The Demand for Organizational Justice

Companies do not operate in a vacuum.  Political and social forces have a dramatic impact on individuals who in turn constitute a company’s workforce. 

We are witnessing significant political forces demanding justice for historical and engrained racism, sexism, injustice and discrimination.  A significant majority of Americans have embraced the Black Life’s Matter movement and with that have demonstrated an increased demand for social justice.

This powerful social and political demand will quickly transfer to employee demands for organizational justice.  This expectation already has been expressed in a number of social justice issues.  Companies have experienced increased resistance to corporate actors who promote false messaging and communications (e.g. Facebook), suppress claims or demonstrate insensitivity to claims of sexual harassment or racial and gender discrimination, fail to promote diversity and inclusion initiatives, or support (directly or indirectly) unpopular corporate actors who fail to commit to issues of social justice. 

A company has to commit to organizational justice.  This requires several significant steps:

First, the board and senior management have to commit through statements, follow up and actions that they each believe that organizational justice is an important corporate value. 

Second, the board and senior management commitment must translate into transparent disclosure of corporate policies and procedures encouraging employee reporting, conducting prompt and reliable investigations and responses to employee concerns.

Third, the company with senior leadership commitment, must promote employee reporting by rewarding employees who come forward and report valuable information.  Senior management has to be vigilant in preventing reprisals against employees.  A culture that tolerates retaliation will never succeed.

Fourth, the company must allocate sufficient resources to a robust investigation function, whether separate from or part of compliance.  An investigative function has to include a manager and sufficient number of investigators who can be located at a central location to assigned to global locations depending on the company’s size and organization. 

Fifth, the company must establish an investigation oversight committee that manages the employee reporting system and investigation function.  The committee consisting of key players – a business representative, finance, internal audit, human resources, and compliance, should review investigations, mete out discipline in a consistent manner, oversee any root cause analysis, communicate remediation steps and oversee the system to ensure effective performance. 

Sixth, the board and senior management has to establish performance standards and accountability.  The employee reporting system must be promoted, measured and evaluated.  Internal investigations must be handled promptly and fairly, and subject to evaluation for performance and overall fairness. 

Companies have to audit and review the internal investigation and justice program.  In order to promote organizational justice, the company’s commitment must be consistent, transparent and honest.  If a company falls in this area, employee demands and morale will deteriorate.  A company with robust values dedicated to responding to employee concerns, investigating itself to improve performance, and meting out punishment when required can build a culture of compliance that reflects these important investments in organizational justice.

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