Justus quidem tu es, Domine, si disputem tecum; verumtamen
justa loquar ad te: Quare via impiorum prosperatur? &c. (Jerem. xii 1.)
Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
Why do sinners’ ways prosper? and why must
Disappointment all I endeavour end?
Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,
How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost
Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust
Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,
Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes
Now, leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes
Them; birds build – but not I build; no, but strain,
Time’s eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.
Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.
Today at a workshop on management we were presented with four types of perceived justice. The facilitator was of the opinion that there is not really any fairness or real justice in the world although people believe there is. From the point of view of people we manage, therefore, it is important that they perceive our actions as just. To the claim that it is naive of staff or people in general to believe in that the world is fair or just, I would give a qualified yes. I will explain my qualification below.
While she did not use this language, I would argue that all leaders have an ethical obligation to behave in a just fashion. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that justice is a commodity as opposed to an outcome, she framed justice according to four domains.
1. Distributive Justice
2. Procedural Justice
3. Interpersonal Justice
4. Informational justice
Distributive justice refers to the perceived fairness of distribution or allocation of rewards; procedural justice to the perceived fairness of the procedures used to make decisions; interpersonal justice to the respect, sensitivity and other interpersonal dynamics; and informational justice refers to providing people with adequate explanations.
I think that this is a very useful way to frame decision making and I believe that justice is an important value, and indeed is one of the four cardinal virtues and this way of thinking about our activity is indeed a very useful tool when problem solving and communicating. As a virtue, therefore, justice must be something observable in our experience. Granted, it is far easier to see the contrary as Hopkins relays in his poem. Still there is, I believe justice.
The bottom line is that there are often no easy answers to the complexities of life or of leadership. However, that is different than saying that actions do not have to comport with values, such as justice, however illusory they might appear upon observation of human experience.
On a personal note, the poem by Hopkins is one that resonates for me and for many who have lost hope that justice is possible in the world. Certainly, the world as it is needs to be embraced. At the same time our deepest values need to be filled and nurtured. As it is not possible for them to be nurtured in the world, Hopkins asks that "God" nurture it in the deepest part of himself, his deepest roots. And that too, is my prayer.