In the Sanctuary Model, achieving environments of moral safety is a critical component of creating a safe environment. Making the Commitment to Social Responsibility means that an organization has committed itself to the ongoing search for physical, psychological, social and moral safety because there is a fundamental recognition that all four domains are interdependent and that any violation of a person’s sense of safety will elicit a desire for vengeance. It is necessary for us to understand the primal sense of justice and the outrage at injustice that is a fundamental component of human nature. This means that an organization that takes seriously its mission to help others, itself must be committed to fulfilling its complex ethical responsibilities to the larger culture, to the employees, and to the clients it serves. In this chapter we will look at the elements of an ethical organizational climate and importantly, that includes developing an understanding of what organizational justice is and the components of a just environment. Children and adults who have experienced adversity and interpersonal violence are likely to have experienced injustice as part of their exposure to trauma. These experiences that become infiltrated into a person’s life often interfere with their ability too. To create just environments it is important to be aware of the individual responsibility we have in a group setting and how powerful the group effects can be, especially when we are in the role of bystander as well as considering the ways in which organizations can reduce the effects of vicarious trauma in employees and the organization as a whole.
Organizational Ethics: Creating a Climate of Moral Safety
The Commitment to Social Responsibility in the Sanctuary Model supports and helps to define the other Commitments because it is addresses our own individual and group ethical stance to very difficult dilemmas. First, let’s define some terms: ethical conduct in an organization has been defined as intentionally responsible action, honoring implicit or explicit social contracts, which seeks to prevent, avoid or rectify harm to organizational constituents. Unethical conduct is conversely defined as intentional action which evades responsibility, violates social contracts and, in most situations, results in harm. Values may be defined as a generally agreed upon set of beliefs about preferable modes of conduct or desirable objectives to attain.
Ethical or moral climate is defined as the pervasive moral atmosphere of a social system, characterized by shared perceptions of right and wrong, as well as common assumptions about how moral concerns should be addressed. Ethical or moral climate in organizations, refers to the way in which an institution typically handles issues such as responsibility, accountability, communication, regulation, equity, trust, and the welfare of constituents (p.343-344) . One of the emotional components of an ethical climate called moral distress is defined as the anguish someone feels in a situation in which he or she is aware of a moral dilemma, acknowledges moral responsibility in the situation, wants to do the right thing but is constrained by other variables from doing the perceived right thing and therefore participates in moral wrongdoing . Since we think moral distress is such a dominant part of the current social service environment, let’s look at the issue a bit more closely.
Moral dilemmas are described as situations of not knowing what the right thing is to do. Moral distress can be distinguished from moral dilemmas in that it is experienced when a person believes they do know what the right thing is but are constrained from doing it. It has been described as “the pain or anguish affecting the mind, body or relationships in response to a situation in which the person is aware of a moral problem, acknowledges moral responsibility, and makes a moral judgment about the correct action; yet, as a result of real or perceived constraints, participates in perceived moral wrongdoing”(p.5). The results of moral distress may be physical reactions such as sweating, headache, nausea and diarrhea, and crying. The emotional components include anger, frustration, depression, shame, grief, misery, sadness, emotional pain .
The literature on moral distress has been accumulating at least in nursing references, but most of it refers to medical and surgical nursing and little has been written about the moral distress experienced by social service and mental health workers under the influence of funding changes, a managed care environment, and increasing levels of social need, uninsured people, and poverty. To date we could only find one published study about this very important subject that related to mental health care providers, and that study was done in Canada, and a few sociological articles on the subject. Seems that for the U.S. social service and mental health system there is systemic silence on this issue while professionals – especially the most experienced ones – do the best they can to contain their own moral distress.
The research team in the Canadian study included participants from a number of different disciplines – physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers and non-professional care providers but we could only find references to mental health nurses and psychologists [2, 4]. Here was what one of the study participants had to say, a nurse working in an acute care psychiatric setting:
Psychologists in the same study shared with the researchers the many ways that they believed their integrity had been compromised by institutional and inter-institutional demands, by team conflicts, and interdisciplinary disputes that were never resolved. What came up for these professionals recurrently was the tension of being responsible within and to an occupational community, an institution, and to society as a whole, while accepting one’s moral choices as ultimately personal. One of the participants in the study described the bind he felt he was in, strung between what he thought were patient needs and institutional demands:
From what we have perceived in our training institute, in many consultations to a wide variety of settings, in academic teaching situations and in clinical settings, moral distress – although most people are not familiar with the term – is widespread in our social service settings and may be a fundamental cause of the crisis in the workforce that we spoke of earlier, even if not identified.
The moral climate in an organization includes the individual’s perceptions of how others in the system typically address moral issues and this helps to determine how each individual addresses those issues as long as he or she remains in the organization. To a great degree, the organizational moral climate reflects the values of those who run the operation, although an organization can have more than one climate. A moral climate emerges in an organization in the way leaders transmit expectations about the way employees are to treat each other and their clients as well as the ways in which social responsibility is to be exercised . However, for the organizational climate to be ethically consistent, the values of top leadership have to be conveyed throughout the organization through middle management and into the direct care staff. Where there is great inconsistency between value systems, it is possible to see the emergence of more than one ethical climate, creating a potential breeding ground for collective disturbance.
The challenge in the Sanctuary Model is to establish and maintain a value-based system, even in the face of what are extraordinary ethical dilemmas – the kinds of dilemmas that human service delivery professionals may encounter every day. What is fair? To whom? How do I keep my patient safe when only my patient has the power to keep herself safe? What is the best way to “empower” people? What is my responsibility and what is not my responsibility in this particular situation? When do my interventions promote recovery and when do they inhibit or discourage recovery? How can my patient trust me if I have to lie to them all the time about what I really think they need? Or if I have to lie to keep them in the hospital? Or if I have to lie to their insurance company in order to get them care? If this person is suffering from an injury that is a result of a social, fixable problem, what is my role in preventing further injury to this person and to others? How do I balance equity to one person against another when there are limited resources? When safety is a priority, how can I choose between the safety of my client and the safety of my colleagues? If I am committed to nonviolence does that mean I should not defend myself? Or respond violently to violent provocation? Does it mean we are adequately preparing people who must go back to a violent family or community? Does the Commitment to Open Communication mean I should break my confidentiality to a client? To another colleague? And under what conditions? If the only way to get someone reimbursed for services is to reveal their personal information, is that the right thing to do? Does the Commitment to Democracy mean that I have to get everyone’s input even if it means I have less time to spend with the clients? Is it ok to lie if it protects someone?
Ethical Paradigms, Ethical Dilemmas
As the questions above indicate, there are different kinds of ethical dilemmas because there are a variety of concerns that have to be taken into account. Four ethical paradigms have been described. First there is an ethic of justice which focuses on fairness and equity and is informed by the whole body of rules, regulations and laws that have accumulated over time. Then there is an ethic that critiques the ethic of justice, raising questions about class, race, gender and other areas of difference and asking: Who decides what is just and unjust?; Who benefits from those rules; Who has the power and who is silenced? The ethic of caring requires individuals to consider the consequences of their decisions and actions on the welfare of others: Who will be hurt? What are the long-term effects? And then there are the ethical codes that are a foundation of every profession, which may vary somewhat from profession to profession and which may pose special dilemmas when a professional must interact in a decision making capacity with nonprofessionals – confidentiality is one example of this, another is the injunction that all physicians have – as does everyone in the helping professions - to “do no harm” .
There are profound conflicts inherent in the ideological framework of present-day healthcare and the provision of social services. The effects of these conflicts are often not direct, but instead comprise a background “noise” that can eat away at the fiber of a professional’s existence, creating such unrelenting moral distress that they may be compelled to use a wide variety of protective conscious and unconscious defenses that interfere with their capacity to deliver high quality service. Or they may leave the professions they are in entirely. Over time, the departure of those most concerned about moral distress may leave a system morally bankrupt.
In a larger social context within which caring for others has gone from being a sacred obligation to a commodity that is delivered for the lowest possible dollar in service of the greatest amount of profit, moral distress is virtually inevitable. As a result, the larger culture has set up a pressure-cooker environment that serves no one well. Demands to carry increasing caseloads with an attendant increase in paperwork combined with significant decreases in staffing and resources have made many healthcare settings almost unbearable. Under such conditions, it is increasingly difficult for caregivers to find the time or psychic energy to provide the level of compassion that victims of violence require if they are to take the first steps in recovery. Placed in untenable moral dilemmas caregivers often feel powerless to affect change and as a result professionals may succumb to both physical fatigue and compassion fatigue.
One key issue that creates significant tension in many treatment environments and that creates significant ethical dilemmas as well as safety concerns is that of - role of punishment as a form of – or at least acceptable part of – treatment. There are strong currents within the larger culture that wax and wane around rehabilitation vs. retribution and that then emerge in our criminal justice system, correctional institutions, juvenile justice facilities, mental health organizations, and school settings. The arguments are as old as humanity, reflected in the Biblical injunction to “spare the rod, spoil the child”, while an enormous body of scientific research makes clear the dangers of punitive responses that easily merge into abuse [7-8].
Environments – and the people in them - tend to become more punitive under stress as tension rises, emotions flare, and people become increasingly fearful and threatened. Under conditions of chronic stress, punitive measures become institutionalized and may be then called “treatment” with entire systems of rationalizations built up to demonstrate why punitive and coercive measures are absolutely necessary. The problem of course, is that punishment is inevitably linked to justice and if a person does not feel that the punishment is just, it tends to escalate their anger and the desire for retaliation, leading to a seemingly endless cycle of escalating bad behavior and escalating punitive responses.
This applies to the people who work in human service delivery environments as well. The typical response to some kind of infraction is punishment, although often the administration of punishment is actually distant in time from the actual infraction. The fear of punishment often drives other problematic behaviors like denial of responsibility, fear of taking any risks, lying, and covering up. And whenever people feel unfairly treated, they are likely to become vengeful.
Discipline Without Punishment
By the time many clients come into any kind of institutional setting, the cycle of infraction-misunderstanding-punishment-anger-revenge-infraction is likely to have been in place for some time in the relationship between the client and authority figures. It’s usually bad behavior that gets a child or adult even into an institution. The origins of the bad behavior in the disrupted attachment experiences, impaired emotional management, cognitive dysregulation, and problematic relational schemas – all as a result of significant exposure to childhood adversity and trauma – are overlooked. Punishing people who have already spent a significant portion of their lives being punished in one way or another doesn’t seem to make a great deal of sense.
The same can be said of the staff who work in human services and the way managers are treated by those to whom they report. We live in a blame culture, where affixing blame is a common substitute for actually fixing complex problems. But this does not deny the reality that discipline is vitally important if anything positive is to be accomplished. But the discipline we all need to aim for is self-discipline, the acceptance of personal responsibility, the willingness to make personal decisions and follow through on the consequences of those decisions. But somewhere along the way, as a culture under stress, we have lost the notion of how people develop self-discipline and have come to believe the somewhat silly idea that the more you punish people the more self-disciplined they will become.
We routinely encounter this when we introduce the Sanctuary Model into settings, particularly those for children. Horrified staff members often demand to know, “But does this mean that people should be allowed to ‘get away’ with bad behavior and not receive any consequences? Sanctuary is too soft!”. Once these questions are surfaced, they lead to some very interesting conversations. It is clear that there is – and perhaps always has been – very naïve and dangerous assumptions about the way in which children develop, a mechanistic model of children not as young people but as wild beasts who will ‘get away’ with whatever they can. Obviously, children like all humans, need limits – we need to know when we have ‘gone over the line’ but the objective is not the external dependence on authority but the internalization of self-discipline, self-control, accountability and a sense of personal responsibility. Punishment does not build these – love and respect do.
Punishment clearly does not work very well except under certain very specific and usually unattainable conditions and an effective punitive system is very difficult – nigh on impossible – to implement in most organizational settings. And the “side effects” of punishment may make the consequences worse than we bargain for in promoting adversarial relationships, allowing people to ‘get off the hook’ of personal responsibility by ‘serving their time’, and creating a hostile treatment/work environment.
In any workplace setting, and particularly in those designed to be treatment environments, we need people who are committed to organizational goals, not scared of punishment, “an emphasis on commitment to the future rather than punishment for the past tends to build relationships of mutual respect between the individual and his or her supervisor” (p.29) . In a commitment-based disciplinary system, employees are recognized for good performance, are treated as responsible adults, are willing to address problems earlier in people they supervise, experience the organizational culture as fair and just. The payoff for the organization is commitment, consistency, less interpersonal unresolved conflict, and better results. Children in these kinds of environments then have role models for the development of self-discipline and self-control that is a necessary ingredient for thriving instead of just surviving.
In answering the question, “is Sanctuary too soft?” one of our experienced faculty members wrote that, “Staff are still directed to hold clients (and themselves) to account, but to do so in a manner that is not provocative, inflammatory, hypocritical or hurtful - in short, presentation counts and the ancient maxim, “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you” applies to everyone in a Sanctuary community – administrators, staff, children, and families”(p.2) .
Moral Development and the Ethical Organization
Recently, some ethics researchers are taking the issue of reward and punishment in the workplace a step further and it is work that has immediate implications for treatment as well. Using Kohlberg’s stages of moral development, they propose that the heavy reliance on rewards and punishments fosters low levels of moral reasoning and in the long-term contributes to unethical behavior. In exploring why some employees behave unethically, although there are admittedly some “bad apples” as individuals, management researchers conclude that corporations elicit, inculcate, or even encourage unethical behavior by employees .
According to these ethics researchers, organizations, like individuals, have stages of moral development. Kohlberg divided the progression of moral reasoning into six stages. Stages I and 2 he called “pre-conventional” usually achieved in elementary school, Stage 1 is represented by obedience and punishment, Stage 2 as individualism, instrumentalism and exchange. Stages 3 and 4 he called ‘conventional” and typify most of the people in society, Stage 3 representing “good boy or girl”, while Stage 4 emphasizes law and order. For Stage 5 and Stage 6 he used the term “post-conventional” and claimed that relatively few members of society reach this level of moral development. Stage 5 is represented by the social contract and Stage 6 by principled conscience .
Organizations that are operating at Kohlberg’s lowest levels of moral reasoning have specific design mechanisms that shift employees’ focus from ethical behavior toward stakeholders, to acting in ways that generate rewards or avoid punishments. Performance appraisal systems usually assess behaviors that contribute to profitability or achievement of the organization’s strategy and goals and may lower employees’ moral reasoning by focusing their attention on behaviors that result in rewards and avoid punishment, regardless of whether it is ethical behavior or not. In the case of human service systems, particularly managed behavioral health systems, the managed care companies are usually perceived as the punishing agent and as a result, organizations are likely to do things that they do not feel are effective, fair, or even adequate simply to avoid punishment. Premature discharges, changed diagnoses, changes in medication – all of which may be dictated by the insurance company may not be clinically indicated, but unless compliance occurs, may lead to heavy penalties. This disengagement between the people who deliver services and the people who fund services, along with ever increasing productivity demands, promotes unethical behavior that is then denied.
Reward and punishment systems may create workplaces that are low in trust, in which people feel controlled and are not encouraged to learn, progress, or consider ethical positions. Size matters as well – large organizations in which an employee only has a small part of a task may discourage moral reasoning because they have little role in decision making and because they are simply a small cog in a very large wheel. Access to information may be denied some people and when this is the case their reasoning cannot be complete because they lack sufficient information to make complex judgments. Codes of ethics may focus on nothing but adhering to rules and regulations which encourage Stage 4 moral reasoning .
Leaders may model a low level of moral reasoning and research has supported that a group’s moral reasoning decreased when the group leader operated at a low level of moral reasoning . It is clear that employees make more effort to understand and follow top management’s ethical values and guidelines if the organization rewards people who follow desired ethical practices and punishes or sanctions those who fail to behave ethically . Unfortunately, according to young managers who were interviewed, very few companies embodied values consistent with those they hoped to live by . Gaps may actually exist between a manager’s level of moral reasoning and the organization’s level of moral reasoning and this may put the manager in conflict with the organization’s system of rewards and punishment . According to some investigators, research suggests that reward and punishments systems may sometimes reward unethical behavior and punish ethical behavior.
Communities socialize employees and make them aware of their relationship with and responsibilities to each other and the larger society, not just as self-interested individuals. Heavy reliance on a system of rewards and punishments assumes that employees will only work on this basis and that they cannot be counted on to “do the right thing” for its own sake. In more corrupt institutions the system of rewards and punishments implies that employees can be counted on - with sufficient incentives - to do the wrong thing. Organizations that are designed with many layers of bureaucracy, with rigid control systems, complex sets of ever-expanding rules and regulations, limited access to information and compliance systems all signal employees that they cannot be counted on and are not responsible for moral reasoning. This is particularly relevant to caregiving organizations, where outcomes are very unclear, as when the desired outcomes focuses not on permanent change in the clients but instead on controlling the clients. When everything becomes focused on control, then it gives license to engage in behavior that may otherwise be quite damaging.
When organizations react to wrongdoing, or perceived wrongdoing with a tightening of controls, increased suspicion and supervision, as well as more rules and regulations they simply reinforce these notions without ever considering what the employees are really learning . Some commentators are urging that organizations must be designed and operated as ethical communities. According to them, it is clear that organizations
“are typically designed for the few individuals who might behave unethically and take advantage of the organization rather than for the majority of employees who can be trusted to conduct themselves responsibly and ethically… When we view a corporation as a community – or more specifically, as an ethical community - we begin to focus on how the organization shapes and develops the character of employees working within it” (p.362-363) .
In the private mental health and social service sector, where profit has to be made, and in the non-profit sector where the bottom-line is also increasingly the standard by which performance is judged, service employees may find themselves in serious ethical conflicts quite frequently. Demands to cut services, cut the number of sessions, see a fixed number of people within an unreasonable amount of time, get people in and out of service despite enormous obstacles, may all put enormous pressure on professionals who are accustomed to having the client as the central focus, not the amount of income the organization is making.
Under these circumstances, they are likely to experience punishments directed at performance requirements as a direct challenge to their moral reasoning that is likely to be based on an entirely different set of principles. And these principles will be strongly influenced by the group settings that people are in. Let’s look at a little that we know about the power of the group to influence the way otherwise reasonably ethical people can be led to do some very bad things.
The Commitment to Social Responsibility is essential because of these powerful tendencies within individual human beings and our own human service system that have been demonstrated repeatedly throughout history in the abusive and condescending treatment of the mentally ill and the socially disenfranchised. In any institutional settings we are both actors and bystanders. When confronted with acts of dehumanization on the part of our colleagues, subordinates, or superiors, we must act to protect our clients, ourselves, each other and our organizations. To do so, we need to know something about how to intervene as a socially responsible helper in order to make things better, not worse.
Bystanders Who Become Helpers
In social behavior, early intervention and prevention works best. As bystanders become increasingly passive in the face of abusive behavior, action becomes increasingly difficult. Just as there is a deteriorating spiral of perpetration in which each act of violence becomes increasingly easy to accomplish, so too is there a deteriorating cycle of passivity. As the perpetrators actively assume control over a system without any resistance on the part of bystanders, their power increases to the point that resistance on the part of bystanders becomes extremely difficult if not useless except to the extent that such behavior serves as an example for others. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that the more people there are who could respond to a situation, the less likely it is that anyone will. What follows is the emergence of a group norm of passive non-action.
Interestingly however, all it takes is for one bystander in a group to take some sort of positive action against perpetration and others will follow. Resistance to perpetration on the part of bystanders, both in words and in actions, influences others to become active instead of passive. There is much to be learned from the behavior of bystanders who DO help because in any situation of perpetration, they define a different reality. Their actions provide an alternative way of relating, another example to the perpetrators, and would-be perpetrators, and victims, all of whom become locked into the cycle of violence and abuse [16-17].
A five-stage process by which bystanders turn into helpers has been outlined [18-19]. In the first stage, bystanders notice that something is amiss. Secondly, they interpret the situation as one in which people need help. In the third critical stage, they assume responsibility to offer that help, while in the fourth stage they choose a form of help, and finally, they implement that help. Helpful behavior can be derailed at any of these stages. But what increases the likelihood that helpful bystander behavior will not be derailed?
First of all, there is the intrinsic nature of the bystander. Helpful bystanders have many characteristics in common that tell us a great deal about how we need to raise our children and how we must behave in situations which confront us. Helpers have strong moral concerns that are transmitted by their parents and among those values is a fundamental sense of empathy for others, standards which are applied to people in different social, ethnic, and religious groups. Bystanders who become rescuers often have experience with being marginalized or victimized themselves but have been able to sustain connections with others rather than disconnecting from deeply human bonds. Helpful behavior falls along a very long continuum and evolves gradually over time. Each successful attempt to help leads to more helping behavior that becomes self-reinforcing. This implies that helping behavior can be modeled, learned, taught, reinforced - that it is not a given in any situation but can and must be constantly recreated.
But even willing helpers can be derailed by social propaganda, by coercion, and by the influence of others who want to deny the perpetrator behavior and who offer an alternative outlook with such explanations as “He deserves what he gets”, “She’s just trying to get attention”, “People can always find a job if they look hard enough”, “People just want to blame their parents”, “Welfare recipients are just lazy and don’t want to work”, “There’s more crime because we’ve gotten too soft on criminals”. Note the ways in which all of these sayings reduce the humanity of the person or group that is targeted.
If helpers can get past the propaganda and see the flaws in thinking, they still have to feel that they have some responsibility for solving the problem and that they are able to choose something to do to help and put their plan into action. This sense of mutual responsibility can be taught later in life but is mostly easily modeled within the family systems by what the children see in the behavior of their own parents towards other people. Finding effective ways to help often requires larger scale organization and the participation of others. It is the reverse of the downward spiral of perpetration.
The fundamental question is whether witnesses to the mistreatment of other people have an obligation to act? What is our moral responsibility to each other? Are we, in fact, “our brother’s keeper?” Until quite recently in human history, the family group or the tribe were the only groups to which we felt the kind of loyalty that demands protective action. In the Sanctuary Model we assert that we do indeed have an obligation to act. If bullies are allowed to bully, if liars get away with lying, if free-riders get away with loafing, then it is because all of us who knew about the behavior and did nothing, gave consent by our silence. This is what happened in Abu Ghraib, in the Holocaust, in the Catholic Church – that those who knew and believed the conduct to be wrong, said nothing and did nothing.
A Commitment to Social Responsibility is essentially an acceptance of the fact that we have the power to make a difference in our own lives and the lives of those around us. It is the understanding that we are all connected and that the actions I take or fail to take can have an impact on other people; that other people matter and because my actions impact others I matter as well. It is easy for us to abdicate responsibility when we are stressed and tired and not consider the impact of that action on others. A commitment to social responsibility asks us always to consider our impact in the context of the community and what impact our choices and actions have on those around us.
“Organizational justice—members’ sense of the moral propriety of how they are treated—is the “glue” that allows people to work together effectively. Justice defines the very essence of individuals’ relationship to employers. In contrast, injustice is like a corrosive solvent that can dissolve bonds within the community. Injustice is hurtful to individuals and harmful to organizations.” .
Cropanzano, R., D.E. Bowen, and S.W. Gilliland,
The Management of Organizational Justice, 2007
The issue of justice cannot be avoided in human service organizations because it is at the heart of why a majority of people seeking services need to do so. Victims of childhood adversity and various other forms of exposure to trauma and interpersonal violence have experienced fundamental, formative injustice and it has powerfully influenced the way they view themselves, other people and where they fit in the world.
Daniel Webster is quoted as saying that “justice is the greatest interest of man on earth” and feelings related to perceived unjust treatment in the workplace are probably the dominant reason for most unrelenting organizational conflict. Organizational justice represents each individual’s evaluation about the ethical and moral standing of themselves and their managers. Research has clearly demonstrated that the absence of justice provokes retaliation, lower performance, and harm to morale. Likewise, when employees perceive that their organization is just, they maintain respect and trust for an organization, even when things to not go as they would like.
Types of Organizational Justice
Researchers have demonstrated that three kinds of justice need to be addressed in workplace situations and are all aspects of overall fairness that tend to interact with each other. Distributive justice deals with how resources are allocated and what some get and others do not. Employees regularly do a sort of internal calculus balancing what we put into the job and what we expect to get out of it. We feel justly treated when inputs and outputs are balanced. We feel unjustly treated if we work harder than we are rewarded for and this can lead to worker sabotage and to employee theft, as people try to “even the score” on their own terms. We are likely to feel guilty when we are rewarded more than we feel we have earned and may overwork in order to establish a more acceptable equilibrium. When what we receive is equitable, we are rewarded based on our individual contribution and this tends to reward high performance. When it is equal, we all are treated alike, and this tends to build esprit de corps among teammates [20-21].
Procedural justice refers to the means by which allocation of rewards – and punishments – occur. This form of justice establishes principles that govern decision making processes. A just process is one that is applied consistently to everyone, is free of bias, accurate, representative of all relevant stakeholders, correctable and consistent with ethical norms. When employees believe that a process is fair, they tend to trust their leaders more and are more committed to the organization. Procedural injustice creates distrust and resentment [20-21]
If procedures are believed to be fair, even if the outcome is unfavorable, the employee is more likely to remain loyal and behave in the interest of the organization. In a study of over 1000 employees a major determinant of whether employees sued for wrongful termination was their perception of how fairly the termination process was carried out. Only 1% of ex-employees who felt that they were treated with a high degree of procedural fairness filed a wrongful termination lawsuit versus 17% of those who believed they were treated with a low degree of process fairness [22-23].
Interactional justice refers to how one person treats another: if he or she appropriately shares information (informational justice) and treats the other with respect and dignity (interpersonal justice). Because these three forms of justice interact and influence each other, one component can be low but if employees perceive that the other two forms are present, the negative effect can be offset [20-21].
Organizational structure is defined as the recurrent set of relationships between organization members and the kinds of organizational structure that exist can be broadly divided into two categories: “mechanistic” and “organic” Mechanistic structures tend to look like traditional bureaucracies: power is centralized, communication follows rigid hierarchical channels, managerial styles and job descriptions are uniform, formal rules and regulations direct decision making. Organic organizations are more flexible, loose and decentralized while authority lines are less fixed and more flexible with a decentralization of power and communication channels, informal rules that are created in a more flexible and less formal manner, all designed to help employees achieve the organizational goals .
In mechanistic organizations, procedural justice is extremely important – formal procedures are part of the normal organizational landscape in such organizations and when fairness of these procedures is violated, it disturbs trust in the entire organizational structure. In less formal, more organic kinds of organizations, it is interactional justice that is a more influential determinant of trust, particularly trust in supervisors. Because of their reliance on less formal, face-to-face communication, interpersonal interactions count for even more than in mechanistic organizations. Additionally, when interactional justice is low, individuals in organic organizations report lower levels of trust than do their mechanistic counterparts .
Justice, Trust and Emotions
Maintaining a just environment has been shown to profoundly affect organizational function in a number of key ways. Justice builds trust and commitment. All three components – distributive, procedural, and interactional) predict trust and trust predicts organizational commitment. Workplace justice has been shown to predict the effectiveness with which workers discharge their job duties. Justice promotes good citizenship in the workplace: employees are more likely to comply with workplace policies, show extra conscientiousness, and behave altruistically toward others. In fact, workers tend to dole out these behaviors to the people who they feel have been fair toward them and withhold them from those who have not been fair. Fair treatment tends to be contagious, so employees who perceive organizational justice are more likely to treat their clients in a similar way . There are indications that the emotional response to injustice is aroused first, followed by cognitions and interpretations of the events that precipitated the emotions and retaliatory behaviors may follow closely on the heels of this complex response. As Cahn quoted above noted in 1949, the response to injustice is a powerful one that closely resembles the fight-flight response and given all we have discussed in this book, individual and group judgment can be – and often is – profoundly affected by stress.
Creating and sustaining just organizations
People perceive the nature and quality of the justice climate that is inherent in an organization from the first moment they set foot in the door to be considered for employment, by the way there are introduced to an organization and how they are treated in the application process. “By treating applicants justly in the hiring process, organizations are setting the foundation for a relationship of justice and trust when those applicants become employees(p.41) .
Managers, however, must contend with what has been termed a “justice paradox” – that what might in fact be a useful screening mechanism from the point of view of the organization, may appear to be very unfair to the employee. Testing cognitive ability and personality does relate to how well the person will fit into the organization but such devices are often perceived as unfair to the employee, while job interviews have been demonstrated to be fairly useless in predicting who is a good fit and who is not, and yet applicants often perceive the interview as a sign of fairness and its absence as injustice in hiring practices . What seems to work better and satisfy justice concerns are things like screening tools that both predict organizational fit and that seem fair to the potential employee – things like work sample tests and performance-based simulations. Attention to interactional justice can also help. When potential employees are treated with consideration, honesty, are given timely feedback and adequate information they are likely to feel fairly treated and may be willing to overlook procedures that would otherwise undermine confidence .
Reward systems need to accomplish two goals that may sometimes feel mutually exclusive. They need to motivate individual performance and they need to maintain group cohesion. It is important to reward high performance, but it is also important that people experience the workplace as providing rewards that are equal when individual performance depends on group performance. The key to resolving this perpetual difficulty is making sure that the procedures used to make these kinds of decisions are fair. Employees who report less pay satisfaction are less satisfied at work. But when they feel that the methods for deciding on pay are decided fairly, they experience high organizational commitment and positive reactions to their supervisors. Everyone hates pay cuts but when interactional fairness is perceived, employees are much more likely to accept the bad news and less likely to engage in behaviors like stealing or to resign. When workers understand why things have happened, are treated with respect and consideration, they tend not to vent their anger on the organization . This is what makes the Commitment to Open Communication so important: providing people with accurate information and increasing organizational transparency assures a greater perception of organizational justice.
Managers may spend as much as 20% of their time settling – or trying to settle – conflicts between employees and when both parties are intransigent; a manager may simply have to impose a settlement upon them. As long as any component of justice is present – distributive, procedural, or interactional – the arbitration is likely to improve the situation. Managers can make hard choices but they must do so in a just fashion. “If you can’t give people the outcome they want, at least give them a fair process”(p.43) . This is what makes the Commitment to Social Learning such a vital component of creating a just organization. There must be sufficient time and skill invested in management training and in the organization as a whole so that when inevitable conflicts arise, there is an ability to engage in conflict resolution and an overall willingness to learn from those experiences.
Layoffs are so devastating to people – the ones that lose their jobs and the ones left behind – that there is inevitably a sense of distributive injustice. As it turns out, downsizing as a cost-cutting measure is highly risky to an organization and the costs of workforce reduction often outweigh the benefits. But when a layoff is handled with procedural and interactional justice, victims are less likely to derogate their former employers and less likely to cause lawsuits. Among those who felt unjustly treated, 66% contemplated litigation but among those who felt justly treated, the number dropped to 16%. Sincerely apologizing to people for what’s happening to them does not admit guilt – it shows compassion and may help the organization survive a crisis with its reputation intact . When downsizing occurs, those left behind may be profoundly affected by a form of survivor guilt. If attention is paid to providing them with accurate information and other forms of interactional justice in regard to those who are gone, employees who remain respond less negatively. For these reasons, dealing with organizational losses in a constructive and transparent way makes the Commitment to Growth and Change very relevant to the justice climate in an environment of perpetual change.
Performance appraisal is another place where organizational justice plays a significant role in determining whether or not employees feel they are fairly treated. Performance appraisal is tricky business and provides abundant fodder for feelings of injustice. It is important to approach performance evaluations with a deep understanding of their subjectivity. In a meta-analysis of 27 field studies, each evaluating employee participation in performance appraisal, researchers found that when employees had a voice they were more satisfied, saw the process as more fair, and were more motivated to improve performance. A “due process” approach to performance evaluations appears to offer the greatest possibility for the perception of fairness. Three core elements are necessary: people have to have adequate notice that they will be appraised and given the criteria by which they will be evaluated (adequate notice); the feedback review needs to be limited to performance, not personal attacks and there must be time for the worker to provide their own interpretation of events (just hearing); standards for making these decisions must be accurate and based on formal processes of information gathering (judgment based on evidence).
Creating & Sustaining a Humane, Socially Responsible Environment
Human service organizations employ a significant part of the workforce in the United States. People who work in human services and the clients who seek services come from every walk of life, class, socioeconomic conditions, race, gender, age, sexual preference, sexual identity, ethnic background, educational background, physical, social and intellectual ability, political viewpoint, and religious orientation. Discriminating against people on the basis of any of these dimensions creates oppression and is more likely to lead to abuse, acts of injustice and ultimately, to violence. As a result, if an organization is to be effective, just, and safe it must be nonviolent, participatory, transparent, just, emotionally intelligent, morally intelligent, and fair.
Adding all the possible combinations from the first sentence in the previous paragraph with the last sentence in the same paragraph inevitably presents us with situations of enormous complexity and that is why part of the Commitment to Social Responsibility is working to establish organizations that are diverse, multicultural and tolerant of differences. We use the concept here of a “humane organization” in the way the great educator, Paolo Friere indicated when he said that “no one can be authentically human while preventing others from doing so.” (p.42) . Full humanization for anyone is therefore possible, according to Friere, only in a context - a society and the organizations that comprise that society - in which the oppressor/oppressed contradiction has been overcome and people are not dehumanized .
Racism and sexism especially, are such an intrinsic component of our social environments that it is easy to believe – because we would prefer believing it – that both racism and sexism have been erased because there are people of color working in an organization or because there are woman in various organizational posts. Unfortunately, the very fact of the presence of change does not in any way guarantee the absence of bigotry, intolerance, and prejudice – it just makes it go more underground and be somewhat harder to confront. It is around the dehumanizing aspects of prejudice that the Commitments to Nonviolence, Emotional Intelligence, Social Learning, Open Communication, Democracy, Social Responsibility, Growth and Change become so visibly vital as a consistent and practiced value-based framework for getting us through the landmines of ages-old bigotry and discrimination.
Becoming a truly humane organization then necessitates a willingness of each of us to learn about the other and to learn what feelings, assumptions, and postures we take into a situation simply because of our socialization experiences about a group and not necessarily because of any real experience with that particular individual. As we discussed early, the power of reenactment and self-fulfilling prophecies as well as nonverbal forms of communication are strong in human interactions and generally we do not like to see ourselves as people with irrational prejudices. So the other person – the one who represents a group we discriminate against – may be the first to register the assumptions we make, even before we register our own attitudes. Having conversations about prejudice is organizationally challenging. As people active in creating antiracist organizations have noted, “everyone involved in antiracism organizational work might wisely anticipate that the process is likely to engender strong feelings at different points in the process. There is great potential for feeling perplexed, angry, defensive, sick of the process, lost and wanting to maintain worldviews that orient who we are …. The temptation to flee from these issues is great. Yet when mutual understanding is achieved and when positive action springs from that understanding, the satisfaction goes deep. Collective learning and collaborative action becomes possible. Conversations deepen, connections are strengthened, and organizational movement can occur. It can be as exhilarating as it is frustrating(p.124). .
Creating and sustaining a humane organization begins with a vision of an organizational culture where no one is discriminated against because of their membership in a particular group. Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada, a veteran in the struggle for liberation in South Africa recently told a group in Philadelphia when asked what kept him continuing to hope for freedom through all those years of imprisonment for his political beliefs, that it was the shared vision of a constitutionally-based, non-racist society that kept the movement moving forward. Human beings have been hating and fearing each other for our differences as long as there have been human beings, so changes in our fundamental xenophobia do not come easily or rapidly. We need a vision to keep us going.
Once we have vision of being just and integrated and have committed to that vision, then we must be willing to raise awareness about world views, biases, assumptions – implicit and explicit – that people hold in the organization about each other and actively raise awareness about racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination and the oppression that springs from those forms. This self-inventory must include the subtle and not-so-subtle forms of discrimination and bias that are directed at the clients and may be based on race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender identity, sexual preference, or any other variable of difference. Most organizations devote some training time to “diversity training” but unfortunately, relegating this vital subject to the training division of the organization can actually lead people to believe that the do not have to deal with it at any other time. That is simply not true. Around every conflict and crisis, the assumptions that are implicit in the organization at the time of the event must at least be reviewed so that unconscious forms of dehumanization can be rooted out.
The organization that aims to be more humane will need to take very seriously the Commitment to Democracy and what it means for representation and voice. How will you really know what people lowest in the organizational hierarchy are feeling and perceiving if there is no representative voice for that sector? And then there is the need to constantly examine our assumptions. Just because someone who is of African-American descent gets put in a management position does not necessarily mean that therefore the voice of people who are oppressed as a result of race are now represented. Maybe they are, maybe they are not – that depends on the administrator who gets put in that position.
As we discussed in the Chapter on Commitment to Democracy, the most important reason for including the voice of every group that comprises an organization isn’t just because it is the right thing to do but because it is the practical thing to do. As the organization becomes increasingly able to integrate and synthesize multiple perspectives, the likelihood of creative emergence increases and that means we stand a better chance of solving complex problems, because it is our combination that is our strength.
Murphy, Is Sanctuary “Too Soft” on Kids
Link to Bloom, S. L. (1998) Moral Safety and Responsibility
Link to Bloom, S. L. (2003) Trauma and the Nature of Evil
Link to Bloom, S. L. (2010) Tragic Nature of Human Existence
Bloom, S. L. and Reichert, M. (1998) Bearing Witness: Violence and Collective Responsibility
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