T&D: Being Fair Is Darn Difficult

Which Is Fairly Obvious If You’ve Been a Manager For Any Length of Time

And sometimes it may be near impossible.

Regardless – there are consequences for the failure to be fair.


Here are some interesting quotes from several articles you can follow up with online…

Why It’s So Hard to Be Fair

From: https://hbr.org/2006/03/why-its-so-hard-to-be-fair

The Business Case for Fair Process

Ultimately, each employee decides for him or herself whether a decision has been made fairly. But broadly speaking, there are three drivers of process fairness. One is how much input employees believe they have in the decision-making process: Are their opinions requested and given serious consideration? Another is how employees believe decisions are made and implemented: Are they consistent? Are they based on accurate information? Can mistakes be corrected? Are the personal biases of the decision maker minimized? Is ample advance notice given? Is the decision process transparent? The third factor is how managers behave: Do they explain why a decision was made? Do they treat employees respectfully, actively listening to their concerns and empathizing with their points of view?

Why Should Managers Care about Being Fair?

From: http://www.ioatwork.com/why-should-managers-care-about-being-fair/

Organizational justice, or how fairly an organization treats its workers, is a big deal to employees. To an individual employee, organizational justice helps determine his or her attitude about the job and as well as his or her productivity. But this perception doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Because this perception is often shared with co-workers and team members, called justice climate, Whitman and his co-authors conducted a meta-analysis to summarize and clarify how organizational justice climate exists at the team (unit) level and can influence team effectiveness.

Being an ambiguous term in itself, Whitman et al. defined effectiveness as having four main parts: attitudes (e.g., job satisfaction), processes (e.g., citizenship), withdrawal (e.g., turnover), and performance (e.g., profit). They predicted that a more positive justice climate at the team-level means that workers would be able to trust their leaders to a greater extent, which would result in the team achieving more group goals. The authors also predicted that the different parts of organizational justice, distributive (i.e., how fair rewards are to input), procedural (i.e., how fair company policies are), and interactional (i.e., how fair workers are treated interpersonally by their managers), would be related to the components of effectiveness in different ways.

Using 37 studies that totaled 4,600 teams (units) with 11 employees per team on average, the authors discovered that the mean-corrected correlation between justice climate and effectiveness was .40—this means that how fair the team perceives the organization to be overall, the more likely they are to be effective. As for the separate pieces of organizational justice, the authors found that distributive justice has a stronger relationship (than the other two justice climate types) to both performance and attitudes. This means that the rewards have to be judged as fair when compared to the work performed by the team. Procedural justice had the strongest relationship with how often team members are absent or turnover. And last but not least, interactional justice had the strongest relationship with process effectiveness—teams are unlikely to go above and beyond if they do not view their interaction with leaders as fair.


From: https://www.sirota.com/blog/fair-responsible-leader-requires-good-intentions/

While senior leaders are easily convinced to pay attention to the risks that come from losing sight of responsible business practices (and hence frequently embed them in governance process), many overlook the substantial benefits that come from building management cultures which focus on fundamental fairness, respect and responsibility.

From: https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/6122-fairness-impact-management.html

Everyone wants their boss to play fair, but new research suggests that while doing so might make employees happy, it’s not always so great for the boss.  Specifically, bosses who are fair make their workers happier and their companies more productive, but in the end may burn themselves out, according to a new study led by Michigan State University’s Russell Johnson.

Researchers found that the act of carefully monitoring the fairness of workplace decisions wears down supervisors both mentally and emotionally. Johnson, an assistant professor of management, said that managers face a double-edged sword in maintaining structured, rule-bound fairness, known as procedural justice.

“While beneficial for their employees and the organization, it’s an especially draining activity for managers,” he said. “In fact, we found it had negative effects for managers that spilled over to the next workday.”

Why Fair Bosses Fall Behind

From: https://hbr.org/2011/07/why-fair-bosses-fall-behind

Our research, which included lab studies and responses from hundreds of corporate decision makers and employees, began with the age-old question “Should leaders be loved or feared?” We went a step further, asking, “Can you have respect and power?” We found that it’s hard to gain both.

If It Was Easy – Everyone Could Do It

And if you’ve experienced several managers in your career you might have observed that it’s not a universal capability.

Oh that it were!

This is the framework I use when analyzing Managerial Performance:


I would look for tasks with interactions with employees to determine “where fairness plays out.”

It’s not just a notion – it is exhibited in task performance.

And as I see employees as a Stakeholder Group – I know that they have expectations and Measure both Outputs and Tasks of managerial performance.


How do you tease out the authentic situations managers find themselves in so that you can Inform them, Demonstrate to them and have them Practice “Being Fair.”

Or is it a Sink or Swim situation?

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