The Effects of Situational and Individual Differences on Employee Perceptions of Favoritism in the Workplace

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Witherow, Risa Jane
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Middle Tennessee State University
The present study sought to expand the current body of fairness literature by exploring the way situational characteristics affect employee perceptions of favoritism in the workplace. Specifically, this study examined how supervisor consistency in enforcing rules (inconsistent enforcement of rule, consistent enforcement of rule, and consistent disregard of rule) and the level of importance of the rule being enforced (low or high importance) individually affect and interact to affect employee perceptions of procedural and interpersonal justice and favoritism. Further, very little research exists that investigates the impact both situational and individual differences – specifically in personality – have on employees’ perceptions of fairness and favoritism. The present study explores the relationships between an individual’s rule orientation, belief in a just world, experiences with past supervisors, personality, positive and negative affect, and gender and their propensity to perceive a situation as unjust. All participants were recruited from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and randomly assigned one of six scenarios depicting a combination of supervisor consistency and rule importance. Participants were then asked to provide ratings indicating the level of favoritism and/or injustice the perceived occurred in their assigned scenario and complete questionnaires measuring the aforementioned individual differences. The results demonstrated that supervisor consistency significantly influenced perceptions of procedural and interactional justice, and that supervisor consistency and rule importance interacted to influence perceptions of favoritism. Additionally, the study found that individuals with higher rule orientations, belief in a just world, and emotional stability and lower negative affect are less likely to perceive injustice or favoritism in the workplace than their counterparts.
Fairness, Favoritism, Organizational Justice, Procedural Justice, Organizational behavior