There is a deep need for leaders to always try to be fair with their team members. If they give one member one thing, they feel a genuine obligation to give the rest of the team the same. This is entirely unnecessary and also not sustainable. Leaders should focus more on doing the right thing rather than doing the fair thing.
Being fair is something that we’ve been taught early in our lives. We carry that sentiment with us to adulthood. We impart that teaching to our children and they onto their children. Being fair is a unique personality trait that is held true throughout all cultures around the world. So it is very understandable that leaders will have the urge in always wanting to be fair.
But being fair doesn’t really help leaders be effective. Obsessing over being fair can have an opposite negative effect. Here are some reasons why you should stop trying to be fair.
- Fair is not equal. Many people mistake being fair for being equal. If one goes here, one also has to go there for things to be fair. But that’s equal, not fair.
- Too much pressure to be fair. Always trying to be fair can be stressful. You constantly stress over whether you’re fair or not. You’re concerned that if you’re not fair, there will be negative reaction from other team members. The possibility of a mutiny consumes you, so you essential live in fear.
- It’s not necessary. What some leaders may not realize is that the team may not care about fairness. They may not even want fairness. What you give one person may not be something that another person wants.
If you as a leader tries to be fair by making sure you give everyone everything equally, you’re not exactly being fair. You’re trying to be equal. And even being equal isn’t exactly what you should be doing either. It’s also extremely difficult to be equal. Take for example when you assign tasks for your team to do. If you give even amount of tasks to all team member that seems line the fair thing to do. It seems like the even split of work. But let’s examine that. Assuming that each tasks are the exactly the same, which in many cases they’re not, but assuming they are, are each member the same? People are not the same. Each member in your team may share the same title, but their skill level varies. In addition, some may be compensated more than others. Some may work harder than others to complete the same exact tasks.
The point I’m trying to make here is that you as a leader shouldn’t spend so much effort trying to be fair. It’s OK not to be fair and you need to understand that. You need to set that expectation. Instead of trying to be fair, spend more effort doing the right thing. Do the right thing to elevate your team and each individual team members.
Let’s take a look at the example of assigning tasks again. If one employee can complete 10 task in an 8 hour work day, and the next employee can complete 14 tasks in the same 8 hour work day, what would you do? You wouldn’t give both employees 10 tasks each to complete in a day, that waste 3 additional tasks that could have been done. You wouldn’t give both employees 14 tasks each to attempt to complete in a day. One would be able to complete them with no problems, but the other would either not complete all 14 tasks or have to work extra time just to get the job done. Certainly trying to give 12 tasks to each employee as a compromise isn’t a solution either.
Instead of trying to divvy tasks evenly, just do the right thing. Give 14 tasks to the employee who can complete them in a day and 10 task to the employee who can only handle 10 in a day. Doing so will challenge each member appropriately and keep motivation and effort high. Then you compensate accordingly, giving more to the employee who can do more. But that too doesn’t have to be fair, as there are other aspects and variables to consider.
The bottom line for you as a leader is to spend more time focusing on how to get more productivity from your team. Spend the time to help each member achieve more and become better. Trying to be fair is just an unreasonable distraction. Be OK with not being fair and set the expectations that you’ll be doing the right thing and making the right decisions. Not the fair decision.
Photo by: Matthew Henry
Denny Nguyen, a veteran IT leader and experienced operational manager with 15+ years working in the software and software related service industry. Currently, Denny oversees global operations of LogiGear including IT infrastructure and services, and facility worldwide and marketing and business development for the APAC region.
Started out as a test engineer, Denny has excelled his career into project management, IT management, account management, customer relation management, and marketing and sales management. In 2004, when LogiGear began to establish its present in Vietnam with two Software Testing & Research centers in Saigon and the third center in 2009 in Danang, Denny was instrumental and the key leader who was chartered to build out the entire foundation and infrastructure for LogiGear to grow for the next twenty years.