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  • Karen Gregory


Life isn’t fair.

That cliché is one of my least favorites. And also my topic for this month. Because, in reality, in both our personal and professional lives, life isn’t fair. Ugh. Again. Just to see it typed makes me cringe.

I’m sure it’s because while it may be true, I choose my response to what I perceive to be “unfair.” We all make that choice. It’s our perception of a situation. We experience some emotional trigger when involved in an unfair situation, and we choose at that point to either respond emotionally, dig our heels in and revolt. Or, we choose to address the situation and move beyond it. What is perceived as unfair to one person may be justified to another person. Same situation, just different perspectives.

So how do we handle “fair” in leadership? It comes up time and again in our programs. Here’s our answer: The workplace world does need to be fair when applying policy, procedure, rules, regulations, etc. The same rules apply to everyone. If the policy states six absences begin the disciplinary process, then six absences starts the disciplinary process regardless of who occurred the absences. Period. It’s that simple.

Where “fair” gets sticky is when we aren’t dealing with a black and white situation. Promotions fall into this category. Two qualified individuals may go for a promotion, but only one can get it. What sets the two apart? Assignments or projects also fall into this category. Who gets assigned [what could be perceived] as the best assignments? Scheduling can also fall into this category as well as many more scenarios. In these situations we always tell the leader to look at your employee as an individual and what they contribute consistently to the organization. If you have a Rock Star employee feel free to give them preferential treatment in these situations. It’s part of your strategy to grow, develop, motivate and retain those employees. They’re your best – treat them like they are your best.

In leadership try not to get too caught up in fairness. If a situation is perceived as unfair, it’s a good time for you to reflect and even have a conversation with the person feeling slighted. Maybe you were unfair, but if you weren’t this is a great opportunity to talk about goals, expectations, and how this employee can further develop their skills and become even more valuable to the organization (putting them in the Rock Star group).

Finally, in leadership build a team of individuals that all fall into the Rock Star group. Put people on your team who make the choice to persevere, be professional, do the right thing and continue to step up to the plate when they perceive life as being unfair. These are the people with character. They bring a professionalism to your organization that will push for success. They tend to be more open-minded and innovative. As with all facets of leadership – it’s about knowing and growing your people.

We’d love to hear your success and even horror stories. Share your experience with us on Facebook and let’s start an open conversation on strategies that have worked for others. We look forward to your post!


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