The link between organizational justice and job involvement.

Author:Lambert, Eric G.

An incredible amount of government resources are allocated annually for institutional corrections. More than 39 billion dollars are spent each year to house 1.4 million offenders in prisons across the U.S. (Maguire, 2013). Prisons are labor-intensive, and the majority of financial resources spent for institutional corrections are for staff. There are more than 385,000 staff members employed at 1,400 correctional facilities in the U.S. (Maguire, 2013). Staff members are responsible for a myriad of tasks to operate a safe, secure and humane facility. Staff have salient effects on correctional facilities, such as how inmates are treated, amount of sick leave taken, interactions with coworkers, and the level and quality of work performed. Likewise, correctional facilities can help shape the views, attitudes, perceptions and behaviors of staff.

There is a growing body of work that has examined how different aspects of the work environment affect the job stress, job satisfaction and organizational commitment of staff. However, there are other job outcomes that need to be studied--such as job involvement. In this study, the effects of distributive and procedural justice--two factors associated with job involvement--on correctional staff were examined at a private prison and a state prison.

Job Involvement

The concept of job involvement was first proposed by Lodahl and Kejner (1965), who defined it as "the degree to which a person is identified psychologically with his [or her] work, or the importance of work in his [or her] total self-image." During the years, the consensus among researchers has been that job involvement is the degree of psychological Identification that a person has with his or her job, and represents the level of importance the job plays in an individual's life (Brown and Leigh, 1996: Elloy, Everett and Flynn, 1992: Lawler and Hall, 1970: Kanungo, 1979, 1982a. 19821): PauHay, liger and Stone-Romero, 1994). As noted by DeCarufel and Schaan (1990), "An individual with a high degree of job Involvement would place the job at the center of his for] her life's interests. The well-known phrase 'I live, eat and breathe my job' would describe someone whose job involvement is very high."

Job involvement is a distinct concept that is different from job stress, job satisfaction, work ethic and organizational commitment (Blau, 1987: Brooke. Russell and Price. 1998: Kanungo, 1982a: Misra, Kanungo. Von Rosenthal and Stuhler, 1985). Job stress is the degree of anxiety, tension, frustration and hardness felt from the job and does not imply whether or not the job is important to the person (Cullen. Link, Wolfe and Frank, 1985). JOb satisfaction is the level of emotional happiness with one's job, and job involvement is the cognitive identification with one's job (Kanungo, 1982a). Work ethic is viewed as being the moral importance of work in general (e.g., work is good for the soul) and does not necessarily deal with the psychological Identification felt for a particular job (Kanungo, 1982b). Organizational commitment is generally defined as having the core elements of loyalty to the organization, identification with the organization and involvement in the organization (Mowday, Porter and Steers, 1982). While both deal with psychological bonds, the difference is the level of connection. Organizational commitment is the bond with the overall employing organization and job involvement deals with the bond to the particular job.

Lawler (1992) contended that job involvement is influenced by the work environment and that a redesign of the work environment can lead to increased job involvement for employees. In a study of new hires at a Midwestern police department, job involvement decreased from the point of hire to after one year on the job, suggesting that work experiences--such as negative stressors of dealing with arrestees, role conflict and role ambiguity--influence the level of job involvement and that job involvement is not a static concept formed before joining an organization (Hazer and Alvares, 1981). The person-environment fit theory contends that work environment factors can either positively or negatively affect the level of job involvement among workers (Brown, 1996; Envy, Everett and Flynn, 1995). If there is a good fit between the staff member and the working environment, then there generally will be positive work results--such as higher job performance, increased job satisfaction and more positive interactions with co-workers and clients; or there will be negative outcomes if there is a poor fit--such as increase absenteeism, decreased work effort and higher turnover rates (Edwards, Cable, Williamson. Lambert and Shipp, 2006: Kristof, 1996). Person-environment theory is based on an interactional perspective, holding that there is an interaction between an individual and his or her environment. Neither the individual nor the environment accounts alone for a particular outcome--but rather it is the interaction that shapes various outcomes (Sekiguchi, 2004a, 2004b).

Factors related to job involvement. Before recommendations can be made for ways to improve job involvement of correctional staff, research that examines factors associated with job involvement is required. Fairness is a concept that resonates with the criminal justice system. Citizens expect that processes and outcomes are fair and just, and the employees working in the criminal justice system have the same high expectations of fairness from their employers (Lambert, Hogan, Jiang, Elechi, Benjamin, Morris, Laux and Dupuy, 2010). Organizational justice, which is comprised of two dimensions--procedural justice (processes) and distributive justice (outcomes)--Is important in helping shape staff job involvement levels.

Organizational justice. Organizational justice is a perception by employees that their employer treats them in a fair and just manner (Greenberg, 1987a). Greenberg (1990a) asserts that perceptions of organizational justice are "a basic requirement for the effective functioning of organizations and the personal satisfaction of the individuals they employ." Not only does organizational justice shape the views and behaviors of the general public, it is a force in shaping outcomes of criminal justice employees. If correctional staff are expected to treat those with whom they come into contact (e.g. inmates) in a fair and just manner, it should be no surprise that employees expect to be treated fairly by their employer (Folger and Cropanzano, 1998).

Distributive justice. Distributive justice is a dimension of organizational justice (Clay-Warner, Reynolds and Roman, 2005). Distributive justice focuses on the perceptions of employees on the fairness of organizational outcomes, evaluations, pay, the amount of work assigned, job assignments, shift assignments and punishments (Folger and Cropanzano, 1998; Greenberg, 1982; Lambert et al., 2010). Distributive justice is based on the equity exchange principle, in which employees view the fairness of outcomes based on their inputs (Lambert, 2003). In other words, employees tend to evaluate organizational outputs based upon their inputs into the organization and compare them to what others in similar situations have received. If they see the outcome as fair, they tend to have high perceptions of distributive justice in the organization; and if they feel that the output is unfair, then they are more likely to have lower perceptions of distributive Justice.

Procedural justice. While distributive justice focuses on outcomes, procedural justice is concerned with staff perceptions of the process to reach these outcomes (Greenberg, 1987b, 1982; Lind and Tyler, 1988). Procedural justice deals with the perceptions that the processes and procedures used to reach important organizational employee outcomes are fair and just (Folger and Cropanzano, 1998; Greenberg, 1990a; Thibaut and Walker, 1975). These perceptions involve the processes by which important reward and punishment decisions are made, such as evaluations, promotions, terminations, etc. (Greenberg, 1987b, 1990b). People want these processes and procedures to be fair, consistent and transparent, regardless of the outcome. In other words, the process is just as important as the outcome itself (Folger and Cropanzano, 1998). Landy, Barnes-Farrell and Cleveland (1980) found that the perceived fairness of employee evaluation procedures were very important for employees, regardless of whether their performance appraisals were negative or positive.

Past Research on Job Involvement

Job involvement. There has been a limited amount of published research on job involvement among correctional staff. Research of jail staff has shown that job involvement was linked with a lower desire to leave the job, lower levels of job stress, and heightened states of job satisfaction and organizational commitment (Lambert and Paoline, 2010: Paoline and Lambert, 2010). Among prison staff, job involvement had significant positive effects on job satisfaction and organizational commitment (Lambert, 2008). Two conclusions can be reached from this limited research. First, job involvement appears to be associated with salient positive work outcomes. Lower levels of job stress and turnover intent, as well as increased levels of job satisfaction and organizational commitment, are positive outcomes. Second, the published research to date has mainly focused on the consequences of job involvement among correctional staff, and there has been very...

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