The Mediation Effect of Psychological Safety on the Relationship Between Interactional Injustice and Innovative Work Behavior

  • Ayca Kubra Hizarci PayneEmail author
  • Alev Katrinli
Living reference work entry


This chapter aims to uncover the role of psychological safety on the relationship between interactional injustice and innovative work behavior. Psychological safety as one of the indicators of psychological well-being can yield positive individual- and organizational-level outcomes. Although a number of studies focused on the antecedents of innovative work behavior, studies that address innovative work behavior through an integrative approach remain scarce. The results of this study show that the interactional injustice perceptions of employees hinder their innovative behavior by diminishing their psychological safety. Thus, this current study denotes the detrimental role of interactional injustice in the psychological safety and discretionary behaviors of individuals.


Employment is an interchange relationship between an employee and an organization (Blau 1964). In the past, according to this relationship, an employee’s mental health was usually ignored. In today’s working environment, the nature of the exchange between the employee and organization has gone through a fundamental change (Cascio 2006; Maguire 2002), since human resources have become one of the crucial resources for firms to gain and maintain a competitive advantage (Tsui et al. 1995). Psychological safety as a reflection of positive emotional states or emotional well-being of employees in an organization can lead to fruitful individual and organizational level outcomes. Organizations can foster employees’ emotional well-being by enabling a working environment where employees can feel psychologically safe. In this vein, organizational justice is one of the factors that can conduce employees’ emotional or psychological well-being through enhancing psychological safety.

Organizations can ensure these types of climates by facilitating the interactional justice perceptions of employees. A workplace that prioritizes positive interpersonal relationships, mutual respect, and kindness can be the main source of positive employee states and behaviors including engagement, satisfaction, and development (Spreitzer et al. 2005). Previous research provided substantial evidence that revealed the role of social exchange relationships between the organization and its employee, as a strong determinant of crucial positive employee behaviors and attitudes, including employee motivation, creativity, organizational commitment, and engagement (Cropanzano et al. 2002; Rupp and Cropanzano 2002; Tekleab et al. 2005). In the extant literature, organizational climate is considered as one of the factors that has had an impact on an individual’s psychological well-being, such as justice, trust, and support (Schmitt and Dörfel 1999; Cassar and Buttigieg 2015; Karatepe 2015). In addition, the high volatility of job requirements in organizations increased the need for positive organizational behaviors, in order to adapt to rapid changings (Luthans 2002). In particular, justice perceptions have been a concern for employees (Colquitt et al. 2013). Organizational justice is the term that refers to the perceived fairness of the employees about their organizations (James 1993). The first studies on the concept of organizational justice date back to the early 1960s (Adams 1963, 1965). Since then, interest in the concept has gradually increased. Over time, organizational justice has been recognized as one of the performance-boosting instruments for organizations, as it is related to personnel well-being (Greenberg 1990). Justice is considered as a favorable organizational climate that provides an environment for employees to express themselves freely under no pressure. Thereby, justice provides employees to feel themselves psychologically safe, which, in turn, can increase both their personal well-being and performance (Baer and Frese 2003; Brown and Leigh 1996; Kahn 1990). However, compared to procedural and distributive justice, interactional justice is considered to have stronger effects on individuals’ emotions, attitudes, and behavior (Cropanzano et al. 2002; Bies 2005; Cropanzano and Ambrose 2001). Since the extant literature fails to provide an integrative approach to the psychological experiences of individuals and their effects on employee behavior, this present study aims to address the mediation effect of psychological safety on the relationship between interactional injustice and innovative working behavior. The structure of the paper is as follows: The theoretical background is built on the extant literature, by providing a comprehensive understanding of the concepts, which is followed by the research design of the study. In the findings and discussion section, the contributions, implications, and limitations of the study are addressed.

Literature Review

Interactional Injustice and Innovative Work Behavior

According to Podsakoff and MacKenzie (1997), employees’ positive work behaviors are one of the sources that constitute an organization’s competitive advantage, which ignited the interest of the researchers and practitioners to unveil the motivational basis of those discretionary and positive work behaviors (Aryee et al. 2002). Social exchange theory is considered to be one of the most influential and widely used theories focused on examining workplace behavior (Cropanzano and Mitchell 2005). Individuals engage in social exchanges that are composed of interdependent and contingent interactions (Emerson 1976; Blau 1964; Gouldner 1960). According to social exchange theory, through these interdependent interactions, individuals can build strong relationships under certain situations. In the early times of social exchange theory, fairness perceptions were based on material self-interest; however, as the theory has evolved over time, contemporary research includes interpersonal relationships (Cropanzano and Mitchell 2005). Social exchange theory suggests that interpersonal relationships are based on “a norm of reciprocity” that creates an obligation for the counterpart to respond (Gouldner 1960). Based on the study of Blau (1964), scholars asserted that there are two types of relationships in the workplace. Those two types are “economic and social relationships.” The form of social exchange relationships is different from economic exchange relationships. Economic exchange relationships include the exchange of material resources, whereas social exchange relationships are based on intangible resources, such as emotions and behaviors. In social exchanges, the contributions that are made by two parties are not as specific or clear as those relationships, although in economic exchanges the contributions have a standard measuring. Economic exchanges are usually short-term relations, while social exchanges are long-term relationships, in which parties can make sacrifices for each other. Social exchange relations are built on reciprocal obligations. In a social exchange, the experience of two parties sets their type of reciprocity. If the experience is negative, then the response will be negative; if positive, then the response will be in a positive manner (positive and negative reciprocity). Social exchange theory is considered to enable insights into the reactions of employees toward their perception of organizational justice (Masterson et al. 2000); since it is one of the aspects of social exchange relationships (Moorman 1991), as individuals build their justice perception based on their interpersonal relationships within their organization, each part has obligations toward each other (Bishop et al. 2000). Based on the consequences of those relationships, individuals can increase or decrease their constructive behaviors and performance (Wayne et al. 2002).

Scholars in management have devoted a great deal of effort toward organizational justice, as it holds numerous practical implications both for individuals and organizations (Rupp and Cropanzano 2002; Cropanzano et al. 2017). There is substantial research that shows the role of fairness perceptions in shaping employee emotion, attitude, and behavior (Masterson et al. 2000). Organizational justice has been proven to be a predictor of positive and engaged behavior (Colquitt et al. 2001; Lavelle et al. 2007). Organizational justice has its roots in Stacey Adams’ Equity Theory (1965), in which perceived fairness of outcomes influences motivation and the performance of employees. Following Adams, new dimensions about perceived justice and the significance of its impacts on organizational outcomes have been investigated and have led to the assumption that organizational justice is a basic requirement for the successful operation of organizations and the well-being of workers (Colquitt et al. 2001; Greenberg 1990). The term justice refers to “the allocation of resources and rewards” (Notz and Starke 1987). As a multifacet concept, organizational justice consists of three dimensions including distributive, procedural, and interactional justice (Colquitt and Greenberg 2003). Distributive justice is the perceived fairness of employees toward the allocation and distribution of rewards and resources and is mostly about tangible outcomes (Folger and Konovsky 1989). Individuals determine distributive justice by assessing costs and rewards and then comparing these costs to rewards of other employees in their organizations (Adams 1965). Distributive justice was the first type of justice that was identified (Byrne and Cropanzano 2001; Cropanzano et al. 2002). However, the empirical results regarding distributive justice have shown inconsistency. Research started to indicate that employees are not only influenced by the amount of outcomes but also the procedures that are used to determine the allocation and distribution of the rewards or outcomes, which was later called procedural justice (Kuhn 1970; Cropanzano and Ambrose 2015; Bies 2015). Procedural justice focuses on assessing the fairness of processes by which allocation and distribution decisions are made (Thibaut and Walker 1975). When individuals regard decision-making procedures as accurate, unbiased, consistent, and fair, this means that their evaluation of the procedural justice in the organization is high (Colquitt and Greenberg 2003). Research has suggested that procedural justice is usually based on the individuals’ perception of institutional characteristics (Folger and Konovsky 1989; Thibaut and Walker 1975). The last dimension is interactional justice that reflects the perceived fairness of how managers and decision-makers relate with and treat their subordinates. It demonstrates the sensitivity and consideration of managers or supervisors in terms of being respectful, kind, and polite toward their employees (Bies and Moag 1986). In addition, it reflects the extent that subordinates are provided with information and reasoning about decisions that are made by their organization (Skarlicki and Folger 1997). The reactions toward distributive justice are strongly based on the outcomes rather than the organization; however, procedural and interactional justice are based on the reactions toward the organization or supervisor (Taylor et al. 1995; Korsgaard et al. 1996; Sweeney and McFarlin 1997). Previous research showed that organizational justice is an enabler for understanding employees’ attitudes, their behaviors, and job outcomes (Khan et al. 2015; Cropanzano et al. 2007; Niehoff and Moorman 1993; Moorman et al. 1993; Bakhshi et al. 2009; Lambert et al. 2007; Moon et al. 2008; Janssen 2004; Gupta and Singh 2015; Pan et al. 2018; Camerman et al. 2007). However, a meta-analytical review showed that different types of justice perceptions can yield different results (Colquitt et al. 2013). While procedural and distributive justice were found as the strongest determinants of employee behavior, interactional justice was found as one of the predictors of negative emotions and reactions including turnover intention, trust, and commitment. Compared to procedural and distributive justice, interactional justice is considered to have stronger effects on individuals’ emotions, attitudes, and behavior (Cropanzano et al. 2002; Bies 2005; Cropanzano and Ambrose 2001).

Interactional justice reflects the extent that supervisors are sincere, open, and sensitive to their subordinates and treat them in a respectful and kind way. When employees are treated with dignity and respect, they perceived it as a fair interpersonal interaction. Perceived interactional injustice can cause employees to feel not being championed or worthless and decrease their positive organizational behavior, since interactional justice can affect their motivation to engage in discretionary behaviors (Bies and Shapiro 1987; Tyler and Bies 1990; Simmons 2011).

Cropanzano and Ambrose (2001) asserted that justice reflects the economic and socio-emotional expectations of individuals. In summary, individuals make their justice judgments based on the economic and socio-emotional outcomes. From the justice and social exchange theory point of views, fairness within an organization can develop closer social exchange relationships. Those reciprocal social exchange relationships make employees repay the workplace fairness. Therefore, social exchange is an initiator for employees building on the organizations’ fair treatment, which creates an obligation for the employees to reciprocate. In a fair workplace, individuals are treated fairly and show better performance and discretionary behaviors that can also foster organizational performance (Moorman 1991; Bakhshi et al. 2009; Greenberg 1987, 1990; Cohen-Charash and Spector 2001). Individuals are more apt to work in organizations, which support moral and ethical standards, rather than those that do not provide this climate. However, in an unfair work environment, employees are likely to engage in counterproductive work behaviors (Colquitt et al. 2001; Cropanzano et al. 2001).

Based on the social exchange perspective, employees who are treated in a favorable manner with respect and dignity will be motivated to perform beyond their job requirements, motivated to create, innovate, generate new ideas, and display discretionary behaviors; this notion has been supported by prior research (Masterson et al. 2000, Agarwal 2014; Young 2012; Janssen 2001, 2004; Macey et al. 2011; Simmons 2011, Fassina et al. 2008). Thus, the exhibition of discretionary behaviors is associated with the social exchange between the individual and the organization, including innovative work behavior (Agarwal 2014; Agarwal and Bhargava 2014). Innovative work behavior is the reciprocity that an employee pays back to the organization or the manager in return for favorable treatment (Janssen 2000). In addition, while positive reciprocities are met, employees will be more willing to put in more effort and do more creative and innovative work. On the contrary, if the expectations are not met and reciprocity and interaction become negative, then the social exchange will be interrupted. Therefore, when employees receive unfair treatment from their organization or manager, they will tend to quit exhibiting discretionary behaviors in order to repay the unfair behavior (Rupp and Cropanzano 2002; Organ 1988; Moorman 1991; Organ and Konovsky 1989; Karriker and Williams 2009; Gregory et al. 2013; Organ and Ryan 1995). Innovative work behavior is defined as “an employee’s intention to generate, promote, realize new ideas in an organization (Janssen and Van Yperen 2004: 370). Innovative work behavior is a positive or discretionary work behavior, in which employees do work beyond their job requirements (Janssen 2000). Innovative work behavior is widely considered to be important, and those discretionary behaviors are seen as a competitive advantage for organizations (Podsakoff and MacKenzie 1997; Shalley 1995; Woodman et al. 1993),

Interactional justice assures that employees will be treated with dignity and respect although their innovative ideas or actions fail (George and Zhou 2007). When individuals are innovative and creative, they are willing to accept the risk of failure. In addition, interactional justice provides an appropriate climate for employees to view risk-taking behaviors worthy (Zhou and George 2001). Interactional justice is more about the extent that managers or supervisors can ignite creativity and innovative work behavior, more than other types of justice. This is due to it being based on supervisor treatment, rather than organizational systems (Bies 2005), which can affect individuals’ willingness to engage in innovative work behavior and taking risks.

Based on the previous research and social exchange theory, it can be hypothesized that:

H1: Interactional injustice has a negative effect on innovative work behavior.

Interactional Injustice and Psychological Safety

Psychological safety as an indicator of emotional well-being is the perception of individuals and reflects the employees’ ability to express themselves and share their ideas freely with no fear of negative results, regarding their reputation or career within their organization (Kahn 1990). Psychological safety has its roots in social interactions that are certain and consistent. In the literature, psychological safety was analyzed with numerous antecedents; however, its importance still needs to be uncovered (Frazier et al. 2017). Frazier et al. (2017) showed that psychological safety has the potential to influence important organizational outcomes including engagement, knowledge sharing, commitment, etc. Therefore, it is important to unveil the factors affecting psychological safety. Organizational justice is an important factor since it constitutes the appropriate ground for psychological safety to emerge (Macey et al. 2011). Employees perceive their organizations as psychologically safe, if they receive fair treatment within their organizations. When the organization is perceived as fair, the employees are willing to engage in their job with no fear of failure and losing resources. As interactional justice facilitates a supportive and trustful environment, employees’ feelings of safety increase (May et al. 2004; Castellano 2013). Particularly, as relationships with supervisors and managers constitute the interactional justice perception, it also has the potential to affect the employees’ perception of what is safe (Walumbwa and Schaubroeck 2009). According to Edmondson (1999), psychological safety is the description of a climate in which trust, mutual respect, freedom of expressing concerns, and different and new ideas exist. In this vein, interactional justice is important to remove the barriers that usually discourage employees to speak about their concerns and problems. For organizations that are characterized with high psychological safety, interactional justice is the tool for managers to improve communication actively in mutual respect that is accomplished by guaranteeing that no one will be punished or experience any negative consequences, individually or as a unit, as a result of voicing their concerns.

In this respect, interaction with subordinates in an open and transparent way by not damaging their dignity and improving trust and respect will result in a climate with high psychological safety. Interactional justice reflects the relational transparency within an organization, where trust and respect are the main mechanisms in building interpersonal relationships. Under the conditions of interactional justice, individuals experience higher psychological safety and feel comfortable to propose conflicting or challenging ideas with no fear of losing resources (Avolio et al. 2004; Rego et al. 2007, 2012). On the other hand, injustice perceptions will cause employees to avoid asking for help, be unwilling to admit mistakes, and be unlikely to share ideas in order to get feedback, all of which are a potential threat for them, and in such organizations, employees are unwilling to show discretionary behaviors (MacDuffie 1997).

Based on the extant literature, the hypothesis developed is as follows:

H2: Interactional injustice decreases the level of psychological safety.

Psychological Safety and Innovative Work Behavior

In the past, employees were expected to isolate their emotions while working, whereas today emotional fitness is considered to be a source for a healthy society and employee well-being (Cartwright and Holmes 2006; Spell and Arnold 2007). Therefore, scholars in management showed a great deal of interest in understanding the role of emotions in the workplace (Salovey and Mayer 1990; Mayer and Salovey 2007; Goleman et al. 2013). In particular, while negative emotions can lead to both individual- and organizational-level negative consequences (Cole et al. 2010; Quebbeman and Rozell 2002; Fischer and Sousa-Poza 2009; Fox and Spector 1999), psychological well-being yields positive consequences (Cropanzano and Wright 2001). In this vein, positive psychology started to put great emphasis on the characteristics of the conditions that affect employees’ positive emotional states and experiences (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi 2000; Avey et al. 2008; Luthans et al. 2007, 2008). A workplace, which prioritizes positive interpersonal relationships, is viewed as the main source of positive employee states and behaviors including engagement, satisfaction, and development (Dutton and Heaphy 2003; Quinn 2007; Spreitzer et al. 2005). Edmondson (2004) suggested that psychological safety ensures a safe environment for employees, in which they feel free to develop and express new ideas, explore new ways, and engage in innovative and creative behavior. For example, Baer and Frese (2003) found that psychological safety improves process innovations. Although they did not address psychological safety at the individual level, their findings can be a sign of the role of psychological safety in engaging innovative work behavior. Psychological safety has its roots in the study of Schein and Bennis (1965), who asserted that it is important for employees to feel safe and be ready for changes. As a social contextual factor, psychological safety shows the extent that employees can express and share their opinions and take risk or initiatives without any feeling of threat for reputational harm, self-image, and career status within their organization (Edmondson 1999, 2004; Edmondson et al. 2001; Brown and Leigh 1996). In addition, psychological safety provides climate for individuals, in which they will not be ridiculed or punished for expressing their feelings and opinions to their managers or supervisors. This confidence boosts the deployment of knowledge, which, in turn, increases innovation activities engaged within the organization (Baer and Frese 2003; Kark and Carmeli 2009). Psychological safety allows employees to take personal risks and facilitates their learning and creative behaviors in their workplace (Kahn 1990; Edmondson 1999; Rego et al. 2012), all of which are the important ingredients of innovative work behavior. Brown and Leigh (1996) found that perceived psychological safety could increase job involvement and performance. Psychological safety ensures a climate in which employees can engage in open and trustful interactions so they can share their opinions, without the fear of being punished or humiliated (West 1990). Employees working in such an environment can take initiatives by proposing, promoting, and presenting their new ideas and at the same time, enhance their learning, which are important in fostering the potential for creative and innovative work behavior. Organizations that provide psychological safety can perform better, as it builds the potential mechanisms for innovations for which employees need to work collaboratively. Assurance of psychological safety is not only important on only an individual-level, but it is also considered to be at team- and organizational-level outcomes (Thamhain 2003; Baer and Frese 2003; May et al. 2004; Janssen 2004). Empirical studies show that organizations with high levels of psychological safety promote innovativeness as it increases creativity, learning, and engagement (Lyu 2016; Edmondson 1999; West and Andersen 1996). In addition, empirical studies suggest that encouraging employees to take risks will increase their motivation to take initiative, which, in turn, results in showing discretionary behaviors and engaging innovative actions (Amabile and Gryskiewicz 1989; Morrison and Phelps 1999; Miron et al. 2004).

Psychological safety as a social resource is the indication of the level of trust within an organization can promote knowledge sharing, creativity, and innovative work behavior (Mayer et al. 1995; Edmondson 1999; Parzefall et al. 2008; Gong et al. 2012). In this vein, it can be suggested that employee self-confidence is also facilitated by psychological safety, and this happens to be another important ingredient of innovative work behavior (Edmondson 1999; Amabile et al. 1996). Moreover, emotions are considered to affect employee attitudes and behavior (Barsade and Gibson 2007). Thus, as psychological safety indicates the positive social interactions within an organization by which employees generate positive emotions, it also in turn increases their willingness to engage in discretionary behaviors including innovative work behavior (Heaphy and Dutton 2008; Kark and Carmeli 2009). An organization characterized with psychological safety can boost employees’ physical and mental strength, which, in turn, will drive them to be more engaged, since they will be sure that any mistakes that they make will not be held against them in regard to interpersonal treatment or career positions (Baer and Frese 2003). As innovative behaviors are inherently risky, employees perceive them as uncertain and having a big potential to fail; however, psychological safety motivates employees to share their ideas openly and make improvements, develop themselves, and overcome the adversity of the potential failures, by removing the concerns regarding negative reactions (George and Zhou 2007; Gong et al. 2012; Grant and Ashford 2008; Kessel et al. 2012). In an organization with low levels of psychological safety, employees’ perception of uncertainty, fear of being rejected, and fear of being labeled a deviant are high. This causes them to consider their organization unsupportive and also makes the employee unwilling to engage discretionary behaviors. In particular, novel ideas and inventions harbor high levels of ambiguity and risk of failure and also have a high potential of mistakes that inhibits arriving at the target. An employee with innovative work behavior can experience negative emotional states when his or her attempt fails in a low psychologically safe workplace, such as a decrease in respect or reputation, delays in promotion, humiliation, and embarrassment. Employee engagement in innovative work behavior will be hindered in a working environment that fails to ensure psychological safety, since employees will be unwilling or reluctant to engage in such discretionary behaviors. As can be understood, psychological safety constitutes the fundamental characteristics of an organization which can strongly affect employees’ willingness and ability to learn and adapt to changes and tendency to engage in discretionary behaviors (Edmondson 2004; Argyris 1982).

In light of the literature, the hypothesis developed is as follows:

H3: Psychological safety has a positive effect on innovative work behavior.

The Relationship Between Interactional Injustice and Innovative Work Behavior: The Mediation Effect of Psychological Safety

Interactional justice assures an environment where employees are treated with dignity and kindness (Bies and Moag 1986). Workplace climates with a high level of safety are a source for individuals to engage in discretionary behaviors (May et al. 2004). Displaying interactional justice can promote knowledge sharing, creativity, and innovative work behavior. However, if an employee perceives a threat of losing resources, this perception will discourage him or her to engage in discretionary behaviors (Argyris 1982; Gong et al. 2012). Psychological safety and interactional justice have been considered as important drivers of discretionary behaviors (Macey et al. 2011; Lyu 2016; Kessel et al. 2012). Employees tend to engage in innovative behaviors when they feel that they will not suffer or be punished if their innovative actions fail or be embarrassed due to their new ideas. As innovations are highly risky, an employee working in an organization with low psychological safety will not be willing to engage this kind of behavior. Conversely, psychological safety decreases the emergence of negative emotions regarding the failure (Barsky and Kaplan 2007). Employees who work in psychologically unsafe workplaces will be reluctant to engage in innovative work behavior.

Furthermore, risk perception emerges when an employee has a new idea, and there is a high level of uncertainty regarding the supervisors’ reaction to that idea and the consequences of it. Based on the proposition of Edmondson (1999), the extent that employees feel themselves psychologically safe increases their risk-taking willingness, creativity, and innovative work behavior. A supervisor’s or manager’s respect and sensitivity toward employees allows them to discuss problems openly and promote their ideas, which, in turn, increases their willingness to take risk and accompanies innovativeness. Furthermore, employees will be confident about their ideas and will not be subject to any humiliation, underestimation or ridicule, and also trust that their supervisor will not exhibit disrespectful and threating behavior. Therefore, interactional justice provides a psychologically safe environment for employees to share their knowledge, be creative, and promote innovative ideas.

After reviewing the literature, it can be hypothesized that:

H4: Psychological safety mediates the relationship between interactional injustice and innovative work behavior.


Sample and Data Collection

In order to test the hypothesized relationships, participants who have a full-time job were recruited through the online data collection service MTurk, which is an online labor market for the collection of data and is a service of Amazon (Paolacci and Chandler 2014). Particularly, a person can register as a requestor or a worker. Requestors are task creators, and workers are paid to complete any given task. A requester can choose any category of workers for data collection (Buhrmester et al. 2011). In this study, each worker was paid $0.60 in return for completing the survey. MTurk, as a data collection tool, is considered to be useful and efficient (Buhrmester et al. 2011; Mason and Suri 2012). In the online survey, quality control questions were used to reveal the participants that did not pay the required attention to complete the survey (Oppenheimer et al. 2009); however, this study does not suffer from this problem. In total, 141 full-time workers completed the survey. 78 of the participants were female (53.8%) and 67 of them were male (46.2%). The mean age is 35.8 (SD: 8.912. Max: 64, Min: 19). Education level of the participants shows that 35 of the participants (22%) have a high school degree, 83 of them have a college or university degree (58.9%), and the rest of the participants 27 (19.1%) have a postgraduate degree.

Measurement Model

Reliability scores of the scales are higher than 0.80, which shows that there is no reliability concern for this study (Nunnally 1982). The factor loadings, composite reliability, and average variance extracted values were examined for convergent validity of the constructs (Anderson and Gerbing 1988; Fornell and Larcker 1981). The item loadings of the constructs were found to be significant and higher than 0.50 (Hair et al. 2016). Average variance extracted (AVE) values of the variables were higher than 0.50, which indicates that convergent validity has been met in this study (Anderson and Gerbing 1988; Fornell and Larcker 1981). Moreover, the constructs’ composite reliabilities are higher than 0.70 (Hair et al. 2016; Fornell and Lacker 1981). The discriminant validity is not a concern for this study, since the values of the square root of AVE values are higher than the correlations (Fornell and Larcker 1981). In order to test the degree of multicollinearity, the variance inflation factor values were analyzed, and according to the results, the VIF values are lower than 5 (Henseler et al. 2009); then the constructs are not highly correlated. A confirmatory factor analysis was made, in order to analyze the model. The model showed a good data fit with the values of a three-factor model (χ2 = 451.9, df = 227, χ2/df = 1.91, NFI = 0.824, CFI = 0.92, RMSEA = 0.079), which indicates that the participants were able to distinguish the constructs from each other:
  • Innovative Work Behavior: Innovative work behavior was measured with the 9-item scale developed by Janssen (2001). The scale has three subdimensions that are idea generation, idea promotion, and idea realization (e.g., I create new ideas for difficult issues, I mobilize support for innovative ideas, I search out new working methods, techniques, or instruments). All items were measured on a 5-Likert scale that ranges from never to always. (The reliability of the scale; α = 0.888)

  • Interactional Injustice. Interactional injustice was measured by using the 9-item scale developed by Niehoff and Moorman (1993). Ratings were completed on a 5-point scale that ranges from strongly disagree to strongly agree (e.g., My manager doesn’t treat me with kindness and consideration; When decisions are made about my job, my manager treats me with respect and dignity; When decisions are made about my job, my manager deals with me in a truthful manner). The items were measured on a 5-Likert scale. (The reliability of the scale; α = 0.953)

  • Psychological Safety: Psychological safety was measured with the 5-item scale adopted from Liang et al. (2012). The items are measured on a 5-Likert scale and one of them was a reverse coded question. (In my work unit, I can express my true feelings regarding my job, In my work unit, I can freely express my thoughts, I’m worried that expressing true thoughts in my workplace would do harm to myself (reverse-coded). (The reliability of the scale; α = 0.801)

Analytical Strategy

In this study, the analytical approach of Preacher and Hayes (2008) was followed to test the hypotheses. Bootstrapping was used to measure the significance level of the indirect effect of interactional injustice on innovative work behavior (Preacher and Hayes 2008). Scholars consider that bootstrapping is better than the Sobel test, since it does not make any assumption about the distribution normality of the related indirect effect (Preacher and Hayes 2008; Preacher et al. 2007). With bootstrapping, the indirect effects are measured based on confidence intervals (Preacher and Hayes 2008), and in this study, 5000 samples were bootstrapped while performing the analysis.


Descriptive results are shown in Table 1. As expected, the interactional injustice is negatively and significantly correlated with both psychological safety and innovative work behavior. In addition, there is a positive correlation between innovative work behavior and psychological safety. Results show that all of the hypotheses are supported (see Table 2). The effect of interactional injustice on psychological safety and innovative work behavior is significant and negative. According to the results, psychological safety mediates the relationship between interactional injustice and innovative work behavior. The indirect effect of interactional injustice over psychological safety was found as −0.1478 within a confidence interval of −0.325 and −0.0058 (95% bias-corrected intervals). Since the confidence interval does not include zero, the indirect effect is statistically significant (p < 0.05). Model 1 indicates the effect of interactional injustice on psychological safety. In Model 2, the outcome of the model is innovative work behavior. When psychological safety interacts with innovative work behavior simultaneously with interactional injustice, the direct effect of interactional justice reduces. That is a sign of mediation effect; however, as the direct and indirect effects are both significant, the mediation is partial.
Table 1

Descriptive statistics







1. Interactional injustice





2. Psychological safety






3. Innovative work behavior






**Correlations are significant at 0.01 level (2-tailed), N = 141

Table 2

Direct and indirect effects








Interactional injustice ➔ psychological safety (model 1)






Interactional injustice ➔ innovative work behavior (model 2)






Psychological safety ➔ innovative work behavior (model 2)





Bootstrapping results for indirect effect

H4 ✓ indirect effects of interactional injustice on IWB through PS






Findings and Discussion

Today’s highly dynamic and volatile environments led to the rise of non-stop improvements through continuous learning and innovation that are vital for organizational adaptation and survival. However, these processes are not developed only in one unit; they are built cooperatively with the engagement of different levels of the organization. The development of these processes requires employees with psychological well-being and a psychologically safe environment, where individuals can speak up and work collaboratively in mutual respect. In turn, employees can be expected to be engaged in more discretionary behaviors by taking risks and put more effort into their work. In this study, the role of psychological safety on the relationship between interactional injustice and innovative work behavior is analyzed. While interactional injustice decreases the level of psychological safety and innovative work behavior, psychological safety has a boosting effect on innovative work behavior. The fairness perceptions of employees can significantly affect the extent that they are free to share their ideas or concerns, which hinders them from engaging in innovative work behavior. The relationships with managers or supervisors reside in psychological safety, which is considered a social resource (Losada and Heaphy 2004). These social resources create a supportive base for employees to increase their positive feelings and psychological well-being and to engage in discretionary behaviors. Positive interpersonal relationships in a workplace can increase employees’ positive moods by increasing their psychological safety. Since low levels of psychological safety can create stress and negative emotions, it can detriment psychological well-being of employees.

In this sense, it is important to provide a workplace for employees, where they can find fairness through which they can experience psychological safety, which, in turn, will increase their psychological wellbeing and positive organizational behaviors. The results of this study are in accordance with the literature (e.g., May et al. 2004). Through ensuring interactional justice and psychological safety, the innovative behavior of employees can be increased. As innovations are risky, employees should be in an interactional just and psychologically safe climate, in order to find the motivation and confidence in themselves to engage in these kinds of risky actions. This study is the first study that integrates the interactional injustice perception of employees, with their psychological safety and innovative work behavior. Therefore, this study fulfilled a gap in the literature by addressing three important issues.


Psychological safety as an indicator of positive emotional states and the psychological well-being of the workplace can yield individual- and organizational-level consequences. Organizations should maintain an organizational climate with the interactional justice in order to enhance psychological safety. Organizations that prioritize positive interpersonal relationships, mutual respect, and kindness can be the main source of employee well-being and behaviors including engagement, satisfaction, and psychological well-being (Spreitzer et al. 2005).

Organizations should put great emphasis on building a strong interactional justice mindset, which can assure a psychologically safe environment. Psychological safety can boost not only the individual positive state but also their discretionary behaviors including creativity, learning, and innovative work behavior. Therefore, organizations and supervisors should put great emphasis on building relationships based on justice and providing a psychologically safe environment for employees, which, in turn, will benefit both parties.



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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of BusinessDokuz Eylul UniversityIzmirTurkey

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