University of Leicester

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Managerial Legitimation of Allegedly Unfair Decisions: Studying Arguments in Career Advancement Disputes

posted on 2018-11-21, 12:05 authored by Rasim Serdar Kurdoglu
This study offers a new theoretical view of organizational justice and empirically applies it to study the fairness of career advancement decisions in organizations. Theoretically, the study challenges the concept of procedural justice in organizations by drawing on Hayek’s liberal justice theory. This study advocates that it is inappropriate to transfer societal procedural justice expectations to organizations where the rule of authority is dominant. The study subsequently introduces a new understanding of interactional justice derived from Perelman and his colleague’s argumentation theory along with an economic understanding of interactional justice as a constituent of distributive justice. Accordingly, eristic modes of legitimation (preposterous reasoning to win the argument) are considered to be a breach of interactional justice, which is crucial to enable economic exchanges without deception. The framework is applied empirically to explore how disputes concerning allegedly unfair career advancement appointments are susceptible to eristic modes of legitimation. 15 independent interviews were conducted with former employees who claimed that their promotions were denied unfairly. These interviews were accompanied by 21 interviews with HRM (Human Resources Management) professionals who had experience addressing employee complaints. The consequent rhetorical analysis indicates that raising unfairness concerns can be futile and destructive when managerial authorities are in an eristic mode of discussion that instigates malevolent political strife within organizations. This study reveals the following three major consequences of eristic legitimation attempts: (1) Because eristic attitudes hinder the possibility of resolution through argumentation, the gap is filled by organizational politics and impression management as civilised forms of aggression to defeat the other party. (2) Eristic uses of poor managerial justifications and legitimations by non-argumentation can deteriorate the certainty of future incentives and impair employee motivation and performance, which can consequently make managerial legitimation arguments a self-fulfilling reality. (3) Abusive use of dissociation arguments can conceal managerial mediocracy and inefficiencies, as hinted by employees’ unfairness arguments appealing to meritocracy.



Smith, Charlotte; Wagner-Tsukamoto, Sigmund

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Management

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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