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By Dr. Marie Gould Harper
Program Director, Management, American Public University
This is the second of a three-part series on organizational justice.
In a previous article, we discussed organizational justice and how employees perceive fairness in the workplace. But organizational justice is about much more than its distributive, procedural and interactional forms.
Organizational Justice and Diversity
Approximately two weeks ago, a LinkedIn post discussed whether minorities and women felt like tokens when Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) language was used in job ads. Although I had some thoughts on the topic, my previous responses made me stop and rethink how I was going to respond, to the post itself or to the erroneous comments it solicited from individuals who had a preconceived notion of what the EEO language meant.
Some things have not changed. Some individuals still think “quota” and “unqualified” are synonymous when they see words such as diversity, inclusion or EEO. Their perception is that:
- Unqualified applicants will be hired and given promotions.
- White males are excluded from applying.
- Someone is being forced to hire/promote someone who would not ordinarily be considered.
When I see such postings and engage in conversations on the topic, I tend to ask questions. I want to see how willing the writers of these posts are to discuss what they are thinking.
Most of the advertisements that I see include a statement that “Minorities and women are encouraged to apply.” My initial questions are:
- What wording in that statement implies that minorities and women will be “given” jobs? “Apply” does not imply “hired.”
- Where in the statement does it state that “unqualified” candidates will be considered?
- How did you conclude that white males are excluded from consideration for the advertised positions based on the wording?
- Why do you assume that minorities and women would want these positions?
Such archaic language was used before we thought about diversity and inclusion. Companies use the EEO language to publicly encourage minorities and women to apply, especially if those companies had a reputation of not hiring from these groups or if their representation within the company was low. In many cases, these companies have no internal initiatives to seek out these population groups, so they do it in a generic advertisement.
Organizational Justice and Communication
In respect to the three types of institutional justice, we can look at them from a communication viewpoint:
1) Interactional – There are still companies that are uncomfortable discussing diversity for some of the previously mentioned reasons. For these firms, EEO is still the “elephant in the room.”
Why? There are still misconceptions of what EEO is all about in 2018. Therefore, corporate communication is crucial to creating a positive initiative. Myths need to be dispelled and an authentic conversation is called for in the workplace.
2) Procedural – Management must create programs that adequately inform employees of what diversity and inclusion actually mean. Once the big picture has been explained, departmental supervisors must learn to explain to their staff how such diversity and inclusion initiatives will affect them, especially when they apply for promotion opportunities.
Finally, there should be open communication about initiatives taken to ensure that targeted populations will be included in the hiring process. Many managers do not know how to find people that are different from them.
3) Distributive – This is the critical step. Some managers struggle with the performance review process and are uncomfortable providing personal feedback about employee performance. This same group is also ill at ease telling employees why they didn’t receive a raise or a promotion.
I have heard of managers telling promotion candidates that they were forced to give the promotion to another employee to meet a particular quota. However, this shortcoming is not limited to the topic of diversity.
About the Author
Dr. Marie Gould Harper is the Program Director of Management at American Public University. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Wellesley College, a master’s degree in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in business from Capella University. She is a progressive coach, facilitator, writer, strategist and human resources/organizational development professional with more than 30 years of leadership, project management, and administrative experience. Dr. Gould Harper has worked in both corporate and academic environments.
Dr. Gould Harper is an innovative thinker and influential leader, manifesting people skills, a methodical approach to problems, organizational vision and ability to inspire followers. She is committed to continuous improvement in organizational effectiveness and human capital development, customer service and the development of future leaders.