ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

›› 2007, Vol. 39 ›› Issue (05): 901-908.

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The Effects of Performance, Competence and Position on Organizational Distributive Justice

Chen Xi,Ma Jianhong,Shi Kan   

  1. Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China

    Graduate School of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100039, China

  • Received:2006-04-05 Revised:1900-01-01 Published:2007-09-30 Online:2007-09-30
  • Contact: Shi Kan

Abstract: Distributive justice is important in predicting organizational outcomes such as satisfaction and commitment. So norms of distributive justice are crucial for organizational research and practices. Distributive justice norms may vary across cultures and eras. Research on this topic in Chinese context is scarce. The economic and social reconstruction in China since the 1980s could be reflected in the change of ideology of distributive justice., This research explored the effects of three factors, performance, competence and position, on distributive justice and their variation from the 1980s to the present. Neuroscientists discovered that the pursuit of self-interest and achievement of justice could constitute conflicting motives. We proposed the concept of threshold of injustice,defined as the maximum degree of self-interest one was willing to abnegate for the sake of justice. With this concept, we could study distributive justice in a multi-motive decision-making framework.
The first experiment explored the effects of work performance and competence on distributive justice, through a 2 (high vs. low competence, between-subject) × 3 (performance: finishing 30%, 50%, 70% of the work, within-subject) design. In the second experiment we examined the effect of position after controlling the effect of competence, using a 2 (high vs. low competence, between-subject) ×2 (pure competence difference vs. competence plus position difference, within-subject) design. We designed a two-phase game composed of an Ultimatum Game and a Dictator Game. In the first phase, participants acted as Responders in the Ultimatum Game, deciding on accepting or rejecting the offer proposed by a virtual Proposer and evaluating fairness of him or her. In the second phase, participants’ role changed to Dictator, proposing offer to the same virtual partner. Sixty Chinese undergraduate students participated in this research. Repeated ANOVA, stepwise regression and cluster analysis were used to analyze the data.
ANOVA Results indicated that both work performance and competence had significant effects on threshold of injustice, justice evaluation and feedback offer. After the effect of competence being controlled, position did not have any significant effects. Regression results showed that performance was the first predictor of distributive justice, and competence came the second. Compared with the findings in the 1980s, performance remained the primary factor in distributive justice; competence showed significant rise in distribution norms while position’s significance declined. The distribution outcomes would affect feedback behaviors. Cluster analysis implied that there were individual differences in distributive justice norms. To be specific, a large proportion of people, 70% in this research, made fairness-referenced decision-making based on clues of performance and competence. However, a small proportion of people, 30% here, relied mainly on how others treated them to decide their reactions.
This research indicated that 1) performance was the primary predictor of threshold of injustice, followed by competence; 2) except performance and competence, the offer proposed by the partner also demonstrated positive influence on distributive justice perception and reactive decision-making; 3) without high competence as evidence, high position itself was not considered to be worthy of high reward; 4) individual difference existed in distributive justice referenced decision-making norms: a large proportion of people showed event-based style while a small proportion showed relationship-based style; 5) after the economic and social reform in China, the importance of performance and competence has increased, compared with position, in organizational distribution norms. Based on these results, we summarized the principles of distributive justice as performance law, competence law, and reciprocity law

Key words: distributive justice, threshold of injustice, Ultimatum Game, Dictator Gam

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