Employee Values Shape Responses to Workplace Fairness

Employee Values Shape Responses to Workplace Fairness

Rutgers-Camden professor co-authors paper
Brian Holtz

Brian Holtz examines how personal values shape employees' behavioral reactions to unfair treatment. 

CAMDEN — If you felt that you were being treated unfairly at work, would you respond by wasting company time or being disrespectful to colleagues?

A Rutgers–Camden professor says it largely depends on your personal values.   

Brian Holtz, an assistant professor of management at the Rutgers School of Business–Camden, has co-written a paper titled, “Interpersonal Justice and Deviance: The Moderating Effects of Interpersonal Justice Values and Justice Orientation.”  Crystal Harold, an assistant professor of human resource management at Temple University, is the co-author.

Interpersonal justice refers to the degree to which people are treated with politeness, dignity, and respect. 

“There is a relatively strong correlation between injustice and deviant behavior such as insubordination, theft, tardiness, and wasting company time,” Holtz explains.  “When people feel they have been treated unfairly in the workplace, they tend to engage in counterproductive work at a higher rate.” 

But Holtz says previous research does not consider how employee values shape those behavioral responses.  He has concluded that employees with good work ethic will continue to display good work ethic even if treated unfairly.

Holtz says past research has rarely accounted for the role of personal values in shaping employees’ behavioral reactions to unfair treatment.

 “Conventional wisdom tells us that if an employee believes they have been wronged by an employer, they retaliate,” Holtz says.  “But we found that if you value interpersonal justice, you’re more likely to constrain your behavior.”

The Rutgers–Camden professor says more research would be needed to draw any firm conclusions about the implications his findings would have on hiring.

“People are generally attracted to organizations that they perceive share similar core values,” he says.  “Knowing this, organizations could stress justice values like respect and dignity in their recruitment and socialization process and doing so might help attract or retain employees who consider justice to be a core value.”

 Holtz also says that while his research does not directly address the issue of bosses “abusing” employees who are less likely to retaliate, or only hiring those they know will not retaliate, they did consider the issue when writing the paper. 

“My thoughts are that an individual may not retaliate, but they may be more likely to withdraw. That is, after perceiving bad treatment their values may prevent them from retaliation, but would not prevent them from looking for other job opportunities,” he explains.  “This is still an open question.”

Holtz’s paper will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Management and can be read in the online version of the publication at jom.sagepub.com. 

A Haddon Township resident, Holtz teaches courses in strategic human resource management and organizational behavior at the Rutgers School of Business–Camden.



Media Contact: Ed Moorhouse
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E-mail: ejmoor@camden.rutgers.edu