As a manager of people, how often have you heard an employee moaning, “It just isn’t fair!?”  More often than you can count? 

Fairness is a tricky skill for a manager to get right as it is a moving target.

You see by its very essence; Fairness has a strong subjective element rooted in how an issue is perceived. Because of the nebulous nature of this attitude assumptions are created which vary from employee-to-employee, from company-to-company, from human-to-human experience.

What’s a manager to do?

Your job, should you accept the assignment, is to create an environment which includes transparency as well as one that cultivates an even playing field for all employees. Such a culture openly communicates corporate policies, promotes constructive feedback, encourages the support of individuals, and provides an impartial appeals process when necessary. It is a focus on right or wrong; and yet, rarely is anything in the workplace all black or white, which is where insightful, sensitive and balanced leadership comes into play.

Fairness doesn’t mean treating everyone equally—that would generate chaos as each of your employees is unique rather it is managing your workforce with an evenhanded perspective.

Tips to guide you along the way: The Human Factor: Research from the Karolinska Institute and Stockholm School of Economics shows our brain has a built-in mechanism that triggers an automatic reaction if someone refuses to share equitably.[i] Your employees are hardwired to want a fair world!

Begin by asking open-ended, “exploring for gold” questions. This practice will assist you in identifying employee beliefs which may be in sync with or contrary to the corporate culture well before confusion erupts in a blow-up. This gap in understanding provides an opportunity for you to address any misalignments, as well as proactively communicate the company’s definition of Fairness.

Change in Reality: As much as you may attempt to bring logic to the Fairness conflict, it won’t work until the other person grasps you realize and appreciate their position. Then, it is your job to create an “Aha” attitude turnaround as it’s hard for anyone locked into a particular point-of-view to accept any decision is fair otherwise.

The Inequality Factor: Unfairness appears to be aroused more in those who are subordinates than those in leadership roles. The cries of unfairness typically originate from employees who feel they have no power to change the situation. Those, who habitually pursue Fairness, are following a pathway leading to resentment, hopelessness, and victimization. The quest for Fairness is often at odds with the leadership mindset companies seek to develop in their environments, so tackling the issue directly, early in the game, and with sensitivity is a must for the greater good of your employees and your business.

Introduce a Solutions Approach: Mentoring each employee to take on a solutions approach has them focusing on what I or together we can do to blow past the challenges standing in the way of creating optimal results. This perspective develops mental muscle preparing your employees to proactively meet business head-on rather than expecting someone higher in the organization to fix the problem. 

It isn’t easy; nothing worthwhile ever is. The reward for your efforts is an employee population who are motivated and more likely to internalize your company’s goals and values. And they’ll be a heck of a lot more fun to work with for you and everyone else!

 

[i] https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/monkey-business-fairness-in-the-workplace/

 

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