In contrast to the abundance of evidence on employee reactions to manager unfairness, we know very little about factors that predict whether managers will act fairly or not. This article explores the effect of procedural unfairness that emanates from higher level managers on procedural fairness enactment at lower levels in the organization. We argue that lower level managers can enact both more and less fair procedures in response to higher level unfairness and that this depends on the extent to which lower level managers define the self in terms of their relation with their higher level manager (i.e., relational-interdependent self-construal). We study both the moderating role of self-construal and how it is embedded in the physical environment of the organization. We pay particular attention to how spatial distance between higher and lower management affects self-construal at lower levels and—because of this relationship—the enactment of fair procedures within the organization. We conduct four studies (in two of which we study spatial distance as an antecedent for self-construal) and show that relatively high levels of relational-interdependent self-construal lead to assimilation in terms of procedural fairness enactment, whereas relatively low levels lead to contrast.

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ERIM Top-Core Articles
Journal of Management
Erasmus University Rotterdam

van Houwelingen, G., van Dijke, M., & de Cremer, D. (2017). Fairness Enactment as Response to Higher Level Unfairness: The Roles of Self-Construal and Spatial Distance. Journal of Management, 43(2), 319–347. doi:10.1177/0149206314530166