When Fairness Neither Satisfies nor Motivates: The Role of Risk Aversion and Uncertainty Reduction in Attenuating and Reversing the Fair Process Effect
Posted: 21 May 2010 Last revised: 20 Aug 2014
It is widely acknowledged that procedural justice has many positive effects. However, some evidence suggests that procedural justice may not always have positive effects and may even have negative effects. We present three studies that vary in method and participant populations, including an archival study, a field study, and an experiment, using data provided by the general American population, Indian software engineers, and undergraduate students in the U.S. We demonstrate that key work-related variables such as people’s job satisfaction and performance depend on procedural justice, perceived uncertainty, and risk aversion such that risk seeking people react less positively and at times negatively to the same fair procedures that appeal to risk averse people. Our results suggest that one possible reason for these effects is that being treated fairly reduces people’s perception of uncertainty in the environment and while risk averse people find low uncertainty desirable and react positively to it, risk seeking people do not. We discuss the implications of our findings for theories of procedural justice including the uncertainty management model of fairness, the fair process effect, and fairness heuristic theory.
Keywords: procedural justice, uncertainty, risk aversion, performance, job satisfaction
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