Determinants and consequences of organizational justice climate in the U.S. federal government
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The purpose of this study is to explore how organizational attributes shape justice climate and how organizational justice climate influences a variety of work-related outcomes over time in U.S. federal government agencies. In the continuing quest to understand public employees’ reactions to fair (or unfair) treatment in the workplace, researchers to date have conceptualized organizational justice as an individual-level phenomenon. Beyond individual-level fairness perceptions, however, recent research in business management has begun to conceptualize justice climate as an organizational-level construct representing employees’ collective perceptions of the quality of their treatment by the organization and supervisors. This aggregate-level concept assumes that employees interact with one another, transmit their experiences on work unit treatment, and engage in convergent sense-making about how to assess justice-triggering events. Based on this view, researchers have been accumulating impressive evidence about the determinants and consequences of justice climate at the organizational level. Despite these scholarly achievements on the topic, few studies have explored how organizational attributes affect the four dimensions of justice climate (distributive, procedural, informational, and interpersonal justice climate) and what the outcomes of justice climate in public organizations are. This omission may be problematic in that an individual-level approach fails to account for social and structural factors that shape shared justice perceptions and the effects of justice climate on organizationally relevant outcomes. To fill these gaps in the public administration literature, the current study examines the effects of two organizational attributes (collective supervisory trust and perceptions of decentralized structure) on the four dimensions of justice climate and the effects of the justice climates on organizational level outcomes (work attitudes, subjective performance, and turnover) using five waves of the federal government survey and personnel data files (2010-2014). Findings suggest that collective supervisory trust and perceptions of decentralized structure are powerful predictors of the four dimensions of organizational justice climates—distributive, procedural, informational, and interpersonal. Furthermore, collective supervisory trust has more influence on procedural, informational, and interpersonal, whereas perceptions of decentralized structure have more influence on distributive justice climate. Findings also indicate that the four dimensions of justice climates have positive relationships with work attitudes (job satisfaction and affective commitment) and subjective organizational performance (work quality and mission achievement), but negative relationships with turnover (turnover intention and turnover behavior). Interestingly, procedural justice climate is positively related to both turnover intention and behavior that is counterintuitive. Moreover, findings show relative influence of the four dimensions of organizational justice climate on the organizational-level outcomes. As a result, this study contributes to extending current scholarship regarding organizational justice literature in public administration by shedding light on justice climate formation and the effects of justice climate on a variety of organizational outcomes over time across an entire federal subagency level.