“Equal” May Not Be “Fair”

“I think it important to treat my team members fairly,” a manager said to me.

“I agree,” I responded. “ Can you give me an example of how you do that?”

“I avoid singling out team members.  I praise the team rather than individuals.  I recommend similar merit increases for all—we succeed or fail as a group.  I rotate the most popular vacation times.  Everyone gets the same training opportunities. I ask team members to take turns performing menial tasks.”

“Do you recommend similar rewards, perks, and privileges for all team members?”

“That’s my goal, exactly.”

As we discussed further, I attempted to explain that equality of outcomes is not the same as fairness.  Fairness means we apply the same rules and standards of judgements to all team members.  That is, policies and performance metrics should be the same for all persons doing similar work.

However, some team members because they have greater skill, experience or internal motivation contribute more to the mission that others.  I believe it is unfair to treat high- and lower-contributing team members alike.    

I do not judge the less contributing members to be of lesser value as a person; they simply have contributed less value to our team.  Fairness is consistent application of standards, not equal distribution of rewards.

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