Fair process: Striving for justice in family business

  • Van der Heyden L
  • Blondel C
  • Carlock R
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The social science and business literatures on procedural justice or fair process attest that improvements in procedural fairness can be expected to improve both a firm's performance and the commitment and trust of the individuals involved with it. This article examines the relevance of procedural justice for family business. When a family is an influential component of a particular business system, the application of justice is typically rendered more complex than might be the case for nonfamily firms. Different criteria (need, merit, and equality) guide the application of distributive justice among families, firms, and shareholders. This divergence in criterion also lies at the heart of many conflicts inside the family business. In this article, we argue that the application of procedural justice reduces occurrences of conflict and, in some cases, may eliminate conflict altogether. We propose a definition of fair process that extends and enriches the one existing in the literature. We offer five fundamental criteria essential to the effectiveness of fair process in family firms. We conclude with a series of case studies that illustrate typical questions faced inside family businesses. We show that a lack of fairness in the decision and managerial processes governing these businesses and their associated families is a source of conflict. We describe how increasing fair process practices improves the performance of these businesses while also increasing the satisfaction of those associated with them.

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  • Ludo Van der Heyden

  • Christine Blondel

  • Randel S. Carlock

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