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Justice, stress and motivation: impact on direct salespeople’s performance

posted on 17.01.2017, 00:38 by Liao, Yung Hsien
Research on organisational justice has been consistently called for from a motivational perspective (Colquitt & Greenberg, 2003; Cropanzano & Rupp, 2003), however, very few empirical studies have been conducted to address these calls. In the non-sales literature, most justice studies have been confined to investigating the effects of justice on job performance only (i.e., motivation was not included). These investigations were further clouded by not including distributive justice (DJ), that is, they focused mostly on examining the effects of procedural justice (PJ) and interactional justice (IJ) on performance (i.e., the effect of DJ was not investigated). In the sales literature, most studies do not differentiate between justice types or are confined to investigating the effect of DJ (or equity/inequity) only (Brashear, Brooks, & Boles, 2004; C. Chang & Dubinsky, 2005). As a result, the strong interaction effect between DJ and PJ documented in the non-sales literature (Brockner & Wiesenfeld, 1996; De Cremer et al., 2010) has not been accounted for in the study of salespeople. More specifically, research has argued that the mediating effect of motivation should be investigated in the relationship between justice and performance, as motivation is considered an antecedent to performance in many conceptual models such as Campbell (1990) and Porter and Lawler (1968). Knowledge of employees’ performance would be incomplete without incorporating motivation and its mediation effect (Colquitt & Greenberg, 2003). By employing the tripartite justice conceptualisation – distributive, procedural and interactional justice, this study investigates the antecedent effect of justice on motivation and on performance, and the mediation effect of motivation in the justice-performance relationship. In so doing, this study links together justice and motivation literature and answers calls for justice to be studied from a motivational perspective. Similarly, research has also called for role stress to be investigated from a motivational perspective (Goolsby, 1992; Singh, 1998) without receiving much empirical attention, this study brings together stress and motivation literature in an empirical framework to address these calls. More specifically, recent research has argued that stress is two-dimensional, that is, there are “good” and “bad” stress (in contrast to the traditional conceptulalisation of one dimensional – stress is bad), which affect performance in different ways. The oversight of motivation as a mediator in the relationship between stress and performance was considered the reason for inconsistent findings documented in the literature as motivation is considered an antecedent to performance in many conceptual models (Halbesleben & Bowler, 2007; LePine, Podsakoff, & LePine, 2005). This study seeks to reconcile these inconsistencies by incorporating role stress in the motivation model. Direct salespeople from six participating companies in Australia were surveyed to answer research questions and to test the integrated research model proposed. 288 valid responses were obtained for the data analysis. Results from the EFA and CFA demonstrated the reliability and construct validity of all measurement instruments to be acceptable. Multiple regression analysis was used to investigate the direct effects of the predictors (i.e., justice and role stress variables) on the outcomes variables (i.e., motivation, satisfaction, performance and commitment). The interaction effect of distributive and procedural justice was examined using procedural justice as a moderator in the relationships between distributive justice and the outcome variables. Structural equation modelling technique was used to examine the mediation effect of motivation in the justice-performance, and in the role stress-performance relationships. Results from these analyses supported most of the hypotheses. Specifically, distributive justice was found to be a strong predictor of salespeople’s motivation, satisfaction and commitment but not performance, and interactional justice was found to be significantly related to performance, satisfaction and commitment but not for motivation. Even though no significant direct effect of distributive justice on performance was observed, the indirect effect via motivation was supported. In addition to the direct effect, interactional justice was found to affect performance indirectly through motivation. While procedural justice, as hypothesised, did not have any significant influence on salespeople’s work outcomes, the interaction effect of distributive justice and procedural justice on commitment was found to be significant. This is consistent with the observation that salespeople are paid and judged by the outcomes, therefore outcomes fairness (distributive justice) becomes more important than procedural and interactional justice in explaining sales outcomes. Role clarity was found to be a strong predictor of salespeople’s motivation, performance and satisfaction (but not commitment). The negative influence of role conflict was found to be significant only on salespeople’s satisfaction and commitment, but not on motivation and performance. As hypothesised, strong mediating effects of motivation was found in the relationship between role clarity and performance and between role conflict and performance. Taken together, this study has contributed to the literature by integrating different streams of research (justice, stress, and motivation theories) in an empirical framework to understand work performance for salespeople. More specifically, this study has demonstrated that the effect of distributive justice (DJ) and interactional justice (IJ) on performance is indirectly through motivation. While most non-sales studies have overlooked (or did not investigate) the effect of DJ on motivation and performance, this study indicates that DJ is equally important in providing explanation, thus, it should not be ignored. The finding of a significant mediating effect of motivation in the IJ-performance relationship has also contributed to justice literature by providing an important piece of empirical evidence to support the conceptual contention that the effect of IJ on performance is indirectly via motivation (Colquitt & Chertkoff, 2002; Zapata-Phelan et al., 2009). These findings have laid more foundation work for research effort to link justice and motivation literature together in understanding work performance. Managerial implications include the following. (1) Salespeople’s compensation should take into consideration the equity principle such as internal-external, and lateral-vertical comparison (i.e., referents of others), as outcomes fairness (DJ) is found to be a salient predictor of sales outcomes. (2) Sales managers should be trained on the knowledge of interactional justice so that they know how to communicate effectively and to treat others with respect and dignity. (3) Training programs should be devised to assist salespeople with having clearer role expectations, and to cope with multi-task requirement in the sales job. All of these are conducive to enhancing salespeople’s motivation, and high motivation is expected to translate into better performance.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Felix Mavondo

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Monash University. Faculty of Business and Economics. Department of Marketing


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Business and Economics