Stéphane Moulin

Your superior is inconsiderate and disrespectful towards you. They never take your opinion into account and they distribute benefits and rewards to colleagues who are not the most deserving. You feel that injustice reigns at work...

One out of every two members of the CSQ says they have experienced this feeling.1 Despite a work context governed by increasingly complex collective agreements, this high rate is disturbing to say the least.

A matter of perception

The notion of organizational justice is linked to the perception workers have of three elements:

  • The distribution of resources and benefits. You feel that the organization does not fairly reward skills, effort, and performance.
  • Decision-making processes. You feel that you are not being listened to and that your opinion does not count in the decision-making process. The choices are not always neutral, ethical, and in line with the values of the organization.
  • Personal interactions and the quality of communications. You do not feel that you are treated with respect. You are not allowed to know the elements that contribute to the decisions being made and the information does not circulate in a transparent way.   

These dimensions are interrelated and influence each other. As noted by the authors of an article published on the subject, "People form their perception of justice either by comparing their contribution to their reward (distributive justice), by evaluating the procedures that lead to the attribution of results (procedural justice), or by assessing the quality of interpersonal treatments (interactional justice).” 2

"Beyond the relationship between an individual and their employer, it is also necessary to take into account the social relationships between the different work groups in a company," says Stéphane Moulin.3

Equality and autonomy

The idea of workplace justice also refers to the principles of equality and autonomy.4 "Equality is the feeling of being treated with dignity, of not being discriminated against, and of having respected labour standards. As for autonomy, it is the capacity to enjoy oneself or to blossom at work. These are two other dimensions of perceptions of injustice,” he adds.

Heading towards burnout

Your perception of justice within your organization can affect your motivation for work because it is also related to the respect you believe you deserve.

A situation of injustice can be perceived as an affront to one’s dignity. When it comes to interpersonal relationships, social support, which is recognized as a protective factor, risks being undermined.

In the same vein, a difference between your expectations and the reality of the organization of work or an imbalance between your efforts and the rewards received (especially in the form of salary or recognition) can create a sense of injustice.

"The imbalance can also be associated with gender, age, and geographical location. When encouragement is tied to one of these elements, favouritism is not far off,” says Matthew Gapmann.5

"An unfair environment decreases the involvement, effort and willingness to stay in the company. It creates uncertainty, which generates stress and tension that can lead to psychological distress, and cardiovascular and musculoskeletal disorders,” says Luc Bouchard.5

Courses of action

Collective action in the workplace must lead managers to consider how procedures are implemented and applied in the organization. Managers must be transparent in management policies, practices, procedures.

In addition, approaches for implementing procedures and, above all, the reasons for them should be communicated to workers so they can judge their impartiality and consistency.

Finally, it is important to ask yourself about your own practices: when assigning tasks, resources, working hours, for example, do you consider the needs and realities of others? Do you act fairly?

1 SOARES, Angelo (2017). Des blessures qui n’arrivent pas à cicatriser, santé mentale chez les membres de la Centrale des syndicats du Québec. Report presented to the Centrale des syndicats du Québec (March), 81 pp. Also available online:
2 FRIMOUSSE, S., J.-M. PERETTI et A. SWALHI (2008). « La diversité des formes de performance au travail : le rôle de la justice organisationnelle », Management & Avenir, vol. 18, n° 4, pp. 117 to 132.
3 Stéphane Moulin is an associate professor in the deparment of sociology, Université de Montréal. In 2016, Inégalités : mode d’emploi : l’injustice au travail au Canada was published by Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal.
4 DUBET, F., et autres (2006). Injustices. L’expérience des inégalités au travail, Paris, Seuil, 504 pp.
5 Matthew Gapmann and Luc Bouchard are occupational health and safety advisors at the CSQ.