A Resource Guide from Ethical Systems



Every organization must confront the challenge of motivating its work force. From research on fairness in organizational contexts (‘organizational justice research’) we know that fairness is one key. Organizational justice research consistently finds that employees are more motivated when they feel that organizational resources are allocated fairly, that organizational decisions are made in fair ways, and that their organization treats them fairly.

Moreover, employees who experience fairness at work are more likely to internalize the organization’s goals and values, and to develop close bonds with other organizational members. In this way, a ‘management-by-fairness’ approach motivates employees to work collaboratively for the long-term good of the organization and its members. Such a long-term collaborative focus tends to produce ethical behavior.


Ideas to Apply

Areas of Research

Case Studies

Open Questions

To Learn More

IDEAS TO APPLY (Based on research covered below)

  • Focus on fairness. In particular, be attuned to whether employees feel fairly treated and feel that decisions are made in fair ways. Recognize that these judgments are just as important as—and sometimes more important than—how employees feel about their overall level of pay, benefits, opportunities for promotion, etc.
  • Make fairness clear. Give employees more information about decision making. Provide clear explanations for decisions, especially those that may be unpopular and uncomfortable to discuss. Give them an opportunity to voice their perspective, and provide adequate responses to the points they raise.
  • Focus on status, not power. Research finds that when people are focused on the power that they wield (i.e., their control over valued resources), they treat others less fairly. However, when they are focused on their status—on the respect they have in the eyes of others—they treat others more fairly. Focus managers more on issues related to status and tone down the focus on power.






  • What can be done to encourage managers to act fairly towards their subordinates? How can we encourage organizational policy makers to build fairness as the paramount concern in the policies they establish?
  • What precisely are the links between fairness and ethical behavior? Will organizational justice always lead to ethical behavior, or does it depend on the values and culture of the organization?
  • How does fairness interact with other elements of ethical systems design?




This page is overseen by Steven Blader, although other contributors may have added content.


Miscellaneous Links & References
(This is where other contributors might list relevant links/references they come across)

This collection of references and resources was created by Ethical Systems at the NYU Stern School of Business. This content is used by permission of Ethical Systems.