Perception of fairness: Why this is crucial in the workplace

Perception of fairness

The future of the workplace is more agile, more mobile and more diverse. But is the future workplace fair?


Fairness in the workplace is paramount. Along with contributing towards employees’ feeling safe and engaged in the work they are doing, having a fair workplace helps to create a productive environment in which both employees and employer can thrive.


But along with the workplace being fair – it’s also important for organisations to create a perception of fairness.


Defining perception of fairness

This term goes hand in hand with procedural justice. This refers to an employee’s perception of the fairness of an organisation’s processes and procedures.

Examples of this could include:

  1. The process of selection for promotions
  2. Who receives pay awards
  3. How recognition is shown
  4. Deciding on redundancies

But there’s more to this workplace problem.


As research has shown, fairness perception is multidimensional. Along with procedural justice, workplace fairness is also judged by distributive justice.


What is distributive justice?

As its name suggests, distributive justice refers to what employees perceive that the distributions of outcomes are fair – and that the outcomes are ones they deserve.

So why is perception of fairness in the workplace so important?

If the procedure or process towards the decision is aligned with the individual’s moral and ethical values and they perceive it to have been handled fairly and ethically, it will positively impact an employee’s satisfaction with the outcome.

This has a knock-on positive effect on things such as their commitment to the organisation. Employees are more likely to have positive attitudes and behaviours towards their employer.

Whereas, when employees perceive unfairness – in any form – they are more likely to have negative attitudes and behaviours to the organisation in question.


Is there still unfairness in the workplace? 

According to one 2021 study, nearly one in three disabled workers believe they were treated unfairly at work during the Covid-19 pandemic.


While this year alone, we’ve seen mass dismissals and stringent calls for employees to return to work. All of which has resulted in organisations hitting headlines after disgruntled employees have spoken out about their perceived ‘unfair’ treatment, causing widespread damage to an organisation’s business and brand.


While managers and leaders might believe they are fair and want to be – this might not be perceived by employees. Which is why it’s so important to create a perception of fairness.


How to create a perception of fairness


Here’s three considerations to think about:


  1. Accuracy – have procedures been based on valid and accurate information?
  2. Consistency – have procedures been consistently applied across the board?
  3. Without bias – have you made sure procedures haven’t been affected by personal bias, preconception, or self-interest?


We’d be interested to hear your thoughts, views and experiences on the perception of fairness, so please do get in touch if you feel able to share.  

Alternatively, if you are need help in navigating organisational change, here at Work Psychology Group, we specialise in helping navigate that change successfully.

Discover our case study examples of our work in innovation for change.