Thursday, 27 October 2016

Addressing The Allure Of Value In The Organisation

Once in a while, someone comes along and does something unexpected.

It's refreshing to see someone keen, no eager, to improve himself.

And not because he wants to curry favour with his boss, but because he genuinely wants to improve his skills and become a more valuable professional.

This happened last week. One of the participants in the Modular Executive MBA programme popped into my office to have a brief chat about his communication skills. He is one of the few non-Nigerians on the programme. Being from Côte d'Ivoire, English is not his native tongue; French is.

So there he was, sitting in my office and asking for advice about English grammar. Now I had had a brief session with him and two other French-speaking professionals a month ago, where I bluntly told them that in my interactions with them, I wouldn't  be speaking French. Not because I couldn't communicate with them—I had a degree in the language after all—but because often, the quickest (albeit more daunting) way to learn a second language is to try, at every opportunity you get, to speak it and to surround yourself with native speakers of the language.

Now back to the French-speaking gentleman who I'd call Mr. D. I watched, rather amused, as he slammed a French-English dictionary on my desk and opened up the section on grammar, pointedly asking about adjectives, modal verbs and tenses.

After a mini-lecture, I proceeded to write out some sentences on a sheet of paper and explained when to use what. Mr. D listened attentively and politely asked me if he could take that sheet of paper back to Abidjan to study, since I wasn't likely to see him until the programme's next intensive week*.

Although I was surprised that Mr. D seemed keen on further study, even though we had tackled his concerns, I immediately agreed. But it was his next request that really impressed me and convinced me that he was serious about his career development.

He asked me to give him specific goals for improving his business writing skills. For example, he asked if I could I tell him what to read and when to finish. He also wanted to know if he should write a summary of each chapter of a book and explain the use of adjectives, modal verbs, etc.  He told me that once he was able to write about anything he read, it meant that he understood the concept. That, he explained, was how he learned new things.

I was concerned about the academic workload his request entailed and worried that it might be a burden for him. So I advised him to simply read an English novel, paying attention to sentence structure and noting other grammatical rules, before our  next meeting.

What really impressed me about Mr. D was his hunger for knowledge, which was reflected in his desire for self-improvement. He wanted to be able to add value to his organisation by becoming more competent at his job. He did not complain about the academic demands or grumble about how he would juggle a full-time job with the demanding executive MBA programme in a foreign country. He was eager to try anything, to do anything that will improve his communication skills in English.

I found his commitment  refreshing.

Interestingly, the English-speaking Nigerians on the programme, to my knowledge, are yet to display that drive for self- improvement. And this isn't because they don't need to improve their communication skills, because we all do. Possibly those who have specific communication needs are tackling them privately. Still, I hope that my fellow Nigerians are also committed to providing value via training to update skills, or by other means of improving their capabilities because they will quickly become irrelevant in their organisations if they don't.

As for Mr. D, I believe he will go far...very far indeed.

The appeal of value for the employer

Mr. D's desire for value—value from the programme and coaching sessions to improve his communication skills, and value he hopes to bring to his career, borne out of enhanced communication skills—got me thinking.

Value is addictive: the more you get, the more you want.

It's no wonder that companies are now on a frenzied quest to provide more value for their employees (translating to increased organisational support). In this insightful article by The New York Times, research showed that employees were more satisfied and productive at work when four core needs were met:

1) Physical - opportunities to regularly recharge at work.

2) Emotional - feelings of being appreciated and valued.

3) Mental - leeway to focus 'in an absorbed way' and define  work schedules.

4) Spiritual - feelings of being connected to a higher purpose at work.

The post explained that the more efficiently companies met those core needs, the more likely the employees would display positive outcomes such as engagement, loyalty, job satisfaction, etc. Even meeting one of the employees' needs was enough to improve all of their performance variables.

Of all the variables discussed in the article, the impact of value was what I found most intriguing. Simply put, feeling cared for by one's boss had a more important impact on the employee's sense of trust and safety, than any other behaviours displayed by a leader. Furthermore, employees with more supportive supervisors were 1.3 times as likely to stay in the organisation and were 67 per cent more engaged.

Really powerful stuff. I recommend that you read the article.

The attraction of value for the employee

As an employee, the quest for value takes you on a mission of self-improvement, just like Mr. D.

You want to become better in your job because that's where you find purpose. Therefore, you register for courses; you sign up for conferences where the latest trends in your field are discussed; and you finance your training. You get the knowledge and you practise what your learn.

You know that as a savvy professional, you're in the driver's seat of your professional development. So you improve your prospects and you strive to be competent, reliable and credible. This is because you have accurately deduced that certain actions that positively impact your career in the company are driven by perceptions of the value you provide.

Your positive attitudes and favourable behaviours in turn influence the organisation to provide more support in areas which matter to you, which further boosts your desire to provide value.

And so the ‘cycle of value’ continues. 


So like Mr. D, strive to add value in your duties. If you're already at the helm of your career ladder, congratulations.

However, note that you, just like other professionals around the globe, could always improve your communication skills, which are increasingly desired at the workplace. 

Even if you think you're perfect, provide more value in your organisation and aim for greater heights. 

Remember that what goes around comes around; therefore be the change you seek. By doing so, you'd make your workplace a conducive place for growth, innovation and success.  

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Need help with improving your communication skills? 

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- Communications training sessions for  your staff and executives; 

-Writing assignments (content creation, executive speeches, etc); 

- Speeches and keynote presentations at your corporate events.  

Let me help you get results.  

Contact me: 

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*The programme, the Modular Executive MBA, is a 24-month programme designed for busy executives who don't  have the time to be physically present at the Lagos Business School for the entirety of the degree. Participants are given online modules and assignments, and interact online with faculty members and colleagues via webinars, discussions, blogs, etc. They are nonetheless required to return to the Lagos Business School once every two months for week-long intensive sessions.

N.B:   First image courtesy of Stuart Miles; via  Second image courtesy of Sira Anamwong; via Third image courtesy of Jscreationzs; via Last image courtesy of Thaikrit; via 

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

"That's Not Fair!" - Why Organisational Justice Impacts Everything At Work

No one likes to be taken advantage of.

Evidence of oppression is narrated in history books, as well as the corresponding struggles for emancipation. From the brutal conquests in millennia past, to the shameful stains of slavery, racism and modern-day discrimination - we will muster the courage to fight injustice.

And we carry this torch for fair treatment right into the workplace.

It's no wonder that in the field of organisational behavioural science, researchers find organisational justice intriguing; particularly because of the moves people will make to correct perceived injustice.

Simply put, organisational justice is concerned with the perceptions of fairness of employees. Since such perceptions shape the attitudes and behaviours of workers, this theme has become very important in understanding certain negative  actions that are displayed by aggrieved workers.

Types of organisational justice

Literature from researchers in the field has listed two, three and even four models/components of organisational justice. However, the three main types to consider are distributive justice, procedural justice and interactional justice.

1) Distributive justice

This refers to the outcomes of a decision, i.e. the fairness of the ends achieved.

One helpful construct to understand distributive justice at the workplace is Adam's Equity Theory (1963). This Theory advocates comparing the ratio of an individual's outcome to inputs, with the ratio of outcome to inputs of the comparison other. In essence, equity is achieved when: 

             Op    =   Oq
             __          __ 


             Ip           Iq

(Whereby O represents output; p represents the individual; I represents input; and q represents the comparison other).

According to Mowday (1996), it is irrelevant if the individual produces high inputs (whatever contributions he gives to the organisation, such as time, knowledge, skills, etc.); and receives low outcomes (whatever he gets from the organisation, such as pay, perks, appreciation, etc.), as long as his ratio is identical to the comparison other (i.e. his colleague). When the ratio is different, inequity arises and the individual perceives his outcome as unfair.

Now what becomes interesting is what the worker does to restore equity. Adams (1963) describes six methods he could use:

- Alter inputs;

- Alter outcomes;

- Change comparison other;

- Take actions to change inputs or outcomes  of comparison other;

- Distort inputs or outcomes;

- Leave field (turnover).

This Theory is important because it suggests that the motivation to restore fairness leads the worker who perceives distributive inequity, to engage in attitudes and behaviours that may negatively impact an organisation. He could use acts of retaliation like slowdowns as a way of lowering his inputs that may accompany under-payment. (Cropanzano & Folger, 1996).  

Evidently, it’s more difficult for the individual to alter the inputs or outputs of the comparison other to restore a state of equity. Therefore, Raja (2009) suggested that the employee might change his own inputs or outputs first by: 

- Changing  input to match outcomes such as  leaving early or slacking off;

- Changing outcomes to match inputs such as asking for a pay increase or stealing;

- Withdrawing, such as tardiness or turnover.

What organisations should perhaps focus on, is the more important dilemma of who gets what vis-à-vis rewards. This issue becomes crucial in times of organisation-wide changes such as layoffs, mergers, acquisitions, etc. To solve this problem, Levanthal (1976) suggests that a distribution rule of allocation be based on equity (contributions), equality and need.

Distributive justice is important to consider at the workplace because it predicts satisfaction with perceived outcomes (Folger, 1987). It also provides a motivational force for the employee who perceives distributive injustice (perceived inequity), to act in destructive behaviours that have harmful effects on other people, their property or sources of livelihood, as found by Cropanzano & Folger (1996).

Now distributive justice doesn't 'happen' in a vacuum. Its effect on employees' behaviours is best understood when you consider the procedures that led to the  outcomes in the first place - procedural justice.

2) Procedural justice

Procedural justice is concerned with the fairness of the processes by which a decision is made. 

It is especially important during an organisational change such as downsizing because employees cannot often get what they want. In such a scenario, the fairness of the procedures taken may be more important in predicting the behaviours of employees, rather than whether or not they received what they considered fair in relation to their contributions to the company, (distributive justice implications). 

Levanthal (1980) identified six criteria which managers should adhere to so that procedures can be perceived as fair: 

- Consistency;

- Bias suppression;
- Accuracy of information;
- Correctability;
- Representativeness (i.e. 'voice');
- Ethicality.

Negative indications of the criteria above lead the worker to perceive that procedures taken regarding decisions are unfair. Such procedural injustice as explained by Cropanzano & Folger (1996) undermines loyalty to both the institution and to its appointed representatives. Moreover, Blader & Tyler (2000), drawing on evidence from various researchers, reported that procedural justice is an important predictor of the following: 

-Commitment to the organisation;

-Effort employees put in duties;

-Likelihood workers will stay in the organisation;

-The extent of 'extra-role behaviour' they display (i.e. desirable actions not inherent  in their job descriptions);

-Acceptance of, and compliance with organisational rules. 

Interestingly, researchers in the 80s and 90s recorded some results about the effects of the interaction between distributive and procedural justice. Two of their most relevant findings must be highlighted because they simply make sense today: 

A) If the employee perceives that the procedures as fair, even if the distribution is inequitable (i.e. outcomes are unfavourable), he will be less inclined to take destructive actions against those in authority.  (Folger & Greenberg, 1985; Lind & Tyler, 1988; Cropanzano & Folger, 1996). 

B) Employees are more likely to react vigorously when both the outcomes are unfavourable and the procedures that led to those outcomes are unfair. Tyler et al. (1987) stated that such a development leads to reduced performance. Furthermore, employees are more likely to organise in collective action against the individuals who wronged them. 

A real eye opener. 

But in what manner should employees be treated and how should communication be handled for their welfare? Interactional justice is useful in understanding interpersonal relations at the workplace.

3) Interactional justice


This type refers to the fairness of interpersonal treatment. Bies & Moag (1986) advised that such fairness should be based on four criteria:

- Truthfulness;

- Respect;
- Propriety of questions;
- Justification. 

They stated that negative angles to those criteria communicate to the employee that he has been unfairly treated on an interpersonal level. 

Interactional justice is also important during change programmes because of social accounts provided. For example, adequate justification may help reduce moral outrage that leads to negative behaviours. They also help maintain a more positive image of the leader and better supervisor-subordinate relations (Cobb et al. 1995). There is an additional motivation for ensuring that employees are treated with professional courtesy. Cobb & Wooten (1998) explained that social accounts help reduce dysfunctional attitudes and behaviours following disappointing decisions and may even provide the motivation for change. 

Perhaps one of the most compelling findings about interactional justice was given by Blader & Tyler (2000) who linked interactional justice to affective commitment - the strongest type of commitment, which is the emotional attachment to an organisation.  


The three types of justice are best understood when they interact with each other, rather than in isolation. They influence, and in some cases, predict the attitudes and behaviours of employees in the organisation.


Now there exists extensive research in the theme of organisational justice, some of which, in recent times, has provided new angles to this crucial management issue. However, one irrefutable fact, backed up by numerous studies in the field of organisational behavioural science, is worth highlighting: 

When an employee perceives that he is unfairly treated—whether it is in relation to the outcomes received from his employer; or because of the procedures used to determine those outcomes; or because of the interpersonal treatment he is given—he will display negative attitudes or engage in destructive behaviours that will have dire effects on the organisation. 

Remember that without committed, engaged employees, the productivity wheel cannot function effectively. 

Know that organisational justice shapes the perceptions of employees, who in turn impact everything at work. 

So which would your organisation rather be? A productive work environment where fairness is championed, or the alternative - a sinking ship?

If you enjoyed this post, don't rush off just yet. Please remember to: 

1) Share this article in your social networks by clicking on the icons at the top or below.
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Need help improving your communications skills?

Hire me for:

-Communications training sessions for your staff and executives;

-Writing assignments (content creation, executive speeches, etc.);

-Speeches and keynote presentations at your corporate events.

Let me help you get results. Contact me:

A) Send an email to: 

B) Call for a free consultation:

Nigeria:              0704 631 0592

International:    +234 704 631 0592


N.B-  First image courtesy of Winnond; via Second, third and fifth images courtesy of Stuart Miles; via Fourth image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici; via