What is fair behaviour? This week’s tidbits picks out research into fairness.

Not all fairness is created equal
A large body of research demonstrates that employee perceptions of fair treatment matter. The overwhelming focus of these investigations has been on how employees react to whether or not they perceive their supervisor behaved in a fair manner.

The authors contend, however, that employees not only question and react to whether they are treated fairly, but also to why they believe their supervisor acted fairly in the first place. To do so, the authors consider how employee attributions of supervisor motives for fair treatment influence the cognitive and affective mechanisms by which fair treatment influences employee reactions to fairness.

Drawing from the justice actor model, the authors focus on both cognitive (establishing fairness, identity maintenance, and effecting compliance) and affective (positive affect) motives underlying supervisors’ fair treatment. Relying on theory and research on motive attribution and leader affect, the authors develop predictions for how employees’ perceptions of these motives as a result of short-term exchanges over time influence supervisor-directed citizenship behaviour through both cognitive (trust in the supervisor) and affective (positive affect) mechanisms.

The authors’ experience sampling study of 613 weekly fair events (from 171 employees) largely supported their predictions, demonstrating that attribution of supervisor motives is a meaningful component of an employee’s justice experience.

Matta, F. K., Sabey, T. B., Scott, B. A., Lin, S.-H. (J.), & Koopman, J. (2019). Not all fairness is created equal: A study of employee attributions of supervisor justice motives.
Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication.


Is child advertising inherently unfair?
Child advertising is routinely accused of being inherently unfair. This is normally based on the claim that younger children do not understand advertising’s selling intent, a claim that is well supported by the available evidence. But the argumentation that gets us from this claim to inherent unfairness has been largely ignored.

This article addresses this gap in the literature by considering two accounts of fairness as candidates for understanding child advertising: the process-exclusive account and the inclusive account. The article argues for the rejection of the process-exclusive account (where the process is all that matters) on the basis that it ends up condemning acceptable, non-commercial persuasion.

The article then examines the candidates for the negative outcome of child advertising that is required for unfairness on the inclusive account. It concludes that the evidence for each being inherent to child advertising is currently insufficient to support the conclusion that child advertising is inherently unfair.

Read this Open Access article online for free

David Rowthorn. 2019. Is Child Advertising Inherently Unfair?
Journal of Business Ethics, 158(3), 603–615.


Are disciplinary actions by State Professional Licensing Boards fair?
This study examines 14,900 disciplinary actions by the professional licensing boards for attorneys, CPAs, and physicians in four states from 2008 through 2014. It was found that both attorneys and physicians are disciplined at a rate at least seven times that of CPAs.

While the majority of disciplinary actions are for misconduct directly related to the professional practice, nearly 14% of sanctions were the result of “social crimes” such as failure to pay child support or student loans, driving under the influence, and general unprofessional conduct. The severity of licensure sanctions varied with the cause for discipline, but was inconsistent both within and between jurisdictions.

These results raise important questions about the purpose and performance of state licensing boards and possible reasons for inequitable treatment. Additionally, the widespread and severe sanctions for conduct not related to the professional practice suggest that moral turpitude clauses may violate both equal protection and prohibitions on excessive fines.

Cynthia L. Krom. 2019. Disciplinary Actions by State Professional Licensing Boards: Are They Fair?
Journal of Business Ethics, 158(2), 567–583.


Performance management fairness and burnout
Drawing upon organisational justice theory, the authors examine how perceptions of performance management fairness affect burnout and organisational citizenship behaviours among academic employees. Data from 532 academic employees from a university in Flanders (Belgium) were analysed using structural equation modelling.

Academic employees experience less burnout when performance management fairness is perceived as high. Performance management distributive and interactional fairness increase organisational citizenship behaviours by reducing burnout and supporting partial mediation. Higher education institutions should carefully design and implement performance management systems with fair outcomes, procedures and treatment of employees.

Our findings stress the importance of fair performance management systems and offer new insights on how these systems affect employee outcomes.

Robin Bauwens, Mieke Audenaert, Jeroen Huisman & Adelien Decramer. 2019. Performance management fairness and burnout: implications for organizational citizenship behaviors.
Studies in Higher Education, 44(3), 584-598.


Perceived fairness of digital labour on crowdworking platforms
Based on a qualitative survey among 203 US workers active on the microwork platform Amazon Mechanical Turk, the authors analyse potential biases embedded in the institutional setting provided by on-demand crowdworking platforms and their effect on perceived workplace fairness.

The authors explore the triadic relationship between employers, workers, and platform providers, focusing on the power of platform providers to design settings and processes that affect workers’ fairness perceptions. Our focus is on workers’ awareness of the new institutional setting, frames applied to the mediating platform, and a differentiated analysis of distinct fairness dimensions.

Christian Fieseler, Eliane Bucher & Christian Pieter Hoffmann. 2019. Unfairness by Design? The Perceived Fairness of Digital Labor on Crowdworking Platforms.
Journal of Business Ethics, 156(4), 987–100.


Fairness-based morality and political liberalism predict pro-environmental actions
There is robust evidence showing associations between political ideology and environmentalism such that self-identified political liberals tend to hold greater pro-environmental positions than conservatives.

Drawing from research on moral foundations, the authors report two studies examining the extent to which political ideology and individualising foundations of care- and fairness-based morality interact to predict environmentalism. Results support the predicted moderating role of individualising foundations, with no moderating effects for the binding foundations of loyalty-, authority- and sanctity-based morality.

Liberal ideology was a stronger predictor of electricity conservation with increasingly high levels of individualising morals (Study 1, N = 144), while conservative ideology was a stronger predictor of positive feelings towards the Green Party with increasingly high levels of individualising morals (Study 2, N = 233).

The results indicate that individualising morals might intensify environmentalism for those who already lean towards a pro-environmental stand but also for those who lean away from a pro-environmental stand. The findings confirm the important role of both care- and fairness-based morality in addressing environmental problems.

Taciano L. Milfont, Caitlin L. Davies, Marc S. Wilson. 2019. The Moral Foundations of Environmentalism: Care- and Fairness-Based Morality Interact With Political Liberalism to Predict Pro-Environmental Actions.
Social Psychological Bulletin, 2019, 14(2), Article e32633