Motivating Workers: Adams's Theory of Justice

Service Business

Everyone perceives a sense of justice subjectively. For some, differentiating the level of income tax rates depending on the amount of revenues obtained will be a fair action, as it allows for equal opportunities in the society. On the other hand, why should people who are more resourceful in life, with more professional experience and unique competences share their earnings with others? It is difficult to decide who is right in this situation. Our opinion on a matter depends on its perception. John Adams noticed a similar regularity when formulating his theory of justice. What conclusions should the employer draw from this concept in order to effectively motivate employees? What is Adams' theory of justice? We explain below.

The theory of justice and its assumptions

Adams observed that workers were constantly making comparisons. First, they analyze whether their effort is commensurate with the gratification received (salary, remuneration). Secondly, they check what rewards other employed people receive for their work.

According to the theory of justice, an employee:

  • who recognizes that the effort made to perform the work is compensated by the gratification received, feels motivated and will effectively fulfill the assigned duties,

  • who believes that the reward is too small for the amount of work involved will not increase their productivity. His motivation will decline, which will translate into worse results.

An employee who has judged that the remuneration corresponds to his efforts makes another comparison. He checks what rewards his colleagues have received for their tasks. According to Adams' theory of justice, one of the following three situations will arise:

  1. the person making the comparison considers that everyone is fairly compensated for their work input,

  2. the employee making the comparison will judge that he or she receives too high a reward for the duties performed in relation to the gratuities that their colleagues receive for their efforts,

  3. the comparator believes that he or she receives too little remuneration for the duties performed in relation to the rewards received by colleagues for their work.

In the first case, we are dealing with a situation of equilibrium. The employee judged that he and his colleagues were paid fair. His motivation will increase. However, in the second and third cases, there is an imbalance. The comparator believes that he is not receiving adequate gratification for his efforts. He feels a state of tension. In order to reduce it, it will try to restore the balance. To this end, it will decrease or increase its effectiveness, i.e. its motivation to work will increase or decrease.

The theory of justice - tips for the employer

The theory of justice indicates that the feeling of justice is subjective. Employees individually assess whether they are adequately remunerated in relation to their duties and what their colleagues receive for their work. For this reason, many employers try to make their remuneration policy secret, so that employees do not make dangerous comparisons. People have different expectations and perceive the burden of their duties differently.

A fair pay system does not mean paying equal wages to all employees. Workplaces should be valued, i.e. an assessment should be made of the importance of specific tasks on the scale of the entire organization. On this basis, the amount of remuneration should be determined. Two people who work at the computer 8 hours a day do not necessarily have to receive the same payment. One of them can perform complex analyzes that will require specialized skills. The second one can deal with customer service and reply to incoming e-mails. Should these employees be remunerated in the same way? Certainly not.

The employer should react if he observes that employees feel unfairly rewarded for their work. In such a situation, he should talk to the employed person and explain why the salary he receives has been set at a given level. The trader may also disclose the remuneration system used. Then each employee will know what gratification can be obtained for performing specific duties.