Friday, November 17, 2006

Focus on Procedural Fairness: The Sixth Measure of Justice in Conflict Management

Often when asked about whether they have recieved justice, many employees will say "well at least I had my day in court." What this really amounts to is that they had a sense that there was fairness in the process by which a decision was made. This refers to procedural fairness. They may not have liked the result but they were satisfied that the process to get there was fair. Conversely, where the process is not fair, workplace participants will feel that a further injustice has been done to them.

The Procedural Fairness Focus measures how well the system enables the participants to feel that they have been heard, that their issues are taken seriously, and that the results are based upon fair standards. It measures how transparent, rational, predictable and unbiased an adjudicative component of the process is. It also measures access to an adjudicative process if necessary. This is related to the Efficiency Quotient in that speed and efficiency of the process are also a measure of its procedural fairness.

The Procedural Fairness Focus also measures the extent to which there are adequate resources in the system to ensure it is running fairly. The system must have resources to quickly process the conflicts, and avoid any attempt to scuttle the process through procedural delays.

One of the fundamental tenants of due process is that decisions are made rationally and objectively. Investigators and tribunals must be concerned with the facts and not the status of the parties or the political implications of their decisions. The Procedural Fairness Focus measures the consistency of rulings. In a free and democratic society we expect court and tribunal systems to follow procedures, apply rules of evidence, and to heed the sanctity of jurisprudence. This expectation also exists in the workplace. It is not necessary to make a Perry Mason style court case out of every conflict. But where adjudicative processes are used, there is an expectation of procedural fairness. This applies especially to the opportunity to be heard and to know the nature of the conflict from the perspective of the other workplace participants.

Finally this Focus measures the extent to which the system is visible. How periodic and extensive are communications to the participants; how effective is the system in reporting results (i.e. statistics concerning the number and types of conflicts handled)?

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