Who Is Most Influenced by Justice Perceptions? Assessing the Role of Occupational Status

AuthorWisanupong Potipiroon,Ellen V. Rubin
Published date01 September 2018
Date01 September 2018
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1177/0734371X16660156
Subject MatterArticles
/tmp/tmp-17lkEcXQI02Cnh/input 660156ROPXXX10.1177/0734371X16660156Review of Public Personnel AdministrationPotipiroon and Rubin
research-article2016
Article
Review of Public Personnel Administration
2018, Vol. 38(3) 271 –302
Who Is Most Influenced by
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DOI: 10.1177/0734371X16660156
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the Role of Occupational
Status
Wisanupong Potipiroon1 and Ellen V. Rubin2
Abstract
A growth in organizational justice research is evident in the field of public
administration. This present study asks whether the relationship between key
justice perceptions and attitudinal and performance outcomes vary as a function
of occupational status. Building on the extant literature on social status, this study
hypothesizes that employees in a higher status occupation will respond more strongly
to justice perceptions than those in a lower status occupation by exhibiting lower
levels of job satisfaction, organizational commitment, task performance, and citizenship
behaviors. Based on a sample of employees in a large public agency in Thailand, our
findings indicate that although employees in the two occupational groups do not
differ significantly in their perceived justice levels, those in a higher status occupation
are more strongly affected by perceptions of procedural and interpersonal justice.
This study underscores the importance of accounting for occupational differences
when it comes to implementing justice-related policies and practices.
Keywords
organizational justice, occupational status, social status, task performance, citizenship
behavior, organizational commitment, job satisfaction
Introduction
In the public sector, fairness and equal treatment is an overarching principle that guides
the implementation of various public personnel policies, including selection, appraisal,
training, promotion and termination, labor relations, and reform initiatives. Fairness
1Prince of Songkla University, Hat Yai, Thailand
2University at Albany, Albany, NY, USA
Corresponding Author:
Wisanupong Potipiroon, Faculty of Management Sciences, Prince of Songkla University, Hat Yai, Songkhla
Province 90112, Thailand.
Email: wisanupong.p@psu.ac.th

272
Review of Public Personnel Administration 38(3)
issues are important because they signal the moral propriety on the part of organiza-
tional authorities, which has strong practical implications for organizational function-
ing. Employees generally evaluate fair treatment on multiple dimensions, including
distributive, procedural, and interpersonal justice (e.g., Colquitt, 2001). Research on
organizational justice indicates that employees care deeply about fairness not only
because it provides them with long-term economic benefits (Thibaut & Walker, 1975)
but also because it enhances their self-esteem and status in a group (Lind & Tyler,
1988) and affirms basic moral principles (Folger & Cropanzano, 1998).
The current state of knowledge in organizational justice research indicates that
perceived fairness can create powerful benefits for organizations and employees
alike. Numerous studies going back at least two decades have revealed both direct
and indirect impacts of justice perceptions on employees’ attitudes and various indi-
cators of organizational performance such as turnover, task performance, citizenship
behavior, and counterproductive work behavior (see Colquitt et al., 2013, for the
most recent review). In recognition of this, justice research is receiving increasing
attention from public management scholars both at the subnational level (e.g.,
Hassan, 2013; Hassan & Rohrbaugh, 2011) and national level (e.g., Cho & Sai,
2013; Choi, 2011; Choi & Rainey, 2014; Rubin, 2009, 2011; Rubin & Chiqués,
2014). These studies have shown that justice perceptions are associated with job
satisfaction, trust toward managers, turnover intentions among federal employees
(Choi, 2011; Rubin, 2009), and the propensity of federal government employees to
join unions and pay dues (Rubin, 2011) and to file complaints and make fraud dis-
closure (Rubin & Chiqués, 2014).
Despite the clear benefits that public organizations could reap by focusing on fair-
ness issues, there is virtually no research in the public management literature that
seeks to examine contextually important moderators of the perceived justice-outcome
relationships. This present study aims to fill this void by addressing a largely unex-
plored question: Does occupational status influence the well-established relationship
between the key justice perceptions and important outcomes? The fact that so few
justice studies have addressed this central question is unfortunate given that social
status plays such a crucial role in the relationship between employees and organiza-
tional authority. Social status has been defined as “the extent to which an individual or
group is respected or admired by others” (Magee & Galinsky, 2008, p. 359). According
to Aquino, Galperin, and Bennett (2004), “[S]tatus differences among employees,
whether formally prescribed or socially constructed, are an inescapable fact of organi-
zational life” (p. 1002). Although past research indicates that employees at different
hierarchical levels may be exposed to different levels of perceived justice (e.g., Rubin
& Chiqués, 2014; Schminke, Cropanzano, & Rupp, 2002), we know very little about
whether social status stemming from occupational differences may affect the per-
ceived justice-outcome relationships. We address this shortcoming by examining the
role of occupational status in the relationship between key justice perceptions and their
most often studied outcomes, namely, job satisfaction, organizational commitment,
task performance, and citizenship behaviors (Colquitt, Conlon, Wesson, Porter, & Ng,
2001; Colquitt et al., 2013). Although social status could be operationalized and

Potipiroon and Rubin
273
measured in several ways, this present study focuses on occupational status, which is
a formally defined and objective indicator of social status (Côté, 2011). Although one
may expect high-status individuals to be resourceful and thus insulated from organiza-
tional injustices (Aquino & Bommer, 2003; Aquino et al., 2004), we draw from the
extant literature on social status to make a counterintuitive argument that individuals
in a higher status occupational group will exhibit stronger attitudinal and behavioral
responses to justice perceptions.
To test our hypotheses, we investigate status differences among two key occupa-
tional groups, which make up a large proportion of the public workforce, namely,
professional and clerical workers. In line with previous studies (e.g., Aquino &
Bommer, 2003), professional workers are conceptualized as those in a higher status
occupation whereas clerical workers represent those of lower occupational status. To
our knowledge, no other studies have examined the moderating role of occupational
status in the relationship between various dimensions of justice and a broad range of
attitudinal and behavioral outcomes. Furthermore, although public management schol-
ars are paying increasing attention to organizational justice phenomena (e.g., Choi,
2011; Hassan, 2013; Rubin, 2009; Rubin & Chiqués, 2014), none of them has exam-
ined the relationship between justice perceptions and job performance. Below, we
discuss the literatures on organizational justice and occupational status that lead to the
development of our hypotheses.
Theory and Hypotheses
Organizational Justice
Organizational members evaluate fair treatment of organizational authorities on vari-
ous dimensions, namely distributive, procedural and interpersonal justice. Drawing
heavily from equity theory, distributive justice refers to the extent to which outcomes
are viewed as equitable (Adams, 1965). This view posits that individuals determine
the fairness of outcomes by examining the ratio of their input (e.g., efforts, time) to the
outcomes that they receive (e.g., pay, promotions). Whereas distributive justice con-
cerns the perceived fairness of outcomes of decisions, procedural justice is an evalua-
tion of the degree to which the decision-making process in an organization is viewed
as fair (Lind & Tyler, 1988) and in particular, the degree to which the decisions are
accurate, consistent, unbiased, correctable, ethical, and representative (Leventhal,
1980; Thibaut & Walker, 1975). Interpersonal justice evaluates the extent to which
individuals are treated by authorities with dignity, courtesy, and respect during the
enactment of the procedure and allocation of outcomes (Bies, 2001; Bies & Moag,
1986; Greenberg, 1993). In other words, interpersonal justice pertains to the perceived
fairness of the social interactions that occur when authorities execute or communicate
procedures and outcomes of the decision-making process. There are at least two rules
that govern the fairness of interpersonal treatment, namely, respect (i.e., treating peo-
ple with honesty and dignity) and propriety (i.e., using appropriate language; Bies &
Moag, 1986). Interpersonal justice can thus be seen as a social dimension of

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Review of Public Personnel Administration 38(3)
distributive justice and procedural justice that pertains to the treatment of people in a
respectful and socially sensitive manner (Greenberg, 1993). Although each justice
dimension discussed above is engendered in distinct ways, empirical...

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