Not everything is fair in life or in the workplace. Sometimes promotions are passed by to someone who doesn’t deserve it but that is the boss’s best friend. Sometimes someone spreads an absurd rumor about you, gets away with it and you and your career suffer the consequences of that rumor. Other times, the boss takes credit for your hard work or you did not get a raise despite your hard work.
It even appears that unfair and unscrupulous people are thriving in the world of today. It makes us envy them and makes us want to become like them. Nonetheless, there is room for everyone.
Furthermore, fairness and a democratic leadership style are more and more required in the workplace because millennials don’t respond otherwise. That is why leaders, more than others, need to work on their character, lead by example and instill fairness in the workplace.
Wondering how to deal with lack of fairness in the workplace and most importantly apply fairness as a leader?
Being fair means being appropriate, just, free of favoritism, impartial with everyone, treating people with basic human rights. Fairness is based on someone’s cultural background, religious affiliation, cognitive biases/dissonance and prejudices, promotes healthy workplace culture. It repels the effects of negativity, prevents abuse of power and of justice, is contagious and promotes self-accountability.
Fair leadership doesn’t use power to make arbitrary and personal decisions, earn the trust and loyalty of their employees, lets everyone voice their opinion equally, receive and give the same amount of respect.
Fair leadership is the hardest and longest way but is the most profitable and most rewarding in the long run. In that case, fairness should be the tool that should drive any decision and settle any discussion.
However, there are downsides to being a fair leader. Fair leaders are not viewed as powerful and though enough to make hard decisions, to reward and punish effectively. Having a strong moral compass, core values and firmly believing that what goes around comes around can enable deep friendships but can block opportunities. Therefore, even though they are well respected, they don’t always get promoted to higher ranks.
Dealing with lack of fairness in the workplace
When a situation is unfair, when social norms, rules and beliefs are not respected, people tend to innately react emotionally, to feel punished, to justify their emotions and to form definite opinions on whether something is wrong or right, good or bad.
Also, when a workplace is not fair, employees and leaders underperform, rely heavily on politics and employees are not gratified by their own merits.
Dealing with unfairness, especially coming from your boss and leader, is not easy. Especially, because we spend most of our waking hours with people who are not related to us, with people who are occasionally dysfunctional, with people who don’t have our best interest at heart or with people who simply compete with us. That being said, the experience of unfairness can strengthen you or defeat you. It is how you react to it that will define your path in life, the outcome of the situation and potentially bring you closer to your goal.
To deal with lack of fairness the best way possible:
- Keep your self-discipline, self-respect and integrity in check. Don’t start lashing out, starting personal vendetta and neglecting your work because things are not going your way. Business is independent from emotions.
- Seek understanding of the situation. The situation will probably seem fairer if the reasons are legitimate.
- Remember your worth. Sometimes, when we are not promoted, we tend to immediately question our competencies, strengths and contribution within the organization. That is why it necessary to know yourself, your core values, your strengths and weaknesses, write them down and pull out that piece of paper in difficult times.
- Remember that you are responsible for your own welfare and happiness. At the end of the day, life is too short to be treated poorly and unfairly. If you see no improvements, it’s time to quit.
- Don’t let unfair situations make you give up on your goals. There are other opportunities that will present themselves.
- Take unfair events as a challenge, as a learning experience or as practice, and learn to overcome life obstacles.
- Don’t complain about your circumstances and don’t blame your circumstances on everyone else. Find way to grow and do better.
- Break the cycle of negativity, include fairness in your decision-making process and don’t reproduce unfair experiences on someone else. Even though life isn’t fair to you, it is better to remain fair to everyone else because you must avoid making the world a worst place and you don’t know what the other person is going through.
How to regulate an unfair situation and normalize fairness in the workplace?
The judgement of King Solomon, in the Bible [1 Kings 3:16-28], is a probing and famous display of fairness. Two women each conceive a baby at the same time, in the same place. At night, one of these women goes to sleep, rolls on her baby and kills it. The other woman rest her newborn on her chest and then goes to sleep. Later on that night, the first woman, noticing that her child was dead, took the other woman baby. The latter, aware of the trickery, brought the former in front of King Solomon. King Solomon sentenced that they should divide the baby in two and by the reaction of the two women, discovers who is the true mother of the child.
Having a firm but fair leader is idealistic even biblical. After an employee emotional reaction to unfairness, it is detrimental to the leader to:
- Inform them of their behavior and get informed on the reasons of their behavior. Then, give them the time to work on themselves, to change the behavior.
- Establish rules of ethics and performance for your employees.
- Avoid letting problems fester longer than they should and forgive honest mistakes.
- Constantly exercise and expect fairness. When people see leaders applying this system, they tend to replicate it.
- Demonstrate trust and loyalty from day one.
- Lead by example and model fairness in the organization from top to bottom to encourage positive changes, respect, accountability.
- Advocate for their employees and not favor your employees.
- Remain transparent, especially during performance reviews and encourage whistle-blowers.
- Stay humble in order to accept upward feedback from employees.
- Avoid gossip and nip negative rumor in the bud.
- Provide a safe space at all times for employees to expose their grievances. Get all sides of a conflict, before making a decision. Keep in mind, making the perfect fair decision is impossible because we don’t have access to all the information.
- If competing, fight clean, win fair and square.
Just remember, Nature Is Fair And, Sooner Or Later, Always Gives You What You Deserve!
Hope that I’ve helped you get it together on your way to leadership!
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