J. Service Science & Management, 2010, 3, 281-286
doi:10.4236/jssm.2010.32034 Published Online June 2010 (http://www.SciRP.org/journal/jssm)
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JSSM
How Employees See Their Roles: The Effect of
Interactional Justice and Gender
Naoki Ando1, Satoshi Matsuda2
1Faculty of Business Administration, Hosei University, Tokyo, Japan; 2Faculty of Foreign Studies, The University of Kitakyusyu,
Kitakyusyu, Japan.
Email: nando@hosei.ac.jp, sato6@kitakyu-u.ac.jp
Received January 18th, 2010; revised February 20th, 2010; accepted April 2nd, 2010.
This study examines whether the perceived boundary between in-role and extra-role behaviors varies depending on
workplace conditions, emphasizing how interactional justice influences an employee’s role definitions. We collect data
through a questionnaire survey and adopt Tobit regressions for hypothesis testing. The study results indicate that per-
ceived interactional justice enlarges the breadth of an employee’s role definitions. In addition, the positive impact of
interactional justice on an employee’s role definition is strong when a supervisor-subordinate dyad comprises different
Keywords: Organizational Citizenship Behavior, Role Definition, Interactional Justice, Gender
1. Introduction
Human resource management is especially important for
developing and sustaining competitive advantages in un-
certain and volatile environments. Firms seeking to im-
prove their efficiency and effectiveness need employees
who are willing to exceed their formal job requirements
[1]. An argument leads to the research stream of organ-
izational citizenship behaviors (OCBs). In the growing
body of research on OCBs, researchers assume that every
dimension of OCB is an extra-role behavior for all em-
ployees and that the boundary between extra-role and
in-role behaviors does not depend on workplace condi-
tions. However, some studies question whether or not a
clear conceptual boundary exists between extra-role and
in-role behaviors [1]. In response to this criticism, other
researchers have examined whether a clear boundary
between extra-role and in-role behaviors really exists or
whether the boundary varies across employees [2-4].
They found evidence that a boundary between in-role
and extra-role behaviors varies depending on workplace
conditions and that extra-role behaviors and OCBs are
distinctive constructs [4,5].
In line with the argument that a boundary between
in-role and extra-role behaviors is not stable, this study
contributes to the literature on OCBs through investigat-
ing determinants of employees’ role definitions, empha-
sizing how interactional justice affects employees’ per-
ceptions of in-role/extra-role behaviors. We also examine
how the gender difference in a supervisor-subordinate
dyad works as a moderator of the relationship between
interactional justice and employees’ role definitions.
Previous studies found that procedural justice has a posi-
tive effect on the breadth of employees’ role definitions
[3,6]. In comparison, the path through which interac-
tional justice influences the breadth of employees’ role
definitions has not received much attention from re-
searchers. Thus, this study aims to explore a path through
which interactional justice influences employees’ role
definitions. By providing evidence that employees’ defi-
nitions of their in-role behaviors are influenced by work-
place conditions, this study contributes to the literature
on OCBs.
The following sections briefly review the literature on
the role definitions and then present hypotheses regard-
ing factors that affect the breadth of role definitions. The
subsequent sections explain the analytical method and
present the results, concluding with implications of this
study and suggestions for future research.
2. Literature Review
Previous studies assume that OCBs are extra-role behav-
iors for all employees. Extra-role behaviors are neither
specified in advance by role prescriptions nor sources of
punitive consequences when not performed [7]. Re-
searchers assume that every employee differentiates
in-role from extra-role behaviors in the same manner and
How Employees See Their Roles: The Effect of Interactional Justice and Gender
performs OCBs as extra-role behaviors. But recent stud-
ies report that a perceived boundary between in-role and
extra-role behaviors can vary not only from one em-
ployee to another but also between employees and super-
visors [1,3,6]. For example, Morrison (1994) finds varia-
tions in job definitions not only among employees but
also between employees and supervisors [1]. Further, she
observes that job satisfaction as well as emotional at-
tachment and a sense of loyalty to an organization serve
to enlarge employees’ job definitions. Her results indi-
cate that when employees define their jobs broadly, they
are more likely to engage in behaviors that many studies
consider as extra-role [1]. Similarly, Coyle-Shapiro et al.
(2004) confirm that employees who define their job re-
sponsibilities broadly are more likely to engage in OCBs
[6]. They also find that perceived procedural justice af-
fects mutual commitment, which in turn, influences em-
ployee-defined job breadth. Kamdar et al. (2006) exam-
ine the moderating effect of employees’ personality on
the relationship between procedural justice and role defi-
nitions, finding that employees tend to define their jobs
broadly when they perceive procedural justice [3]. Indi-
vidual differences in personality expand or contract their
role definitions. The authors further show that reciproca-
tion wariness and perspective-taking moderate the rela-
tionship between procedural justice and role definitions.
Similarly to Morrison (1994) and Coyle-Shapiro et al.
(2004), Kamdar et al. (2006) observe that job breadth
positively affects employees’ OCBs and that employees’
perception of procedural justice influences their OCBs
more strongly when their role definitions are narrow
rather than broad.
These studies suggest that job definitions vary among
employees and the boundary between in-role and ex-
tra-role behaviors is neither clearly defined nor stable [1].
Employees may engage in behaviors that the literature
views as extra-role because they consider them to be
in-role [1,2]. In that case, identifying an employee’s
boundary between in-role and extra-role behaviors is
essential, along with enlarging an employee’s role defini-
tions to elicit OCBs and improve organizational effi-
ciency and effectiveness. However, frameworks for un-
derstanding factors that affect the breadth of role defini-
tions are yet to be substantially explored [3]. Researchers
need to investigate how employees themselves define the
breadth of their job responsibilities [1].
3. Hypotheses
The OCB literature proposes social exchange theory as
theoretical ground to explain employees’ OCBs [8,9].
Social exchange generates an expectation of some future
return for contributions, as in the case of economic ex-
change; however, unlike an economic exchange, the ex-
act nature of the return is unspecified in social exchange
[10,11]. While economic exchange occurs on a quid pro
quo basis, social exchange is based on an individual’s
belief that the other party to the exchange will fairly dis-
charge its obligations in the long run [11,12]. Social ex-
change also emphasizes the norms of reciprocity where
the inducement that a party provides engenders a sense of
obligation on the part of the other party [13]. This prompts
reciprocal behaviors that help the first party attain his
goals and the reciprocation maintains and sustains the
exchange relationship [10,14].
The literature argues that organizational justice is a
key determinant of employees’ OCBs [11,15,16]. Justice
theory contends that employees’ work attitudes and be-
haviors depend on the perceived justice of an organiza-
tion’s procedures or a supervisor’s treatment [8,17,18].
While procedural justice pertains to the processes that
lead to decision outcomes [19,20], interactional justice
concerns how an individual is treated while a procedure
is being carried out [19,21-23]. When employees think
they are being treated fairly by their supervisors, they
believe that the supervisor values and respects them as an
organizational member and cares about their well-being
[9,18,23]. They then seek to maintain a cordial relation-
ship with the supervisor or the organization itself and feel
obliged to reciprocate in some fashion. They may recip-
rocate the supervisor or the organization with greater
productivity and higher morale [8]. An alternative man-
ner to reciprocate the supervisor’s fairness might be for
employees to expand their role definitions beyond the
normal requirements [2]. Previous studies showed that
interactional justice is positively related to employees’
OCBs [16]. Employees may engage in OCBs as a result
of their extended definition of in-role behaviors. These
arguments lead to the prediction that employees extend
their role definitions when they receive fair treatment
from their supervisors. Accordingly, we hypothesize:
Hypothesis 1: Interactional justice is positively asso-
ciated with the breadth of an employee’s role definitions.
Gender role theory suggests that employees in an or-
ganization are embedded in culturally rooted expecta-
tions about their gender role [24,25]. Gender may affect
employees’ perception of what they should do in an or-
ganization. External social pressure favors behavior con-
sistent with culturally prescribed gender roles [24,25]. To
obtain legitimacy in an organization embedded in social
pressure, employees may define their in-role behavior in
line with culturally- and socially-expected gender role.
This argument suggests that when a gender difference
exists between a supervisor and a subordinate, the super-
visor’s expectation of the subordinate’s job definition
might be different from the subordinate’s. The inconsis-
tent expectation of job responsibilities may negatively
affect the relationship between a supervisor and a subor-
dinate [26]. In addition, demographic similarity in a su-
pervisor-subordinate dyad relates to cognitive similarity
[26,27]. This suggests that a supervisor-subordinate dyad
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JSSM
How Employees See Their Roles: The Effect of Interactional Justice and Gender283
of the same sex creates a common frame of reference,
resulting in increased interpersonal attraction and com-
munication [26]. Thus, same sex supervisor-subordinate
dyads could enhance the quality of the relationship com-
pared with different sex dyads.
When employees have a good relationship with their
supervisors, they may want to extend their role defini-
tions beyond the requirements formally assigned by their
supervisor as an expression of positive feeling, regardless
of their supervisor’s fair treatment. Their role definitions
will depend less on the supervisor’s fair treatment when a
subordinate and a supervisor are the same gender. In
contrast, when the relationship between a supervisor and
a subordinate is poor due to the difference in gender, the
subordinate’s role definitions may be narrower. In this
case, the supervisor’s actions may have a greater influ-
ence on the subordinate’s decisions on the breadth of role
definitions. Therefore, we hypothesize:
Hypothesis 2: The positive relationship between inter-
actional justice and the breadth of an employee’s role
definitions is stronger when the supervisor and subordi-
nate are different genders.
4. Method
4.1 Data Collection
Participants in this study are undergraduate students at
two public universities in Western Japan. We use a ques-
tionnaire to collect the data for hypothesis testing which
participants completed during class. All the questions
refer to the participants’ current part-time jobs. Those
without part-time jobs are excluded. Three hundred and
seven undergraduate students participated in this study.
The participants’ average age is 20.7 (s.d. = 2.6) and they
have been at their current jobs 11.7 months (s.d. = 10.5).
Among the participants, 118 are male and 189 are female.
T-tests are conducted for several items to examine whether
a significant difference exists between the two universi-
ties; no significant differences were found between the
two groups of participants.
The questionnaire was developed based on a literature
review of related work. To ensure content validity, meas-
urements used in previous studies were adopted and re-
vised where necessary. The questionnaire was written
first in English and then translated into Japanese. To en-
sure construct equivalence and data comparability, a
back-translation procedure was conducted. Pilot studies
were carried out at the two universities, which formed
the basis for modifying the wording of the questionnaire.
4.2 Measures
The dependent variable of this study is the breadth of an
employee’s role definitions. This variable was operation-
alized using the seven items developed by Pearce and
Gregersen (1991) to measure extra-role behavior [28].
Their tool consisted of 10 items but since the participants
in our study are undergraduates with part-time jobs, only
seven items were used. The other three items are related
with tasks not usually required for part-time employees.
Following Coyle-Shapiro et al. (2004), we asked partici-
pants to classify the seven items into two categories [6]:
1) I feel this is part of my work duty and 2) I feel this is
something extra. A proxy for the breadth of role defini-
tions are calculated as a ratio of items classified as 1) to
the total items.
The independent variable of interest is interactional
justice—the way an employee is treated during a proce-
dure [19,21-23]. Interactional justice pertains to whether
supervisors responsible for making a decision treat their
subordinates with respect and dignity [19,21,29]. In this
research, interactional justice is measured by using a
six-item scale adopted from Moorman (1991) [16]. A
five-point Likert scale that ranges from “strongly dis-
agree” (1) to “strongly agree” (5) was used.
Gender difference in a supervisor-subordinate dyad is
a moderator in this study. Participants reported their
gender and their supervisor’s in the questionnaire. Dif-
ferent sex supervisor-subordinate dyads are coded one
and same sex dyads are coded zero.
In addition to the independent variable and the mod-
erator, we control for participants’ length of work at their
current part-time jobs. The log of work duration are cal-
culated and used for this study. Gender of participants is
not controlled for because it is highly correlated with the
dummy variable that represents gender difference in a
supervisor-subordinate dyad.
5. Results
Table 1 shows descriptive statistics and a correlation
matrix. Correlation coefficients in Table 1 are low over-
all. It does not appear that any severe problem of multi-
collinearity is present. To further detect potential multi-
collinearity problem, variance inflation factors (VIF) are
calculated. All VIF scores are much less than 10. Cron-
bach’s alpha for interactional justice shows an acceptable
level of internal consistency [30]. To check for common
method variance derived from the same source in col-
lecting all the data, Harman’s one-factor test is conducted,
whereby all the items in the questionnaire are included in
factor analysis. The result shows that neither a single
factor nor a general factor accounts for the majority of
the covariance of the variables. This result indicates the
absence of a severe common method variance problem.
A Tobit model is used to test the hypotheses because
the dependent variable is a proportion. A Tobit model is
preferred to an ordinary least squares regression (OLS)
analysis when a dependent variable is censored at some
value on the left- and/or right side; OLS can lead to bi-
ased coefficient estimates in such a case [31]. A dou-
ble-censored Tobit model is employed for this empirical
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JSSM
How Employees See Their Roles: The Effect of Interactional Justice and Gender
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JSSM
Table 2 shows the results of Tobit regressions. Model
1 includes an independent variable, a moderator, and a
control variable. As predicted in H1, interactional justice
is positively and significantly associated with employees’
job breadth (p < 0.001). This result supports H1, indicat-
ing that when employees perceive that they receive fair
treatment from their supervisor, they tend to broadly de-
fine their job responsibilities. The result of Model 1 in-
dicates that gender difference in a supervisor-subordinate
dyad itself does not significantly influence employees’
in-role/extra-role boundary. Model 2 adds an interaction
term of interactional justice and gender difference in a
supervisor-subordinate dyad. The result shows that the
interaction term is positively and significantly associated
with employees’ role breadth (p < 0.05). This result sup-
ports H2, implying that when gender of a supervisor and
a subordinate differs, the positive impact of interactional
justice on a subordinate’s role definitions becomes stronger.
6. Discussion
This study explores how employees form a perceived
boundary between in-role and extra-role behaviors. Pre-
vious studies argue that some activities viewed as ex-
tra-role behaviors are likely to be in-role behaviors for
certain groups of employees. The study result supported
our contention that the manner in which a boundary be-
tween in-role and extra-role behaviors is defined is not
common to all employees but varies depending on work-
place conditions. We found that perceived interactional
justice extends the breadth of an employee’s role defini-
tions. In addition to the main effect of this factor, this
study identified a more complex path through which in-
teractional justice influences employees’ role definitions.
The effect of interactional justice is likely to be moder-
ated by gender difference between a supervisor and a
subordinate. When the supervisor-subordinate dyad has
two genders, interactional justice more extends a subor-
dinate’s role definitions compared with a dyad comprised
of the same gender.
Previous studies on determinants of an employee’s
role definitions show that procedural justice enlarges the
breadth of an employee’s job responsibilities [3,32]. As
the results indicate, another component of organizational
justice—interactional justice—is also likely to affect an
employee’s perception of the boundary between in-role
and extra-role behaviors. Along with procedural justice,
it seems that interactional justice is one of the key deter-
minants of the breadth of employees’ role definitions.
Specifically, the effect of perceived interactional justice
increases or decreases depending on gender differences
in a supervisor-subordinate dyad. A supervisor’s actions
play a more important role in enlarging employees’ role
definitions when the relationship between a supervisor
and a subordinate is expected to be poor. When dissimi-
larity in demographic characteristics such as gender is
Table 1. Correlation matrix
Mean S.D. 1 2 3 4
1 Job breadth 0.666 0.231 1
2 Interactional justice 3.416 0.890 0.224 * 1
3 Gender difference 0.547 0.499 0.105 0.052 1
4 Work duration 2.035 1.047 0.007 –0.012 0.045 1
*p < 0.05
Table 2. Result of Tobit regressions
Model 1 Model 2
b S.E. b S.E.
Interactional justice 0.062 0.017 *** 0.024 0.024
Gender difference 0.047 0.030 –0.198 0.118 †
Interactional justice
*Gender difference 0.072 0.034 *
Work duration 0.003 0.014 0.004 0.014
Constant 0.440 0.067 *** 0.565 0.089 ***
Log likelihood –70.877 –68.602
Chi square 16.17 *** 20.72 ***
n 307 307
***p < 0.001 *p < 0.05 †p < 0.10
How Employees See Their Roles: The Effect of Interactional Justice and Gender285
present, a subordinate may have difficulty communicat-
ing with his/her supervisor or may not feel personal at-
traction toward the supervisor, resulting in a poor rela-
tionship. But even in this situation, supervisors can
broaden employees’ role definitions by treating them
fairly and appropriately. When a relationship between a
supervisor and a subordinate is poor, the supervisor’s
interactional justice has a greater effect on enlarging em-
ployees’ role definitions.
Future research may engage in cross-cultural com-
parisons. Using Japanese participants, this study exam-
ines whether the approach to a boundary between in-role
and extra-role behavior as proposed by social exchange
theory is applicable to cultures that are not individualistic.
Although a substantial part of the literature on OCBs is
grounded in social exchange theory, researchers question
the universality of explanations provided by social ex-
change theory for employee attitudes and behaviors [13].
The degree of importance that people place on social
exchanges might vary across cultures; people who see
themselves as connected to others might assign greater
importance to social exchanges than those who see
themselves as distinct from others [8]. Therefore, deter-
minants of role definitions in some cultures probably do
not operate in other cultures. The increasingly global
nature of firms makes it necessary for managers to un-
derstand how determinants of role definitions differ
across cultures.
The results presented here have some limitations. The
use of student participants has, in some cases, been ques-
tioned on grounds of external validity [33,34]. However,
all the participants in this study have experience as
part-time employees and are therefore capable of under-
standing and answering the questionnaire. Moreover, sev-
eral questionnaire items were modified to ensure that the
participants could easily understand them. Future re-
search needs to replicate this study at actual workplaces
by using full-time employees as participants. In addition,
the questionnaire does not verify whether respondents
actually performed tasks they defined as in-role. Previous
studies provide empirical evidence that employees who
broadly defined their job responsibilities tend to engage
in OCBs [1,2]. Therefore, future research should explore
the conditions under which employees who defined
broader job responsibilities actually engage in OCBs.
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