Fairness Works

By Sandra Nakagawa | February 12, 2010 | 0 comments

Managers, take note: Promoting fairness in the workplace isn't just an ethical thing to do. Past research has shown that it also leads to higher job satisfaction and higher organizational commitment from employees. Now, a recent study in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology has built upon these findings to show that those who believe the world is just have better mental health, more positive workplace evaluations, and greater trust in their colleagues.

In a series of studies, German researchers used a psychological questionnaire called the Belief in a Just World (BJW) scale, which measures the degree to which people believe life is ultimately fair and just. The scale asks respondents to indicate how much they agree with statements like "I believe that I usually get what I deserve."

In one study, the researchers gave the BJW questionnaire to employed and unemployed people in Germany; they also analyzed these people's income, personalities, and attitudes toward work, among other attributes. They found that, among those with a job, BJW was significantly linked to higher job satisfaction, increased job involvement, more organizational commitment, higher self-esteem, and more life satisfaction. On the other hand, people without a job had lower scores on the BJW scale, and the longer someone remained unemployed, the lower their BJW score.

In another study, the researchers looked at how BJW changes over time. They found that higher BJW predicted better mental health, trust in one's colleagues, self-esteem, and life satisfaction six to nine months later.

The authors argue that their results highlight the ongoing importance of fostering just and fair workplaces. "Justice concerns are important at all stages of the occupational career," they write, "because people have a need to believe in a personal just world in which they get what they deserve and deserve what they get."

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About The Author

Sandra Nakagawa is a Goldberg Undergraduate Research Fellow at the Greater Good Science Center.


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