Comportements humains : Managing justice in organizations by repairing injustices : An integrative review, development of a model and empirical study

Dissertation for the title of European doctor in management by Natalia Cuguero at IESE Business School, Spain,  April, 2010.

This dissertation makes an important and timely contribution to the field of management, by addressing the question how best to create justice in organizations.

The first chapter brings together several traditions of thought and research in order to paint a more comprehensive picture of justice issues in organizations. Particularly commendable is the attempt to integrate normative approaches, which make value judgments on what is right in organizations, with social-psychological approaches, which attempt to understand subjective individual perspectives. As the author argues very convincingly, both approaches are needed in order to successful manage justice in organizations.  If focusing on perceptions only, then managers may run the risk of “window dressing” at the expense of creating real justice, but when focusing on a specific normative view only, they run the risk of misunderstanding and mismanaging their employees. Yet despite the importance of both approaches, researchers have typically focused exclusively on one or the other. The integrative model that is developed has the potential to provide the basis for many future research projects. It will surely be a challenge to operationalise some if the elements included, but in the following two chapters the author already demonstrates how a particular research problem flowing out of this agenda can be tackled.

The second chapter focuses on one specific aspect of justice management, which is how to redress injustices after they have occurred. This is a particularly under-researched area in organizational justice research, and the review of extant theory and research in this field is complemented by insights from other fields, including law and ethics. It is through this interdisciplinary cross-fertilization that the author enriches and extends previous models of justice remedies in an important way. For example, she makes the vital differentiation between sincere and insincere apologies, as well as including different levels of material and procedural compensation. Another important theoretical development is the differentiation between the source of the injustice, versus the source of the remedy, which do not always have to be the same. As such, the author is extending the multi-foci models of justice research to the emerging field of justice remedies. Finally the development of a stage model of justice reparation promises to be of high potential value for practitioners in organizations.

I was particularly pleased to see that the author did not shy away from the difficult task of trying to empirically test the core aspects of the complex model developed in chapter 2, which is the focus of chapter 3. The chosen method — policy capturing — seems ideal as it allowed for both within- and between-individual tests.  Both the study design and the data analysis have been done with much attention to detail and skill. I expect the results to have a large impact on the  field — especially the finding that an insincere apology is no better than no apology, as well as the findings regarding the interaction between procedural and material remedies. Especially the role of revising procedures had been widely neglected previously, but this research clearly shows that material compensation alone will not have a maximum effect if no changes in unfair procedures are made. This, together with the confirmed importance of apologies from the harmdoer, reaffirms the view that justice is about more than self-interest, and that people care deeply about justice also for  social and for moral reasons.

Overall, I would like to commend the author for preparing such a comprehensive piece of work, which demonstrates her ability to see the big picture, to advance theory, and to conduct rigorous empirical tests.

Thierry Nadisic


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