Article

Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 289-307

When Organizations Break Their Promises: Employee Reactions to Unfair Processes and Treatment

  • Jill Kickul

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Abstract

Research has shown that the strongest reactions to organizational injustice occur when an employee perceives both unfair outcomes (distributive injustice) and unfair and unethical procedures and treatment. Utilizing the Referent Cognitions Theory (RCT) framework, this study investigates how a form of distributive injustice, psychological contract breach, along with procedural and interactional injustice influences employees' negative attitudes and behaviors. More specifically, the interactional effects of these forms of injustices should be notably greater than those exhibited when an employee of the organization, following a contract breach, perceives both fair and ethical processes and treatment. Three hundred and twenty-two employees from a variety of organizational settings completed measures of contract breach, procedural injustice, interactional injustice, and negative affect toward the organization. Their respective supervisors completed a measure of deviant work behaviors. Results revealed a three-way interaction between contract breach, procedural injustice, and interactional injustice on negative affect and deviant work behavior. The nature of the interaction was further investigated through simple slope analyses. Consistent with the study's propositions, deviant work behavior was higher following a contract breach when both procedural and interactional injustice were high. However, the association between negative affect and breach was high when both forms of injustices were high and when only interactional injustice was high. Study contributions and limitations as well as theoretical and ethical implications are discussed.

deviant work behavior interactional injustice negative affect procedural injustice psychological contract breach