Performance monitoring and fairness perceptions: Characteristics, context, and correlates

Date of Completion

January 1997


Business Administration, General|Psychology, Industrial|Sociology, Industrial and Labor Relations




Performance monitoring is the observation of work-related behaviors of individuals or work groups. Performance monitoring plays a critical role in the supervision and evaluation of workers. Technological advances have enabled more frequent and more detailed performance monitoring of workers than was ever previously practical.^ The present research utilized an organizational justice framework to examine employee reactions to performance monitoring. In this framework employee responses to performance monitoring derive from characteristics of monitoring and supervision in conjunction with individual differences and contextual characteristics of the organization. This research focused on measuring aspects of performance monitoring that influenced workers' perceptions of fairness about supervision and monitoring. Prior research on organizational justice served to guide predictions about employees' reactions. A pair of studies, one laboratory study and one field study, provided empirical data to test these predictions. Results of the laboratory study revealed that manipulations of supervisory monitoring behavior affected workers' perceptions of fairness concerning supervisory monitoring. Specifically, supervisory monitoring that was consistent across a set of workers was perceived as more fair than inconsistent monitoring. Unexpectedly, when explanations of the role and importance of monitoring (justification) were offered, workers perceived monitoring as less fair than when no such justifications were offered.^ Results of the field study suggested correlational links between supervisory and monitoring characteristics and perceptions of fairness. Consistency, justification, monitoring process control, supervisory knowledge of job performance, and trust-in-supervisor all related positively to perceptions of fairness. Supervisor expertise (in contrast to specific job performance knowledge) displayed no significant relationship to perceptions of fairness. The use of electronic monitoring and an individual difference variable related to intrinsic motivation moderated some of these correlational links.^ Taken as a whole, the results of these two studies indicate that organizational justice provides a useful framework for examining the relationship between performance monitoring and workers' fairness reactions to monitoring. Additional research is needed to examine the mechanisms governing workers' reactions to social accounts or justifications for monitoring. More research is also needed to understand why electronic monitoring moderates relationships of certain monitoring characteristics to perceived fairness. ^