In an ideal world, all workplaces would be free from discrimination and unfairness. However, because the workplace is run by human beings, each person brings his or her own ideas and opinions into the workplace. This is compounded by the fact that most companies have a hierarchical structure, and some people are necessarily put in charge of others; when these people do not have a good sense of what is equitable and fair insofar as management behavior is concerned in a company, issues can occur in the workplace.
Favoritism is one of the biggest problems that an employee can face in the workplace. Most people are extremely aware of favoritism; when a manager or management staff shows favoritism, especially if the individual or individuals receiving the benefits of the favoritism are perceived to be unworthy of the attention, it can easily foster feelings of unhappiness and displeasure in the workplace. If an employee feels that he or she is not receiving a fair return for the work that he or she puts into his or her job, then the balance of equity in the company will be disrupted. This can be compounded if another individual is taking credit for a peer’s work, or if management is openly antagonistic towards a member of the team for one reason or another (Agócs and Burr, 1996).
Equity theory states that individuals expect fair return for the work they put in on their jobs. If an employee is passed up for a promotion, and that employee perceives that the promotion was given to someone else based on some characteristic that is uncontrollable, their perception of justice in the workplace will be skewed (Agócs and Burr, 1996). Equity theory states that people do measure the inputs and the outputs in regards to their work in a company. If someone is passed up for a promotion-- and that promotion is given to someone else who may have lesser credentials or less time at the company, the worker will take that into consideration when performing his or her equity calculations insofar as his or her workplace environment is concerned (Agócs and Burr, 1996).
Another common issue in the workplace is the issue of parenthood. In the modern-day workplace, parenthood is often considered a priority for both men and women; however, hiring and promotions practices may still be subject to the manager’s perceptions and misconceptions about women potentially falling pregnant (Agócs and Burr, 1996). Although it is illegal in many places to refuse to hire or promote women on the basis of potential motherhood (or existing motherhood), the practice still exists.
Women who find themselves consistently passed up for promotion may wonder why they are being shunted to the side; this may be because their employer is worried that they will fall pregnant and be unable to continue working (Agócs and Burr, 1996). However, this will greatly skew most women’s perceptions of equity and justice in their workplace (Carrell and Dittrich, 1978).
Although equity and justice theory provides a good basis for understanding the ways in which people perceive equity and justice in the workplace, it does not endeavour to explain how people weigh their decisions and their life priorities; what is a high priority for some is relatively low for others (Carrell and Dittrich, 1978).
Agócs, C., & Burr, C. (1996). Employment Equity, Affirmative Action And Managing Diversity: Assessing The Differences.International Journal of Manpower,17(4/5), 30-45.
Carrell, M.R., and Dittrich, J.E. (1978). Equity Theory: The Recent Literature, Methodological Considerations, and New Directions.The Academy of Management Review. 3;2: 202-210.
Wilke, H. A. (1991). Greed, Efficiency And Fairness In Resource Management Situations. European Review of Social Psychology, 2(1), 165-187. Retrieved January 5, 2014, from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14792779143000