TREAT EMPLOYEES FAIRLY BUT NOT
By Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D. President, Discovery Surveys, Inc.
6 out of 10 employees say
personnel policies are not applied fairly.
Part 1 - THE PROBLEM:
Our research shows that 6 of 10 employees believe that their
company is doing a poor job of applying personnel policies and procedures
fairly. When employees feel they are not administered fairly they lose respect
for management, build up resentment toward their fellow co-workers, and lose
motivation for their work
It is our experience, however, that employees often confuse
unequal treatment with a lack of fairness. They believe that all employees
should be treated exactly the same regardless of their jobs or personal needs.
Employees resent when:
Mothers with kids at
daycare can leave promptly at 5:00 but single workers have to stay
Smokers get to take
smoking breaks but non-smokers do not; and
Some department can take
vacation whenever they want but others are restricted to certain
But these complaints expose a common fallacy. Employees should
always be treated fairly but rarely should they be treated exactly the same.
(And, of course, there should be no personnel decisions made on
the basis of differences in sex, age, national background, race, religion,
sexual preference, or disability.)
Do you have the same rules for your 7-year-old daughter and your
17-year-old son? Of course not! They are different, have different needs,
different responsibilities, and different capabilities. They are treated fairly
but not equally.
Similarly, in the workplace:
It is often appropriate
for superior performers to receive special benefits, increased pay, and more
Some jobs require precise
starting times and less flexibility than others. Customer service personnel,
for example, need to man the phones during normal working hours, while sales
personnel often need to attend networking meetings during the evenings and
Part 2 - WHAT MANAGEMENT CAN DO:
- Promote Flexibility Rather than Rigid Rules
Many organizations make
the mistake of becoming extremely rule oriented. They produce personnel and
procedure manuals as thick as phone books and expect that this will help ensure
fairness. But, rules are made to be broken and are always subject to
interpretation. A thick rulebook will make it more, not less, difficult for
- Treat Employees Like
Employees want to be
treated as unique, mature individuals. They want to know that special
exceptions will be made to accommodate their particular circumstances
- Communicate Your
Philosophy of Flexibility
Make it clear to employees
that everyone will be treated fairly but not exactly the same and that you
reserve the right to treat employees as individuals and to make exceptions to
I am very much
interested in your views on this topic.
Please reply with your comments and
suggestions to .
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