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2 minute read

How to Promote Organizational Justice

Have you overheard any comments like these at work? 

⛔ “That’s not fair.” 

⛔ “Well, of course the top sales guy wasn’t fired for that infraction. But if it was anyone else…” 

⛔ “How does the COO get away with treating her employees like that? If we did that, we’d be out on the street!” 

Those statements are indicative of a culture that doesn’t take organizational justice seriously. And unfortunately, if they sound familiar…

Tim Gunn saying, "You have a lot of work to do."
Source: Making the Cut, Amazon Studios via Giphy

What Is Organizational Justice? 

Organizational justice refers to employees’ perceptions of fairness in the workplace, and as a compliance pro, it should be supremely important to you.

If employees believe that higher-ups can get away with things just because they’re higher-ups or that people in certain departments aren't held to the same standard, then trust in the organization erodes… morale plummets… people don’t speak up… Then in return, your compliance program doesn’t work. Ouch. 😖

And if your program doesn’t work, the comments we mentioned above will devolve into this: 

🛑 “Well, nothing is going to change, so I might as well update my resume and start looking.” 

🛑 “Why should I bother speaking up? The leadership team isn’t going to address the issue.” 

🛑 “I’m just going to keep my head down, get my work done, and shut up.”

So, here’s what to do

First, determine if you even have a problem with organizational justice. In most cases, comments like the above will naturally make their way to you. However, if you’re still unsure:  

  • Ask. Walk around and ask people how things are going. Keep your office door open to show that you're welcome to having chats with your colleagues.  Add a question to your culture survey about whether people think action would be taken if unethical behavior is reported. (And if they say “no,” “I don’t know,” or “it depends,” ask why they feel that way.) 
  • Analyze. Look at data that would indicate whether people are treated differently, and keep an eye out for patterns in specific regions or groups. Review reports of discipline, and try looking at indirectly related data like who consistently submits expense reports late, which may indicate they don't believe the rules apply to them. 

Ashely Clements holding a stack of papers and saying through gritted teeth, "I have done the research!"Source: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, YouTube via Giphy

Then, once you’ve asked the questions and analyzed the data, you can begin to improve organizational justice as needed. The team at Volkov Law nicely summarize how to do this with five essential principles: 

  1. Implement and communicate effective reporting avenues
  2. Impose equal discipline throughout the org, regardless of position or location
  3. Prompt resolution and response to employee concerns and investigations
  4. Enforce your non-retaliation policy and protect whistleblowers
  5. Enhance your compliance program by filling in gaps you identified from internal investigations or audits

Maintaining organizational justice is critical, but can be time consuming. If you’re looking for guidance or would like to talk about how we can help, reach out to us! Our Compliance Advisory provides tailored guidance, and Compliance Design Club has expertly-crafted tools to help your managers promote justice. Get started with a mini-module to help create a speak-up culture, a flowchart that shows what really happens when you contact the helpline, and an infographic on how managers can foster a speak up culture.

Whether your organizational culture is top-notch or needs help getting off the ground, we’re here for you!