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3 Points of view: Hey, that’s not fair!

Fairness matters to staff and employees a lot more than  you might think. As a manager and leader, how do you ensure you are being fair and even-handed? journalist Nicola Field asked three experts .

Employees need to trust you if you are going to lead them. That means I not only have to be fair, but also need them to perceive me as being fair.

I make efforts always to have open lines of communication. Where possible, I explain the reasons behind my decisions. I involve my team in coming up with an action plan to solve specific problems. You need to be vulnerable sometimes with your team and share your own experiences.

I make a constant effort to treat everyone equally. The goal is always to align my actions with the shared purpose. The team should be able to see the link between the actions and the goals we share, even if it sometimes requires challenging old processes.

Leaders are not perfect. I try to be aware of, and take ownership of, my own biases and emotions. I admit when I have made a mistake and forgive others when they admit their mistakes.

Transparency is another crucial ingredient in both being fair and being perceived as being fair. My team knows how I make decisions. I am always upfront and truthful.

Ankit Sharma CMgr MIML – Project Manager, MMG Ltd

Transparency is critical to fairness. Especially with any reward, recognition and hiring processes. Ensure selection panels have diverse representation because while it is important to be fair, it’s also critical that it is seen to be fair.

If you have staff who are working harder than others, this needs to be recognised. If some employees aren’t contributing as much, seek to understand why. If you don’t manage a poor performer this can leave others disgruntled. Equity theory tells us that employees can be demotivated if they feel their effort is greater than what they receive in return, and they may seek ways to improve the level of fairness from their perspective. So leaders must take action. Listen to what’s going on in your team. If you are seeing first-hand or hearing from team members about there being unequal levels of effort, look at both sides of the story and work to find a resolution.

Michelle Gibbings CMgr FIML

Author of Career Leap: How to Reinvent and Liberate Your Career (Wiley)

Avoid the blame game. I have a personal philosophy of always looking at the problem, not the person. Fairness is about acknowledging that mistakes happen and encouraging employees to take responsibility.

For managers and leaders, fairness starts with transparent communication about expectations and consequences.

Be aware too of perception versus reality. Be sure you’re not spending time helping one particular employee more than others. Similarly, in any team there is almost inevitably one person who is super helpful, and another who just coasts along. It’s not fair to take advantage of those who work hard by overloading them – yet it can be an easy trap to fall into, until they’ve had enough and hand in their resignation. Instead, encourage the coasters to stand up and pull their weight – it’s not a case of picking on one person, or you as a manager trying to look good. What you are aiming for is the success of the team.

Coach the coasters to the point where they realise they need to pull their weight or reconsider whether they want to be part of the team at all.

Ken Murphy FIML

Founder, Ken Murphy Consulting


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