Article

Personality traits and perceptions of organisational justice

Abstract and Figures

This study examined the association between five-factor model personality traits and perceptions of organisational justice. The sample for the study comprised 903 participants (35–50 years old; 523 women) studied in 2007 and 2012. Measures used were the Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Five-Factor Inventory questionnaire and the short organisational justice measure. The results showed that high neuroticism was associated with low distributive, procedural and interactional justice. Furthermore, high agreeableness was associated with high procedural and interactional justice and high openness with high distributive justice. This study suggests that neuroticism, agreeableness and openness are involved in perceptions of organisational justice and that personality should be considered in research and in practices at the workplace.
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Running head: Personality and organizational justice
1
This is an Author’s Original Manuscript (preprint) of an article accepted for publication by
Wiley in International Journal of Psychology on 30th November 2017
Title: Personality traits and perceptions of organizational justice
Maria Törnroos1,2, PhD, Marko Elovainio2,3, PhD, Taina Hintsa4, 2, PhD, Mirka Hintsanen5,2, PhD,
Laura Pulkki-Råback2, PhD, Markus Jokela2, PhD, Terho Lehtimäki6, PhD, Olli T. Raitakari7,8,
PhD, Liisa Keltikangas-Järvinen2, PhD
1 Department of Management and Organization, Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland
2 Department of Psychology and Logopedics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki,
Finland
3 National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland
4 Educational Sciences and Psychology, Philosophical faculty, Joensuu University of Eastern
Finland, Finland
5 Unit of Psychology, Faculty of Education, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
6 Department of Clinical Chemistry, Fimlab Laboratories, University of Tampere School of
Medicine, Tampere, Finland
7 Research Centre of Applied and Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Turku, Turku,
Finland
8 Department of Clinical Physiology and Nuclear Medicine, Turku University Hospital, Turku,
Finland
Running head: Personality and organizational justice
2
Correspondence should be addressed to Assistant Professor Maria Törnroos, Department of
Management and Organisation, Hanken School of Economics, P.O. Box 479, 00101 Helsinki,
Finland, tel. +358504683403, e-mail: maria.tornroos@hanken.fi
Personality and organizational justice
This is an Author’s Original Manuscript (preprint) of an article Accepted for publication by
Wiley in International Journal of Psychology on 30th November 2017
3
Title: Personality traits and perceptions of organizational justice
Abstract
This study examined the association between Five-Factor Model personality traits and perceptions
of organizational justice. The sample for the study comprised 903 participants (35–50 years old;
523 women) studied in 2007 and 2012. Measures used were the NEO-FFI questionnaire and the
short organizational justice measure. The results showed that high neuroticism was associated with
low distributive, procedural, and interactional justice. Furthermore, high agreeableness was
associated with high procedural and interactional justice and high openness with high distributive
justice. This study suggests that neuroticism, agreeableness, and openness are involved in
perceptions of organizational justice and that personality should be considered in research and in
practices at the workplace.
Keywords: organizational justice, Five-Factor Model, personality, equity theory
Personality and organizational justice
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Introduction
During the past decades, organizational justice has been recognized as an important determinant of
employee well-being and health (see e.g. Colquitt et al., 2013). It has also been suggested that
perceptions of fairness and justice are not the same across individuals (Greenberg, 2001). It is
therefore surprising that we still do not know why individuals perceive organizational justice
differently. Given that previous research has shown that personality influences how we perceive our
psychosocial working environment (Törnroos et al., 2012) and what our work attitudes are (Judge,
Heller, & Mount, 2002), personality might help explain individual differences in organizational
justice perceptions.
In order to increase perceived organizational justice at work, we need to understand
why individuals do not perceive organizational justice in the same way. A first step to achieve this
is to examine the role personality plays in perceptions of organizational justice. Studies on the
associations between personality traits and perceptions of organizational justice have focused
mainly on the trait neuroticism and traits conceptually similar to it (e.g. Elovainio, Kivimäki,
Vahtera, Virtanen, & Keltikangas-Järvinen, 2003), or on personality traits as moderators of
organizational justice effects (e.g. Elovainio et al., 2003; Scott & Colquitt, 2007). Only one
previous study has examined the direct association between the all the Five-Factor Model
personality traits and perceptions of organizational justice in a limited sample of business
organizations (Shi, Lin, Wang, & Wang, 2009). To show that the direct associations hold in more
occupationally diverse samples and that the associations also hold over time, further research is
needed. In this study, we aimed to contribute to both theory and practice by examining the
relationship between the Five-Factor Model personality traits and organizational justice perceptions
in a longitudinal population-based sample consisting of a diverse range of occupations.
Personality and organizational justice
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Theory and Hypotheses
Organizational justice. Organizational justice has traditionally been conceptualized
with three components: distributive, procedural, and interactional justice. Although these
components are correlated, they have been shown to be distinct the three components differ in
which facets of perceptions of fairness they emphasize and in what consequences these perceptions
have (Colquitt, 2001). Distributive justice emerged from equity theory, which states that individuals
compare their outcomes (rewards, working conditions) to input (effort, skills), in comparison with
other individuals (Adams, 1965). Because this perceived fairness of outcomes could not completely
explain employees’ reactions to injustice, social psychology scholars shifted focus from outcomes
towards the process by which outcomes were allocated procedural justice (Leventhal, 1980;
Thibaut & Walker, 1975). Procedural justice is achieved when the employee has a say during the
decision-making process or can influence the outcome (Thibaut & Walker, 1975), or where the
process is perceived as consistent, lacking in bias, accurate, and ethical (Leventhal, 1980). The third
component of organizational justice, interactional justice, is concerned with the interpersonal aspect
of organizational practices and behaviour towards the employee (Bies & Moag, 1986). Perceptions
of interactional justice emerge from the politeness, honesty, and respect the employee perceives in
the communication process with superiors (Bies & Moag, 1986).
Personality and perceptions of organizational justice. Although employees might
agree that justice is an important part of well-being at work, the perception of organizational justice
varies from one employee to the other. For example, a recent study on justice orientation, which is
defined as how strongly individuals value justice, showed that individuals with high justice
orientation were more vulnerable to evaluate a situation as unjust, than individuals with low justice
orientation (Sasaki & Hayashi, 2014). Individual dispositions, such as personality, can influence
perceptions of the work environment in several ways individuals perceive their environments
differently depending on their personality and these perceptions can lead individuals to react and
Personality and organizational justice
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6
behave differently (Barsky & Kaplan, 2007; Törnroos et al., 2012). To understand which factors
contribute to perceptions of organizational justice and to develop methods for managers to take
individual differences into account, we need to know more about the role of personality in
perceptions of organizational justice.
The Five-Factor Model (FFM) specifies five broad personality dimensions or traits:
neuroticism, extraversion, openness, conscientiousness, and agreeableness (McCrae & Costa,
2003). Research has shown that the FFM traits are related to perceptions of several work-related
issues, like job satisfaction (e.g. Judge et al., 2002), work performance (e.g. Barrick & Mount,
1991; Hurtz & Donovan, 2000), work motivation (Judge & Ilies, 2002), and work stress (Törnroos
et al., 2013). It would, therefore, seem logical that the FFM personality traits would also be
associated with perceptions of organizational justice.
Neuroticism has been shown to be associated with negative feelings and distress
(McCrae & Costa, 2003), and with sensitivity to unfair treatment (Schmitt, Gollwitzer, Maes, &
Arbach, 2005). Individuals high on the neuroticism scale perceive receiving low rewards compared
to the effort they put in at work (Törnroos et al., 2012) and might therefore also perceive lower
distributive justice. Neuroticism is associated with perceptions of lower decision authority
(Törnroos et al., 2013), which would translate into perceptions of lower procedural justice. In
addition, because individuals with high neuroticism are more prone to perceive the actions of others
as negative (McCrae & Costa, 2003) and might receive less social support at work (Lewis, Bates,
Posthuma, & Polderman, 2014), it would follow that they also perceive lower interactional justice at
work. Based on this evidence and on previous research, showing that neuroticism is associated with
lower procedural and interactional justice (Shi et al., 2009), and perceptions of lower social fairness
at selection (Truxillo, Bauer, Campion, & Paronto, 2006), our hypothesis is:
Hypothesis 1: High neuroticism is associated with perceptions of (a) low distributive, (b) low
procedural, and (c) low interactional justice.
Personality and organizational justice
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Although extraversion is linked to several beneficial occupational outcomes such as
high social support (Lewis et al., 2014), high job satisfaction (Judge et al., 2002), and less work
stress (Törnroos et al., 2013) an association to organizational justice has not been documented
(Mayer, Nishii, Schneider, & Goldstein, 2007; Shi et al., 2009; Truxillo et al., 2006). For example,
Shi et al. (2009) found in their study that extraversion was not associated with any of the
components of perceived organizational justice and Mayer et al. (2007) found that extraversion was
not associated with perceptions of procedural or interactional justice climates. This paradox might
be caused by the need for extraverts to focus on evaluations of the self (Truxillo et al., 2006),
instead of evaluations of the environment as compared to others. In addition, extraversion is
associated with perceptions of higher rewards, higher efforts, higher control, and higher demands
(Törnroos et al., 2012, 2013). Consequently, they are satisfied with the outcome but also perceive
that their input is high, which makes it likely that they neither perceive high or low organizational
justice. Therefore, the following hypothesis is set for extraversion:
Hypothesis 2: Extraversion is not associated with any of the components of perceived
organizational justice.
Conscientious individuals are hard working and persevering (McCrae & Costa, 2003)
and conscientiousness has in previous studies been associated with perceptions of higher job
satisfaction (Judge et al., 2002) and higher equity in efforts spent and rewards received (Törnroos et
al., 2012). However, the characteristics of conscientiousness do not seem to be important in
perceptions of organizational justice or fairness perceptions (Shi et al., 2009; Truxillo et al., 2006).
Conscientiousness might, therefore, be more important in perceptions of achievement and
performance, than in perceptions of equity compared to others. The following hypothesis is
therefore set for conscientiousness:
Hypothesis 3: Conscientiousness is not associated with any of the components of perceived
organizational justice.
Personality and organizational justice
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Agreeableness is characterized by trust in and sympathy towards others (Barrick &
Mount, 1991), and agreeable individuals tend to feel guilty in situations, where they are advantaged
compared to others (Schmitt et al., 2005). Agreeable individuals would, therefore, be likely to
perceive being treated fairly and have faith in the decisions made in an organization. Accordingly,
Shi and colleagues (2009) found that agreeableness was associated with all components of
organizational justice. Previous research has also shown that agreeableness is associated with
perceptions of being adequately rewarded based on input (Törnroos et al., 2012). Thus, agreeable
individuals would make positive social comparisons about output/input and perceive higher
distributive and procedural justice. They might also be able to create positive responses from others
at work because of their selfless, helpful, and flexible nature (McCrae & Costa, 2003). This might
influence their perceptions of being treated with respect by their superiors and therefore agreeable
individuals might perceive higher interactional justice. Our hypothesis regarding agreeableness and
perceptions of organizational justice is, therefore:
Hypothesis 4: High agreeableness is associated with perceptions of (a) high distributive, (b) high
procedural, and (c) high interactional justice.
Openness is regarded a “double-edged sword” (DeNeve & Cooper, 1998, p. 199) and
a trait that, in its broad form, is rarely associated with well-being outcomes (Connelly, Ones, &
Chernyshenko, 2014). The characteristics of openness do not translate into feelings or behaviours
important in perceiving the environment as threatening or enjoyable. Research on openness and
occupational outcomes have to the most part been unsuccessful in finding an association (e.g. Shi et
al., 2009; Törnroos et al., 2012) and therefore we will set the following hypothesis regarding
openness and perceptions of organizational justice:
Hypothesis 5: Openness is not associated with any of the components of perceived organizational
justice.
Personality and organizational justice
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Methods
Participants and procedure
Data for the present study was from the ongoing prospective, population-based Cardiovascular Risk
in Young Finns study. The study began in 1980 with a total of 3 596 participants from six age
cohorts in the population register of the Social Insurance Institution, covering the entire geographic
area of Finland and nationally representative of various socioeconomic groups (Raitakari et al.,
2008). The data was acquired from the data manager of the Young Finns study.
The measurements for the present study were carried out in 2007 and in 2012
(participants being 35 to 50 years old) with a questionnaire. 1 504 participants had data from both
time points. Of the participants, 1 226 were working full time and had a supervisor in 2012, which
was a prerequisite for being included in the analysis. Having a supervisor was an inclusion criterion
because organizational justice is concerned with managerial procedures and fairness (Colquitt,
2001). 325 participants were additionally excluded due to more than 50% missing values in any of
the study variables. Thus, the complete data consisted of 903 participants (523 women, 57.9 %).
The mean age of the participants was 43 years in 2012, and a clear majority of the participants
(96.8%) had secondary education or higher and the largest occupational group was upper non-
manual (52.6%). All participants gave written informed consent, and local ethics committees
approved the study.
The attrition analyses were run on the sample consisting of the 903 participants who
had data on Five-Factor Model traits from 2007 and 2012, data on organizational justice from 2012,
and no missing data in the covariates. These participants were compared to those 1 400 participants
who had participated in at least one of the measurement points used in the current study but did not
meet the requirements for being included. Comparisons between the included and excluded
participants were conducted using t-tests and χ2-tests. The attrition analyses showed that in
Personality and organizational justice
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10
comparison to the excluded, the included participants were slightly older (43.26 vs. 42.16, t = 5.14,
p < .001) had a higher educational level (2.36 vs. 2.26, t = 3.91, p < .001), and higher occupational
status (2.17 vs. 1.95, t = 4.86, p < .001). Compared to the excluded, the included had lower scores
on neuroticism (2.35 vs. 2.44, t = 3.24, p = .001), higher scores on conscientiousness (3.74 vs. 3.66,
t = 3.25, p = .001), and higher scores on agreeableness (3.72 vs. 3.65, t = 3.15, p = .002). The
implications of these results will be discussed in the discussion.
Measures
The Five-Factor Model personality traits were measured using the Finnish version of the NEO-FFI
(Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Five-Factor Inventory), which was developed by Rantanen
et al. (Rantanen, Metsäpelto, Feldt, Pulkkinen, & Kokko, 2007). The Finnish version used in this
study contains 60 questions that are based on the questions from the original NEO-FFI (Costa &
McCrae, 1989), as well as on questions from the Finnish version of the NEO-PI (Personality
Inventory). Some of the questions in the Finnish PI version are modified to better correspond to
non-Indo-European languages.
Neuroticism was measured with 12 questions = .88; e.g. “I sometimes feel
completely worthless”), extraversion with 12 questions = .82; e.g. “I want to be surrounded by
other people”), conscientiousness with 12 questions (α = .83; e.g. “I work hard in order to
accomplish my goals”), openness with 12 questions = .69; “I am intellectually very curious”),
and agreeableness with 12 questions (α = .80; “I would rather cooperate than compete with
others”). The participants answered the questions on a scale from 1 (does not apply) to 5 (applies
well). The mean for each scale was calculated only for those participants with a maximum of 50 %
missing values in the items of the scale.
Organizational justice was measured in 2012 with a short 8-item version (Elovainio et
al., 2010) of Colquitt’s organizational justice measure (Colquitt, 2001). The shorter version has
Personality and organizational justice
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been found to provide satisfactory psychometric properties (internal consistency and a good model
fit to the data) and it has shown adequate criterion validity (Elovainio et al., 2010). The factor
structure of the organizational justice scale was examined with confirmatory factor analysis. Model
fit was evaluated based on Comparative Fit Index (CFI), the Root Mean Square Error of
Approximation (RMSEA) index, and the Bayesian Information Criterion (BIC). Compared to a
model with all items loading on one general organizational justice factor (CFI = .64, RMSEA = .32,
BIC = 18023.26) and a model with two latent factors (CFI = .95, RMSEA = .12, BIC = 16411.12),
the three-factor solution (distributive, procedural, and interactional justice) had the best fit to the
data (CFI = .99, RMSEA = .06, BIC = 16224.78). Based on these results, the three-factor solution
was used in the analyses. The organizational justice scales were formed by calculating a mean of
the items in each scale. Procedural justice (α = .68) was measured with 3 items (e.g. Have you
been able to express your views and feelings during procedures used to arrive at your outcome”),
interactional justice = .93) with 3 items (e.g. “Has your supervisor treated you with dignity?”),
and distribute justice (α = .96) with 2 items (e.g. “Does your outcome reflect the effort you have put
in for your work”). The response scale was from 1 (totally disagree) to 5 (totally agree).
Based on previous research and preliminary bivariate analyses age, gender,
educational level, and occupational status were included in the study as possible covariates (Herr et
al., 2015; Khoreva & Tenhiälä, 2016; Tessema, Tsegai, Ready, Embaye, & Windrow, 2014).
Educational level was classified as (1) low (comprehensive school), (2) intermediate (secondary
education), or (3) high (academic; graduated from a polytechnic or a university). Occupational
status was based on the Central Statistical Office of Finland: (1) manual, (2) lower non-manual, and
(3) upper non-manual. The occupational status of entrepreneurs was determined based on their
educational level (low, intermediate, and high education corresponding to manual, lower non-
manual, and upper non-manual respectively). Educational level and occupational status were
dummy-coded for the analyses.
Personality and organizational justice
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Data analyses
The associations between personality traits and organizational justice were examined by
hierarchical linear regression analyses. The analyses were performed using three models: Model 1
included only the covariates, Model 2 included the covariates and the five personality traits
measured in 2012, and Model 3 included the covariates and the five personality traits measured in
2007. We examined both the cross-sectional association (Model 2) and the longitudinal association
(Model 3) to show that our results in the longitudinal association are reliable. Because we were
interested in examining the association of personality with perceptions of organizational justice as
opposed to organizational justice perceptions changing personality it is important to note that
personality was measured years before organizational justice. In addition, we used a longitudinal
design to make sure common method variance of the self-reported scales does not inflate the results.
Results
Table 1 presents the means, standard deviations, and correlations between the study variables. The
correlations between personality traits in 2007 and organizational justice in 2012 were virtually the
same as for personality traits in 2012. Neuroticism, extraversion, and agreeableness were correlated
with distributive, procedural, and interactional justice. Conscientiousness was correlated with
procedural and interactional justice and openness with distributive and interactional justice. Test-
retest correlations for the personality scales over time were high: .77 for neuroticism, .80 for
extraversion, .78 for conscientiousness, .77 for agreeableness, and .77 for openness.
The results of the regression analyses are depicted in Table 2. The cross-sectional
results for the association between personality and perceptions of organizational justice (Model 2)
showed that high neuroticism was associated with low distributive (ß = -.21, p < .001), low
Personality and organizational justice
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procedural (ß = -.14, p < .001), and low interactional justice = -.13, p = .001). In addition, high
agreeableness was associated with high procedural (ß = .18, p < .001) and high interactional justice
= .16, p < .001). The personality traits explained an added 5% of the variance in distributive
justice, 10% in procedural justice, and 8% in interactional justice, when compared to Model 1 with
only the covariates. The longitudinal analysis (Model 3) revealed similar results as the cross-
sectional analysis and showed support for hypotheses 1a, 1b, 1c, 2b, and 2c. High neuroticism was
associated with lower distributive = -.19, p < .001), lower procedural (ß = -.12, p = .002), and
lower interactional justice = -.10, p = .015), while high agreeableness was associated with higher
procedural (ß = .21, p < .001) and higher interactional justice = .17, p < .001). In addition, high
openness was associated with higher distributive justice = .08, p = .033). In this model, the
personality traits additionally explained 3% of the variance in distributive justice, 9% in procedural
justice, and 5% in interactional justice, compared to Model 1.
Personality and organizational justice
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30th November 2017
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Table 1. Bivariate correlations between the study variables
Variable
Mean
SD
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
14.
15.
16.
1. Gender
1
2. Occupational status
2.23
0.88
-.09**
1
3. Educational level
2.36
0.54
-.06
.53***
1
4. Neuroticism 2007
2.35
0.66
-.16***
-.12**
-.12***
1
5. Extraversion 2007
3.41
0.55
-.13***
.14***
.13***
-.47***
1
6. Conscientiousness 2007
3.74
0.53
-.16***
.07*
.12***
-.30***
.36***
1
7. Agreeableness 2007
3.72
0.50
-.19***
.18***
.16***
-.27***
.28***
.21***
1
8. Openness 2007
3.16
0.50
-.17***
.20***
.27***
-.04
.28***
.07*
.18***
1
9. Neuroticism 2012
2.26
0.67
-.14***
-.14***
-.11***
.77***
-.40***
-.28***
-.25***
-.07*
1
10. Extraversion 2012
3.42
1.67
-.12***
.16***
.15***
-.40***
.80***
.30***
.26***
.27***
-.47***
1
11. Conscientiousness 2012
3.76
0.53
-.11***
.06
.11**
-.29***
.30***
.78***
.21***
.06
-.35***
.36***
1
12. Agreeableness 2012
3.79
0.49
-.18***
.17***
.13***
-.27***
.24***
.18***
.77***
.18***
-.37***
.32***
.26***
1
13. Openness 2012
3.10
0.52
-.16***
.20***
.23***
.01
.26***
.03
.15***
.77***
-.06
.31***
.04
.19***
14. Distributive justice
3.28
1.16
.11***
.15***
.09***
-.22***
.09**
.02
.10**
.09**
-.25***
.14***
.07
.14***
1
15. Procedural justice
3.70
0.78
.03
.11***
.08**
-.23***
.18***
.13***
.27***
.05
-.28***
.21***
.18***
.27***
.34***
1
16. Interactional justice
3.80
0.98
-.03
.12***
.06***
-.17***
.14***
.08**
.21***
.08*
-.22***
.19***
.12***
.25***
.38***
.59***
1
Notes:
* p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001
Personality and organizational justice
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30th November 2017
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Table 2. Standardized regression coefficients for Five-Factor Model traits and organizational justice
N = 903
Distributive justice
Procedural justice
Interactional justice
Model 1
Model 2
Model 3
Model 1
Model 2
Model 3
Model 1
Model 2
Model 3
Covariates
Gender (0 = women, 1 = men)
.13***
.12**
.11**
.04
.06
.07*
-.01
.01
.01
Educational level = low
.01
.02
.03
.05
.06
.07
.03
.04
.05
Educational level = intermediate
-.02
.01
.01
-.02
.01
.01
-.00
.03
.03
Occupational status = manual
-.17***
-.13**
-.14***
-.11**
-.07
-.07
-.13***
-.09*
-.10**
Occupational status = lower non-manual
-.04
-.02
-.03
-.02
-.00
.00
.01
.03
.03
Independent variables
Neuroticism 2012
-.21***
-.14***
-.13**
Extraversion 2012
.01
.07
.05
Conscientiousness 2012
-.02
.07
.01
Agreeableness 2012
.05
.18***
.16***
Openness 2012
.07
-.00
.03
Neuroticism 2007
-.19***
-.12**
-.10*
Extraversion 2007
-.03
.05
.04
Conscientiousness 2007
-.03
.04
.00
Agreeableness 2007
.05
.22***
.17***
Openness 2007
.08*
-.01
.03
R
2
.04
.10
.08
.02
.12
.11
.02
.10
.07
Adjusted R
2
.04
.09
.07
.01
.11
.10
.01
.09
.06
F
7.68***
9.60***
8.21***
2.86*
12.53***
11.45***
3.66**
9.56***
7.11***
Notes:
* p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001
Reference group in educational level: high
Reference group in occupational status: upper non-manual
Personality and organizational justice
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Discussion
The results of our study show that neuroticism, agreeableness, and openness are related to
perceptions of organizational justice. Neuroticism was associated with perceptions of lower
distributive, procedural, and interactional justice, while agreeableness was associated with
perceptions of higher procedural and interactional justice. Openness was associated with
perceptions of higher distributive justice. These relations were independent of gender, educational
level, and occupational status. Our hypotheses on the association of neuroticism and agreeableness
with organizational justice were thus partly supported. Our results show that personality, in part, is
associated with perceptions of organizational justice.
In our study, high neuroticism was associated with lower distributive (Hypothesis 1a),
lower procedural (Hypothesis 1b) and lower interactional justice (Hypothesis 1c). Previous studies
have linked high neuroticism to lower procedural and interactional justice, lower social fairness at
selection, and higher victim sensitivity in perceptions of justice (Schmitt et al., 2005; Shi et al.,
2009; Truxillo et al., 2006). Individuals high on the neuroticism scale might perceive the
organization’s rewards, procedures, and treatment as unjust, because of their predisposition to
experience negative feelings and unfair treatment compared to others (McCrae & Costa, 2003;
Schmitt et al., 2005). In addition, because individuals with high neuroticism are more prone to
perceive others’ actions as negative (McCrae & Costa, 2003) they might not perceive being treated
with dignity and respect by their supervisors.
As expected, extraversion (Hypothesis 2) and conscientiousness (Hypothesis 3) were
not related to perceptions of organizational justice in our study. Extraverted individuals are friendly
and like others (McCrae & Costa, 2003) but they tend to have high self-esteem and make positive
evaluations about themselves (Truxillo et al., 2006). Therefore, they might not make social
comparisons of their own situation to that of others. The social comparison process has been shown
Personality and organizational justice
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17
to be important in fairness perceptions (Cropanzano & Rupp, 2003). Similarly, conscientious
individuals are achievement-oriented but at the same time dutiful (McCrae & Costa, 2003), which
might be the reason that conscientiousness as a broad trait is not associated with organizational
justice perceptions (Shi et al., 2009).
Agreeableness has in previous studies been linked to perceptions of higher
organizational justice (Shi et al., 2009), higher job satisfaction (Judge et al., 2002), and lower work
stress (Törnroos et al., 2012). Because agreeable individuals usually trust others and feel guilty if
they are advantaged compared to others (Barrick & Mount, 1991; Schmitt et al., 2005), they might
also perceive being treated justly and rewarded appropriately. This could help explain why
agreeableness was associated with higher procedural (Hypothesis 4b) and higher interactional
justice (Hypothesis 4c) in our study. Agreeable individuals might also not only perceive being
treated fairly but also actually be treated with respect and dignity by their superiors because
agreeable individuals have a tendency to be selfless and flexible (McCrae & Costa, 2003).
Against our expectations (Hypothesis 5), openness was associated with distributive
justice in our study. Although openness is considered a broad trait that rarely shows an association
to well-being outcomes (Connelly et al., 2014), some aspects of openness might explain the
association with distributive justice. Individuals high on the openness scale are creative and have
the enthusiasm to develop new ideas (McCrae & Costa, 2003). Therefore, they might feel that they
are contributing more and not receiving adequate rewards, compared to others. This is also
supported by research that shows that openness is associated with perceptions of higher efforts at
work (Törnroos et al., 2012). In a previous study, openness did not have an association with
organizational justice perceptions (Shi et al., 2009). There might be cultural differences behind this
discrepancy or the different results might be due to differences in the samples. Our population-
based sample was larger and consisted of occupations from all levels. This might have resulted in
more power in finding an association although the effect size was small.
Personality and organizational justice
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Theoretical and practical implications
Our findings show that personality can help explain why perceptions of organizational justice are
not the same across individuals. Perceptions of organizational justice are influenced by both
situational and personal characteristics, and therefore it is important to include a dispositional
perspective to understanding organizational justice perceptions, as suggested by Shi and colleagues
(2009). Although our results do not differ significantly from the results of Shi and colleagues
(2009), our population-based sample had more power in explaining the associations. This shows
that the results regarding neuroticism and agreeableness are robust and that these traits are
important in organizational justice perceptions. Organizational justice theories could benefit from
incorporating these traits in explaining differences in perceptions of organizational justice. For
example, future research should be focused on examining why and how perceptions and the actual
implementations of organizational justice differ, and what we could do to bring them closer
together. This could be examined with supervisory ratings of organizational justice practices. There
is also a need for more longitudinal research on how organizational justice perceptions vary over
time. This could be integrated with the question on why perceptions and reality differ from each
other: examining the within and between variation of organizational justice perceptions and justice
implementation over time.
It is also important to note that research has shown that individual dispositions are also
involved in reactions to organizational justice (Elovainio et al., 2003; Scott & Colquitt, 2007).
Therefore, researchers should be aware of the different implications personality can have on the
measurement of organizational justice if we want to know who is likely to perceive a situation as
unjust, certain individual dispositions play a part as predictors, but if we are interested in knowing
who will have an unfavorable outcome from injustice, certain individual dispositions should be used
as moderators. In addition to using personality as a moderator of relationships between
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organizational justice and outcomes, examining moderators of the personalityjustice association is
also important. Here, the moderators could be supervisor personality (person-supervisor fit), leader-
member exchange (LMX) or trust in the organization. This line of research would generate valuable
information regarding what role the context plays in why individuals perceive organizational justice
differently.
Promoting fairness in managerial procedures and respectful treatment of employees
should be the concern of all managers and organizations. Our study shows that managers should
also be aware that individuals perceive fairness in different ways. It is important that these
individual differences are acknowledged as important markers of individual well-being, and that
managers should try to alleviate the concerns regarding fairness raised by employees. First,
managers could benefit from training that focuses on understanding that individuals perceive their
working environment in different ways. “One size fits all” management should be avoided and
instead organizations should focus on inclusive work practices and inclusive leadership to promote
employee well-being. Secondly, training managers in organizational justice principles might give
them the tools to tackle the concerns raised by employees that are vulnerable to perceive situations
as unjust. Managers should be aware that perceptions and reality do not always meet and that
increased transparency, communication, and respectful treatment could help in increasing
perceptions of organizational justice. Selection based on personality should be avoided since self-
reported personality tests for personnel selection are not recommended (see e.g. Morgeson et al.,
2007).
Limitations and future directions
There are some limitations that should be considered when interpreting our results. First, although
the FFM traits and organizational justice were measured at two different time points, causal
inferences of the nature of the association cannot be made, as the baseline level of organizational
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justice was not measured. However, this was the first study to examine the association between
FFM and organizational justice over time. Despite not having a fully prospective design, we were
able to measure personality years before perceptions of organizational justice, ruling out the
possibility of organizational justice perceptions influencing personality. Although the time lag was
relatively long, test-retest correlations show that the FFM scales have rank-order stability over
considerable periods of time (Rantanen et al., 2007). Second, compared to the excluded participants,
the included had higher scores on educational level, occupational status, conscientiousness, and
agreeableness as well as lower scores on neuroticism. Our results might, therefore, reflect
individuals with higher conscientiousness, agreeableness, lower neuroticism, and higher
socioeconomic status slightly better than individuals with opposite characteristics. However, there
were no differences in organizational justice between the included and excluded participants,
making the probability low for our sample being highly selective. Third, the Cronbach’s alpha for
the openness scale was below the threshold for adequate internal consistency. We tested the
correlation between the openness scales over time and found a relatively high correlation (r = .77)
showing high reliability of the openness scale in our study. In addition, previous research using the
same scale as in this study has found test-retest reliability of .81 indicating that the reliability of the
scale is high (Rantanen et al., 2007).
Despite these limitations, our study contributes to the literature on the antecedents of
perceptions of organizational justice. The data for our study was relatively large, population-based,
and consisted of a broad range of occupations. Our results show that personality traits, especially
neuroticism, agreeableness, and openness, are involved in perceptions of organizational justice at
work. Personality should, therefore, be integrated into organizational justice theory, in order to
increase predictive power. Managers need to be aware that employees perceive their work
environments in different ways and should be sensitive to the employees’ concerns about fairness.
Future studies may want to look at cultural differences in the association between personality and
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perceptions of organizational justice, as there might be differences in perceptions of organizational
justice between different cultures. There are also other individual difference variables that could be
important predictors of justice perceptions (Colquitt, Scott, Judge, & Shaw, 2006). Researchers
should therefore also focus on variables other than personality traits, for example, emotional
intelligence in explaining why individuals perceive justice differently (Ouyang, Sang, Li, & Peng,
2015). In addition, future research should look at the association between personality and
organizational justice perceptions at the aggregate level, for example, organizations and teams. This
could reveal important information about which personality traits are important for perceiving
organizational justice in different levels of the organization.
Personality and organizational justice
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INTRODUCTION In developing scientific theory there is perhaps nothing more propi­ tious than a compelling metaphor. If the metaphor is rich in imagery, complexly differentiated, emotionally evocative, and vitally wedded to the cultural lore, the theory to which it gives rise may enjoy a long and vigorous life. If the metaphor is sufficiently powerful, the theory may even be sustained in independence of systematic empirical support. Role theory is likely to remain prosperous so long as there is a thriving theater; decision theory experienced a dramatic rejuvenation with the development of the electronic computer; and, in spite of its archaic construction, Jungian theory will prevail so long as ancient myths and symbols continue to haunt us (d. Smith, 1978). From this standpoint, the development of social exchange theory is hardly surprising. Ex­ perience with the marketplace is extensive in society, its images are both complex and richly evocative, its challenges are often exciting and its lessons sometimes painful. It is thus both intellectually and emo­ tionally invigorating to consider the social arena in all its diversity as an extended market in which each individual seeks to maximize profits. The economic metaphor is hardly new to the social sciences. The recent intellectual roots of contemporary exchange theory can be traced to the works of Claude Levi-Strauss, Marcel Mauss, Karl Marx, and B.
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The process of exchange is almost continual in human interactions, and appears to have characteristics peculiar to itself, and to generate affect, motivation, and behavior that cannot be predicted unless exchange processes are understood. This chapter describes two major concepts relating to the perception of justice and injustice; the concept of relative deprivation and the complementary concept of relative gratification. All dissatisfaction and low morale are related to a person's suffering injustice in social exchanges. However, a significant portion of cases can be usefully explained by invoking injustice as an explanatory concept. In the theory of inequity, both the antecedents and consequences of perceived injustice have been stated in terms that permit quite specific predictions to be made about the behavior of persons entering social exchanges. Relative deprivation and distributive justice, as theoretical concepts, specify some of the conditions that arouse perceptions of injustice and complementarily, the conditions that lead men to feel that their relations with others are just. The need for much additional research notwithstanding, the theoretical analyses that have been made of injustice in social exchanges should result not only in a better general understanding of the phenomenon, but should lead to a degree of social control not previously possible. The experience of injustice need not be an accepted fact of life.