Employees who are interested in gaining power for themselves tend to perceive the workplace as fair and unbiased and are less aware of discrimination and injustice, according to a new study at the University of Stavanger in Norway.
The researchers have a theory for this finding: People who seek power are looking to gain influence, control, social status and prestige. They tend to strongly voice their opinions and demand certain types of actions and treatment.
When they get what they want, they feel heard and taken seriously and, therefore, perceive the situation as just. Then they assume it is the same for everyone.
“The findings show that one’s personal perception of justice in the workplace influences how unjust treatment of others is perceived. In other words, we interpret others’ situations based on our own experience,” said researcher Elisabeth Enoksen, who led the study for her doctoral thesis.
“Those who speak up have a greater chance of being included in different processes and for having their suggestions heard and accepted. Meanwhile, the concerns of others are not put forward as they are not used to having the same influence.”
Previous research has shown that it is important for employees to see the workplace as just and fair. When the workplace does not ensure fairness, it takes a toll on employees’ physical and mental well-being, job satisfaction, work performance, and sense of belonging.
For the study, Enoksen distributed questionnaires to employees at a mental health care clinic in Norway and asked them about their perceptions of the working environment and justice in the workplace. They were then tested on 10 different personal values.
Two values stood out: power and universalism (the desire for well-being for everyone).
Those who got a high score in power and felt fairly treated perceived less discrimination against immigrants in the workplace.
Those who scored high in universalism perceived the most discrimination against immigrants. “People who appreciate this value are concerned for the welfare of everyone, not just the welfare of those closest to them but also the welfare of those outside their inner circle. This is the value with the highest social focus,” said Enoksen.
“In a few years, most workplaces will be multicultural. This will mean new challenges for managers. They will have to consider different needs and wishes and how to best form teams to get optimal results,” said Enoksen.
Discrimination is destructive in the workplace, researchers noted. Not only is it damaging to the person involved, but also destructive to those who witness it.
Enoksen hopes that her study can help managers gain a better understanding of group dynamics, which would make it easier to meet the various needs of their employees during everyday life as well as during transitional periods.
Source: University of Stavanger