Interactional Justice in the Workplace: Definition & Overview

Instructor: Tara Schofield

Tara has a PhD in Marketing & Management

Find out what interactional justice is and learn about three dynamics of interactional justice in the workplace. Review some examples, and take a brief quiz.

Interactional Justice Definition

Have you ever had a job where your co-workers also treated you as their friend, and your bosses listened to your perspectives? Have you ever felt like you were discriminated against at work? Interactional justice is the standard applied to how employees relate to each other at work. This is not just determining how managers treat their team members; it can also relate to how co-workers and colleagues interact with each other. Establishing standards of conduct is critical to ensuring a high level of respect is shown to employees and to ensure the organization is regarded as a fair and safe workplace.

A Lesson in Interactional Justice in the Workplace

There are several ways that interactional justice is important in the workplace: how managers interact with their employees, how co-workers interact with each other, and how employees treat external customers and vendors.

1. Managers and employees

As leaders interact with employees, interactional justice pertains to the behavior of the leaders and managers as they execute their decisions and authority. As a manager, a person is responsible to create a positive, productive work environment. This requires interacting in a honest, fair, and respectful way with employees. When managers effectively exercise interactional justice, they are open, consistent, and fair to their employees.

For example, when a manager is exercising interactional justice, she or he will promote an employee based on experience, merit, and performance. However, if a manager promotes someone because she or he is a friend, family member, or can help the manager personally, that behavior is a direct violation of interactional justice.

Managers should speak to other team members in a respectable way
Manager discussing with other team members

2. Co-workers

Much time is spent considering how managers execute justice with their employees. There is an equally important factor when organizations analyze how employees relate with each other. Just as interactional justice impacts the manager/employee relationship, it also affects the relationships colleagues have with each other. While position power, the authority a manager has over her or his team, isn't necessarily a factor with co-workers, there are other types of power and control issues at play within a company that can create a negative work environment.

For instance, when an employee is selected to create a team for a special project, that person is exhibiting interactional justice when she or he selects co-workers who are qualified and bring the right talents to the project rather than selecting friends who are not qualified.

When employees interact from a place of interactional justice, they understand the importance of treating each other with the same level of honesty and integrity they want from their manager.

Colleagues who treat each other fairly foster a positive work environment

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