a period of eight years in order to assess their
degree of stability or change; second, to identify their most stable antecedents and
outcomes. We expected that distributive justice perceptions would be more stable than
the interactional justice perceptions. In fact, while there were no significant differences
in distributive justice perceptions over the years, levels of interactional justice
fluctuated significantly between 2000 and 2004 and between 2000 and 2008.
These findings support the distinction between: structural aspects of justice related
to organizational policies, which tend to be stable over time and relate to distributive
justice perceptions; and social aspects of justice related to daily interaction with
specific organizational agents, such as the supervisor (Greenberg, 1994). The findings
are also in line with the distinction between: event justice, which focuses on workers
Organizational
Interactional justice Distributive justice
R 2a R 2a justice
Year Ba t (step1) Ba t (step2)

Affective commitment 2000 0.37 * * 7.14 0.14 20.04 20.78 0.14


2004 0.12 1.90 0.01 20.08 21.19 0.01
2008 0.25 * * 4.07 0.04 20.17 * 22.67 0.06 35
Satisfaction with the organization 2000 0.34 * * 6.48 0.14 0.20 * * 3.96 0.18
2004 0.32 * * 5.70 0.15 0.32 * * 5.66 0.24
2008 0.46 * * 8.31 0.21 0.01 0.215 0.21
Satisfaction with the supervisor 2000 0.83 * * 26.04 0.68 0.06 1.78 0.68
2004 0.75 * * 18.72 0.59 0.12 * 3.04 0.61
2008 0.78 * * 20.05 0.60 0.01 0.27 0.60
Satisfaction with work itself 2000 0.48 * * 9.90 0.25 0.16 * * 3.32 0.28
2004 0.34 * * 6.13 0.16 0.32 * * 5.79 0.25
2008 0.42 * * 7.48 0.17 0.04 0.71 0.17
Satisfaction with the work environment 2000 0.46 * * 9.26 0.23 0.11 * 2.20 0.24 Table VIII.
2004 0.49 * * 9.29 0.28 0.19 * * 3.63 0.31 Relationships of
2008 0.44 * * 7.98 0.19 0.09 1.57 0.19 distributive and
interactional justice with
Notes: *p-value # 0.05; * *p-value # 0.001 outcomes

specific experiences within the organizational context, such as selection, promotion or


performance appraisals linked to the organization as a whole, and expressed in
distributive justice evaluations; and entity justice, linked to the quality of interaction
with the agent responsible for carrying out procedures related to interactional justice
evaluations. These models can be useful for making predictions regarding the
evolution of the various dimensions of organizational justice.
The second goal of this study was twofold; to identify the most stable antecedents and
the most stable outcomes of workers distributive and interactional justice perceptions.
Regarding the identification of distributive and interactional justice antecedents over time,
we proposed two hypotheses. The first was that structural aspects of the organizational
system, such as organizational culture and organizational support, are more stably related
to distributive justice perceptions than interactional justice, throughout time. This
hypothesis is supported with regard to organizational support but not organizational
culture. Contrary to expectations, significant relationships between communication and
leadership practices and distributive justice were also found, but these relationships were
not stable over time. On the other hand, the hypothesis that aspects of the immediate work
context, such as communication and leadership practices are stably related to interactional
justice perceptions, rather than distributive justice, through time, was supported with
regard to the quality of leadership practices, but not communication since its relationship
with interactional justice was only found for one of the years analyzed.
The findings regarding the distributive and interactional justice antecedents
support our assumptions about the agent-system model. They demonstrate that this
model is useful, not only to predict the consequences of justice perceptions, but also to
predict how distributive and interactional justice evaluations develop in the context of
social-exchange relationships in organizations.
JOCM Concerning the identification of interactional and distributive justice outcomes over
27,1 time, two hypotheses were proposed. Based on assumptions about the agent-system
model, we could expect that distributive, rather than interactional, justice judgments
would influence attitudes directed at the organizational system, such as organizational
commitment and satisfaction with the company. Furthermore, interactional, rather than
distributive, justice evaluations would influence attitudes directed at the supervisor and
36 the immediate context of work, such as satisfaction with the work itself, with the
working environment and with the supervisor. However, the results offer mixed support
for these predictions. Contrary to what was expected, both justice dimensions have an
effect on commitment and satisfaction with the company, which fluctuates over time. On
the other hand, and supporting the model, the effect on satisfaction with the work itself,
with the work environment, and with the supervisor is stronger for interactional justice
than for distributive justice. The effect of interactional justice on satisfaction with work
itself, and with the supervisor, is maintained over the years, unlike the effect of
distributive justice. During the time period under consideration and contrary to what
was predicted, satisfaction with the work environment appears to be affected both by
interactional and distributive justice perceptions.
These results indicate that the relationship patterns between justice dimensions and
workers reactions may be more complex than the agent-system model of justice would
suggest. On the one hand, the data supports the assumption that interactional justice is
closely related to reactions to specific organizational agents. On the other hand, they
indicate that although distributive justice emanates from stable features of the
organizational system, its effect on workers reaction may be more diffuse.
An alternative theory to the agent-system model of justice proposes that the
different justice dimensions are all part of an overall justice perception (Ambrose and
Schminke, 2009). These authors hypothesize (e.g. Kim and Leung, 2007) that this
overall perception mediates the impact of the different dimensions on employees
attitudes and behavior. If this is so than our results may indicate that different
instrumental distributive concerns, and belonging interactional concerns (Cropanzano
et al., 2001), may be differently weighed through time by employees to determine their
attitudes and behaviors.

Limitations and suggestions for future research


This study has some limitations. First, because the data was based on workers
self-report, this study may suffer from common method bias. The validity of an
inference can only be assessed when a variety of analysis methods converge to reach
the same conclusion (Spector and Brannick, 2010). So, future studies could use different
sources of information. This approach would not only avoid common method biases,
but it would also best illustrate the role of social-exchange relationships in the
development of and reactions to organizational justice perceptions over time. Also, it
would allow for the exploration of critical issues surrounding the directionality of
power and voice or reflexive relationships between organizational justice perceptions
and changes in organizational structures at diverse hierarchical levels.
Another issue that could be addressed concerns the age of the data. This study
made use of archival data collected in the period between 2000 and 2008. In this period,
no unexpected organizational events took place, and the uncertainty following the
world financial crisis had not settled in. Because we are looking for structural and
stable relationships between variables over an extended period we believe that the age Organizational
of the data is not an obstacle. Replications of this study could explore if this is indeed justice
the case.
Second, we used a repeated cross-sectional design, and although we believe this
design has some advantages over more classical longitudinal designs, a more
fine-grained analysis of the antecedents and outcomes of workers justice perceptions
could help to improve our understanding of the development of and reactions to justice 37
perceptions in organizations.
Finally, this study analyses distributive and interactional justice dimensions.
Future studies, however, might include procedural justice, in order to better clarify
their relationship with organizational predictors and outcomes.

Implications
The present study draws attention to the importance of employees justice perceptions.
It demonstrates that justice perceptions derive from social relations established with
the organization, as a system, and with organizational actors the employee interacts
with daily. The support that workers receive from the organization and the quality of
supervisor practices are important and stable determinants in the development of their
perceptions of justice.
This study also demonstrates that justice perceptions have a continued impact on
workers attitudes and satisfaction. In order to promote positive work attitudes, both
the organizational system and its agents must ensure positive social relationships with
employees. An important question organizations should ask is if the image it tries to
transmit to employees is consistently passed down through by direct supervisors.
Communication and leadership practices are import both for distributive and
interactional justice perceptions. Efforts to establish a fair, transparent system of
salaries and promotions, at the organization level, may not spillover to employees if
communication and direct leadership practices are not consistent with that image.
Timely communications regarding activities and procedures, as well as, frequent
feedback from direct supervisors, are import building blocks of workers justice
evaluations. These factors affect workers evaluations of the way they are treated by
organizational authorities, and of the resources they feel entitled to.
Through the analysis of organizational justice perceptions over time, it is possible to
clarify some aspects of their development and consequences, thus contributing to a
better understanding of their dynamics.

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Corresponding author
Maria Rita Silva can be contacted at: maria.rita.silva@iscte.pt

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