Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Wayne Harrison


The present study was designed to test Folger and Cropanzano’s (1998) Fairness Theory as it pertains to perceptions of fairness and accountability in rejection letters. This study was a partial replication of Gilliland, Groth, Baker, Dew, Polly and Langdon (2001), which examined the impact of Fairness Theory variations in rejection letters on perceptions of fairness, recommendation intentions, and reapplication behavior. Participants in this study were applicants rejected in the first stage of the selection process with a large, Midwest corporation. Perceptions of fairness and accountability were collected after receiving one of four versions of a rejection letter: the company’s standard letter; a Should-reducing letter focusing on the company’s reliable and valid selection processes; a Could-reducing letter detailing the conditions precluding the company from hiring; and a Should-reducing and Could-reducing letter containing both explanations. Thus, a 2.x 2 Should-reducing (explanation versus no explanation) x Could-reducing (explanation versus no explanation) factorial design was used. Participants were e-mailed one of the four rejection letters. One week later, participants were mailed a survey with attitudinal measures of outcome fairness, procedural fairness, interpersonal treatment, and recommendation intentions. The results of this study were expected to support Fairness Theory. The hypotheses suggested that a rejection letter with more information, either detailing a reliable and valid selection process and/or an explanation for the decision, would lead to participants’ higher perceptions of fairness and lower attributions of accountability toward the corporation. However, results revealed no effects of content manipulations, so direct support for Fairness Theory was not obtained. Yet, the significant and negative correlations between accountability and perceptions of fairness, recommendation intentions and overall satisfaction suggest that accountability and fairness are connected. Practical implications from the results are inconclusive, but it would appear based on these data that the specific content of the rejection letter is not a strong factor in the effect of the rejection on the applicant. However, several other factors may be at work, which are discussed.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Psychology and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 2004, Troy A. Romero