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New Article: Should financial cutbacks be equal or equitable?

How do two distinct standards of distributive justice -equality and equity – affect resistance to change of public employees during cutback management?

In my new article in International Public Management Journal, I empirically examine this question using a survey experiment (n = 2128) and a longitudinal field study (n = 1571) among civil servants in The Netherlands.

To distribute cutbacks ‘fairly’ seems elementary. But different cutback strategies have different justice implications: A proportional strategy adheres to the standard of equality, but not necessarily equity. A targeted strategy is by definition unequal but can be equitable.

The results of the experiment indicate that both distributive equality and distributive equity negatively affect resistance to change. Controlling for levels of resistance to change one year earlier, the field study shows that distributive equity is negatively related to resistance to change, and that distributive equity partly mediates the relationship between cutback experiences and resistance to change.

By signaling distributive justice, public managers may be able to reduce resistance and maintain the organization’s capacity for change and innovation in times of financial distress.

The article is published open access and can be accessed here: