Organizational Justice in the UAE: A Literature Review

Subject: Technology
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 8
Word count: 2195
Topics: Computer Science, Macroeconomics, Management

Organizational justice denotes the perception of employees regarding their organization. Their perception in this sense relates to the behavior, decisions and actions of the organizations they work for, which in turn influences their attitude and behavior respectively. In essence, organizational justice encompasses all matters that relate to the workplace behavior. Workplace behavior in this regard includes how employees are treated, incentives offered and other practices evident in the workplace environment. In any given organization, it is important to enforce organizational justice. Such a focus is necessary to minimize instances of workplace deviance, absenteeism, employee disengagement and counterproductive workplace behaviors. Similarly, an emphasis on organizational justice plays a role in encouraging a positive workplace environment where trust and progressive communication thrives (Suliman & Al Kathairi, 2013). To this end, four types of organizational justice include distributive, procedural, interactional and informational justice. This literature review gives attention to distributive justice and its impact on employee turnover in organization settings in the UAE.

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Research Question

To what extent is distributive justice playing a mediatory role in minimizing turnover of local employees in UAE organizations?

Importance/Rationale of Research Question

In order for organizations to survive in a competitive marketplace, they need to identify factors that can enhance the performance and job satisfaction of employees. In this respect, organizational justice can play a role in influencing the attitude adopted by employees in the workplace (Fernandes & Awamleh). As stated by Fernandes and Awamleh ( 2006), organizational justice has a significant effect on organizational outcomes. For instance, in scenarios where employees feel they are treated unfairly, they are likely to respond affectively and behaviorally by exhibiting low commitment and high turnover respectively. In the UAE, it is estimated that approximately 85% of the workforce are expatriates. Similarly, the work conditions for the UAE and expatriates appear to vary significantly. In the UAE, the turnover of employees in organizations is termed as high compared to other regions.  The country is still developing its labour and business laws thus the employer has an upper hand in setting the terms of employment. As such, inequalities are bound to arise in matters related to salaries, benefits and workloads (Fernandes & Awamleh). As observed by Al Afari and Abu Elanain (2014) distributive justice entails the fair distribution of job demands and rewards. Such job demands and rewards include, for instance, workloads, promotions and salaries. Subsequently, distributive justice can play a mediatory role in addressing affective (low commitment) and behavioral responses (turnover) pointed out by Fernandes and Awamleh (2006) in the UAE context where the work conditions for locals and expatriates tend to differ significantly.

Theoretical Foundations

Distributive justice plays an important role in ensuring all employees commit themselves to the intended goals of the organization. Distributive justice brings about equality in the organization thus eliminating instances where a group of employees feels they are superior to their colleagues despite belonging in the same job group. The management of organizations has a critical role to play in terms of ensuring that no employee feel disenfranchised and their efforts recognized in an equal manner (Al Afari & Abu Elanain, 2014). Due to the radical nature of today’s global marketplace, organizations in the UAE are informed by the need to seek services of more skilled and experienced workers. As such, Barnett, Malcolm and Toledo (2015) observe that employers and organizations in the UAE are more inclined to hire expatriates in positions they consider important for the organizations’ success in the marketplace.

In the past, a significant number of locals in the UAE were semi-skilled, which offered organizations limited opportunities to achieve their goals in the marketplace. As such, most of the locals only secured clerical and other subordinate roles while expert jobs were reserved for the expatriates who were considered to have vast knowledge and skills to meet the changing demands of the global marketplace. As further observed by Barnett et al. (2015), the number of expatriates in the UAE is more pronounced particularly in the private sector. The UAE as part of the GCC countries has witnessed significant growth over the past decade. However, the rapid developments means there is need for ready talent, which is lacking locally. 

Seeking the services of expatriates meant that organizations had to pay hefty wages. As a result, most firms incurred more costs that impacted negatively on their revenues leading to restructuring processes to remain relevant in the marketplace. Despite the expatriates drawing more resources from the organizations, the locals bore the brunt of losses in terms of being laid off to cut expenses and retain the services of expatriates. While changes have taken place today with more local graduates joining the UAE labor market, their pay packages remains meager to that of the expatriates (Abu Elanain, 2010). For instance, expatriates more than often are offered better incentives by their respective employers compared to local employees. 

In essence, it costs organizations more resources to engage in the process of searching and hiring expatriates. However, through a focus on distributive justice, organizations in UAE can also give opportunities to locals to showcase their talents. For example, the resources used to search and hire qualified expatriates can be used to develop young graduates who have recently joined the labor market. Developing the talents of fresh graduate can provide UAE organization with local pool of employees who possess similar skills sets to those solicited from expatriates (Al Ali, Abu Elanain, & Ajmal, 2016). As such, locals can also seek similar pay packages given to expatriates since they have the same qualifications, skills and experience respectively to meet the desired goals of the organization. 

Distributive justice is influenced by three principles that include equality, proportionality and fairness. In the contemporary UAE, there are a significant number of locals who have attained similar qualifications to those sought from expatriates by organizations. Consequently, they have aspirations of achieving higher goals, but are derailed by organizations that still prefer enlisting the services of expatriates. Due to their resolve, they move from one organization to another in hopes they would recognize their efforts in the same manner that they appreciate expatriates (Abu Elanain, 2009). 

The desire of local employees is to seek equality, proportionality and fairness respectively. In essence, the local employees desire for the same recognition given to expatriates. Instances have often arisen in UAE organizations where local employees are disengaged at work. As much as they would wish to go an extra mile, they point out the need for recognition from their employers in a similar manner to their expatriate contemporaries. The lack of distributive justice in UAE organizations to an extent is still evident in plum positions, which are held by expatriates. On the other hand, embedded traditions is also affecting equality in the workplace since managers still do not trust the capabilities of local employees in demanding positions in the workplace (Tong & Al Awad, 2014). For instance, a significant number of UAE nationals prefer working in family businesses instead of seeking employment elsewhere, which may inform the disinterest by managers of various organizations to recognize efforts of local employees in the workplace. 

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A number of sectors in the UAE economy still rely largely on expatriates, such as the oil sector. Therefore, the continued trend where managers prefer expatriates at the expense of homegrown talent will create a situation in the future where there are more expatriates in the UAE job market, compared to locals who may decide to leave due to lack of opportunities for career growth (Rees, Mamman, & Braik, 2007).Each year, a significant number of UAE nationals leave their jobs due to a number of factors that include low trust, which acts as an impediment for organizations to employ UAE nationals. In addition, inequality is evident in matters related to positions in the workplace and salary respectively. Nepotism, or “wasta,” is also prominent in most of organizations in the UAE. Within the public and private sector, there disparity with regard to job benefits. Such disparities between the public and private sector tend to influence employee turnover from one sector to another in search for better and equitable employee incentives (Tong & Al Awad, 2014). 

In the Gulf region that includes the UAE, the dominance of the workforce by foreign workers appears to persist to date thus contributing significantly to pay differences among employees. As a result, many local workers are increasingly seeking employment in the public compared to the private sector in anticipation of job security. To an extent, globalization is also associated with the upsurge in diversity and inequality in UAE’s organizations. According to Tong and Al Awad (2014), the UAE’s private firms seem to have higher levels of inequality when it comes to wages offered to workforces. In addition, the private firms in the country tend to embrace a hierarchical order where payment of employees’ wages commensurate with their nationalities (Tong & Al Awad, 2014). For instance, expatriates emanating from OECD country are awarded higher salaries in the private sector compared to UAE nationals. 

While UAE nationals working in the private sector rank second after expatriates in terms of pay premiums, other nationals from other parts of the Middle East and Asia are entitled to relatively lower wages compared to expatriates and UAE nationals. With greater advocacy for socially responsible practices in organizations, a focus on distributive justice is important. Distributive justice allows employers and managers of organizations to embrace equality in the distribution of resources and fairness in addressing employee needs and wants (Mohyeldin & Suliman, 2007). 

On the other end of the spectrum, a phenomenon such as globalization has contributed to diversity in organizations. Consequently, the movement of global talent from one destination to another is creating inequalities as organizations are increasingly leaning towards a few employees mostly expatriates while ignoring the majority local workers (Abu Elanain, 2009). Their decision to give attention to global talent is informed by the need to adapt to the radical changes evident today in the international marketplace. As a result, this group of workers are accorded all the privileges and allocated significant resources compared to their local colleagues whose semi skills are not appreciated despite contributing their efforts to achieve the overall goals of their respective organization (Al Afari & Abu Elanain, 2014). In this respect, distributive justice plays a role in enhancing equity, proportionality and fairness for employees regardless of their position in the workplace.

Proposed Theoretical Model

Proposed Theoretical Model

The situation in UAE organizations is that over the years, the needs and wants of expatriates has often been prioritized over those of local employees. Such needs include, for instance, benefits and resources necessary to carry out their tasks. Conversely, the local employees have often experienced a low trust from their senior managers who hold preferences for the skills and experience that expatriates provide their respective organizations. Due to the lack of equality in with regard to employment terms between UAE nationals and expatriates, most of the locals do not last longer than one year in the private sector that absorbs a significant number of expatriates working in the UAE. For instance, some resign out of frustration while others leave in search of employment in the public sector where job security is a possibility compared to the private sector. With an increasing number of fresh graduates entering the job market in the UAE, their aspirations are to secure employment in organizations that can help them to advance their careers (Suliman & Al Kathairi, 2013). However, the large populations of expatriates in the country is impeding on their hopes since most organizations are not prepared to absorb fresh graduates who lack skills and experience on the job. 

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Their decision is informed by the need to channel organizations resources to the expatriates who they trust to improve their prospect in a competitive and globalized business environment. In essence, the inequality or disparity evident on how organizations in UEA serve the interest of one group (expatriates) while ignoring the other group (UEA nationals) is contributing to the high turnover of local employees. Consequently, in order to address the problem, organizations in the UEA while soliciting for the services of expatriates also need to promote local talents in their organizations (Fernandes & Awamleh, 2006). In this regard, a focus on distributive justice can ensure organizations in the UEA to accord local employees the same benefits that expatriates enjoy while working in the UAE.

 Despite the domination of the UAE’s private sector by expatriates, organizations can still create opportunities for the local talent to compete at the same level with their expatriate colleagues. In this sense, organizations’ focus on distributive justice would play a role in ensuring that equality, proportionality and fairness prevails. As such, local employees will have access to better incentives, opportunities for career growth and develop their talent through training. In addition, distributive justice will ensure organizations in UAE give attention to efforts of local employees and prioritize merit in promotions rather than nationalities (Suliman & Al Kathairi, 2013). Overall, a focus on distributive justice by organizations in UAE can play a mediating role in minimizing the number of local employees leaving due to issues such as inequality in employment terms compared to their expatriate colleagues.

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  1. Abu Elanain, H.M. (2009). Job characteristics, work attitudes and behaviors in a non-Western context: Distributive justice as a mediator. Journal of Management Development, 28(5), 457-477. 
  2. Abu Elanain, H.M. (2010). Testing the direct and indirect relationship between organizational justice and work outcomes in a non-Western context of the UAE. Journal of Management Development, 29(1), 5-27.   
  3. Al Afari, T.S., & Abu Elanain, H.M. (2014). Procedural and distributive justice as mediator of the relationship between interactional justice and work outcomes: An empirical study of the UAE public health sector. The Journal of Applied Business Research, 30(4), 1091-1103.
  4. Al Ali, H.A., Abu Elanain, H.M., & Ajmal, M.M. (2016). Knowledge-sharing behaviour as a mediator of the relationship between organisational justice and organisational performance in the UAE. International Journal of Applied Management Science, 8(4), 291-301.
  5. Barnett, A.H., Malcolm, M., & Toledo, H. (2015).Shooting the goose that lays the golden egg: The case of UAE employment policy. Journal of Economic Studies, 42(2), 285-302.
  6. Fernandes, C., & Awamleh, R. (2006). Impact of organisational justice in an expatriate work environment. Management Research News, 29(11), 701-712.
  7. Mohyeldin, A., & Suliman, T. (2007). Links between justice, satisfaction and performance in the workplace: A survey in the UAE and Arabic context. Journal of Management Development, 26(4), 294-311.
  8. Rees, C. J., Mamman, A., & Braik, A. B. (2007). Emiratization as a strategic HRM change initiative: Case study evidence from a UAE petroleum company. The International Journal of Human Resource Management18(1), 33-53. 
  9. Suliman, A., & Al Kathairi, M. (2013). Organizational justice, commitment and performance in developing countries: The case of the UAE. Employee Relations, 35(1), 98-115.   
  10. Tong, Q., & Al Awad, M. (2014). Diversity and wage inequality in the UAE labor market. Journal of Economics & International Business Management, 2(3), 59-72. 
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