Why Treat People Fair?

Treating people fairly is essential to getting the most out of people. Not only is treating people fair the right thing to do, it makes good business sense.

Even though fairness is very subjective, you should still pay attention to how fair you treat the people in your business. People, by nature, constantly evaluate themselves against the world around them and determine whether or not they are treated fairly. Fair pay, fair performance reviews (if your company participates in this archaic process), fair treatment when mistakes or problems arise, and fair opportunity to advance and grow. As the boss, people look to you when determining whether or not they are being treated fair in these areas. This is important because as soon as someone feels they are not treated fair, they lose focus, underperform, and become dissatisfied.

You may be thinking that there will always be times when someone feels they are not treated fairly. This may be the case, but you still need to pay attention to the overall fairness within your business.  Since everyone views fairness from their own perspective it may seem an impossible task. Not really. But you do need to develop some basic skills in order to be effective at this leadership quality.

1.     The ability to empathize.  Empathy is a critical leadership skill. Since leadership is about relationships and your ability to influence people, empathy is the primary way to connect with people. If you don’t have empathy you will find it very difficult to have a sense of how fairly people feel.

2.     Your own self-awareness. Do you understand yourself and how you appear to others? Do you know what it is like to work for you? When you spend time on you, you will start to have a better understanding of how you appear to others. Sometimes it only takes a subtle change in your own behavior to make people feel that you treat them fairly.

3.     Actively listen. Listening skills seems to always come up on the list of skills that good leaders practice. One way to know when you are listening well is when you can fully understand someone’s concerns but do not completely agree with them. This also helps with learning to empathize. Some of the skills include asking questions, making eye contact, eliminating distractions, and noticing body language. In order to know how people feel and whether or not they feel they are treated fairly, listening is an important skill.

4.     Respsect the people that work for you and with you. Respect is very important to how people feel with regards to fairness. There may be situations that arise that are really unfair. A change in the business might mean people must loose their jobs, for instance. In this case being fair may not be possible, but you can reduce some of the feelings of unfairness by treating people with respect and dignity. Even though the situation seems unfair, people will appreciate the respect you gave them.

5.     Set realistic expectations. When people are tasked with goals that they are unable to reach it automatically creates an unfair situation. As the boss you want to hold people accountable for the goals that were not reached. In fact, you may even feel it is your duty to address shortfalls in goals. Your ego may stop you from admitting that the original goal was unachievable so instead of admitting this you place the blame on someone or some group for the shortfall. People then walk away feeling that they tried their best but still failed and now are held accountable. On the other hand, you don’t want to seem weak by backing off of your original goal. After all, you are the leader and are supposed to be able to galvanize the troops to get things done. If they fall short, so you think, then it must be because of them, not you. But this ego-driven thought process will only make matters worse and lower performance, making future goals harder to achieve. As you set goals remember that there is always a chance the goals will not be met. Don’t set the goals so high that people are bound to fail.

Lack of fairness in your workplace can really affect the performance of everyone who feels they are treated unfairly. At some point they feel they are the victim and this feeling can easily spread to others and create a real problem. Suddenly nothing you do as a leader is enough to squelch the unfair feelings. The workplace becomes toxic and the culture slowly changes until the toxic environment becomes part of the culture.

Take time to work on the skills mentioned above. Listen to and pay attention to all factors affecting people’s ability to reach their goals, especially goals you set for them. You are there as the leader to enable people, not disable them. As they say, “You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. “ You don’t need to walk on eggshells worrying about whether or not everyone feels they are treated fairly. But if you totally ignore fairness then even the most basic “motivation”, money, will not satisfy the people working for you.  Your ability to light a fire in people will be next to impossible.



This article is part of the 6F+2 performance model by The Koza Group.