Join Todd Dewett for an in-depth discussion in this video Being fair, part of Motivating and Engaging Employees.
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- It won't surprise you to hear me say that being fair is terribly important if you want your team to trust you and feel secure enough to engage change and improvement. What might surprise you is the real definition of the word fair. Organizations are bureaucracies. Inside a bureaucracy, everyone is not completely equal. Fairness does not mean paying everyone the same. It does not mean recognizing everyone in very similar ways, so that no one feels left out. The Golden Rule is often used as the best standard for fairness.
It suggests that you should try to treat others as you would like to be treated. In life, it's a pretty good rule. At work, it's not as useful. To be fair, we should set clear expectations and always strive to be positive and helpful, but we should ultimately treat people how they need to be treated, given their performance within a particular performance context. Stated differently, why would you treat everyone the same when everyone performs differently? The good news is that people are generally okay with being treated differently.
Employees do care about the outcomes they receive, such as raises, promotions, or new projects. They also care about the processes used to make decisions and how they are actually treated interpersonally with respect to these decisions. However, employees don't expect completely equal outcomes. They do wish to be informed and respected, but they don't have to be treated identical to everyone else. You should care about the issue of fairness because when an employee senses a lack of fairness, research suggests that strange things can happen.
First, they might try to change the outcome. For example, maybe they feel their raise was too low. Well, you can expect them to try to change the outcome by speaking directly to you and to others about you, which can amount to a lot of wasted time. Or, they might start to get lazy. Continuing with the same example, if they don't want to take the risks associated with discussing their pay, maybe they simply start phoning it in. They come in late, leave early, or play on the internet a little more. Finally, they might distort reality.
They just make things up in their mind. They can decide to think about their small raise being explained by budget problems and they can tell themselves it's not just them. Everyone must have received small raises, too. They dream up an explanation that allows them to feel sane and modestly satisfied. All three of these outcomes represent hits to morale and productivity, which is why you must strive to be fair. At some level, I'd like you to think about being fair, both as treating people the same and not the same.
Here's what I mean. You treat people the same by creating a positive and productive work environment for everyone and by making decision processes and resource allocations transparent to all. Remember, they don't have to love all of your decisions, but if they believe you're being honest and just, you'll be okay. Don't forget to always offer great explanations. Good explanations make the decisions seem more legitimate and acceptable. You'll know when you're in a fair work environment.
People are positive and how someone obtains valued outcomes is understood, not mysterious. That means outcomes are not determined based on favoritism, or dishonest reasoning. What I meant by treating people differently or not the same, is actually twofold. First, you must regularly examine individual and group performance. Without micromanaging, you have to be a diligent observer of performance. Second, you use recognition and rewards based on the performance you see.
If someone meets expectations, they deserve a thank you and your gratitude. If someone regularly exceeds expectations, they might deserve public recognition and a raise. The point is that you don't reward equally, you differentiate based on performance. Being fair to your team is vitally important, but it doesn't mean to always follow the Golden Rule. It means to be clear and positive, and to reward people honestly based on performance. Over time, that's the kind of fairness that earns you respect.
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- Assessing employee engagement
- Providing autonomy
- Building a transparent culture
- Modeling desired behavior
- Using monetary and nonmonetary motivators
- Fostering accountability
- Developing career paths for employees<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.