What does fairness mean in the workplace? It can be a little confusing. Fairness does not mean treating team members equally, it means treating them equitably depending on the individual team member and the individual situation. It does mean being consistent.
My Webster’s dictionary defines “fair” as open, frank, honest, just, equitable, impartial, unprejudiced. Other words we can add to update this definition are engaged, safe, productive, appreciated.
Here are some options you need to think about when you are making decisions and judgements about people.
- Spend the necessary time with them to find out if they are in alignment with what you are trying to accomplish. Take some time to think through your vision for the work area/team, then share it with everyone. Let everyone know what is going on in the organization. Hold yourself accountable for your contributions toward achieving the vision.
- Give feedback often – positive and developmental. Make giving feedback a valuable process for both of you. Communicate your thoughts and ask questions. Don’t surprise the team member by bringing up something you did not discuss when it happened.
- Be quick to praise. Praise immediately. Being as specific as possible with examples, observations, and documentation will help the team member visualize the good. Give positive feedback about both performance and behaviors.
- Respect other’s input. It is a good idea to get input from others – the team members. Receive everyone’s input, recognizing that there will be differences of opinions. Everyone is different. Respect that.
- Don’t play favorites, except based on performance. Ensure you are looking at the person’s performance and behavior objectively. Let the team member know that you are aware of what they do, how they do it, and why they are an integral part of the organization. Don’t talk to the same people when you are in the mix.
- Exercise timeliness. Being timely in following up with team members when they have requested something from you or asked a question will let the team member know that he/she is valued.
- Prepare for discussions with individuals about their performance. Don’t just reflect on what they have done or not done for you lately. Be prepared for monthly team meetings. This means preparing an agenda, outlining the points and thoughts you want to share, and what you want to accomplish at the meeting. Make it an open forum. Invite others to lead discussions about certain topics.
- Talk about goals, rewards, and consequences. Create a healthy competitive environment. Have contests about everything you want to accomplish – focusing on one goal at a time.
- Empathize. When someone is going through a tough period in their life, it is okay to give them some grace, especially if they have delivered for you in the past.
When you are considering whether to give someone another chance or not, consider all the options. Have you come to the end of your rope, but you have never told them there is a problem? Have you given them written and verbal thank you’s but not told the other side of the story?
Here are several options to consider when making this decision about someone’s livelihood and career.
- Continue as is. – Is it just easier for everyone to let this issue ride until something bigger happens? Will the aftermath be worse than any positives you accomplish with constructive feedback? Do you have the backbone to tell it like it is and to follow-through? If not, don’t start down a path you are not willing to go to the end.
- Ask the person if they are aware that there are some difficulties with their performance or behavior. – If they are self-aware, they may let you off the hook by owning up to friction that they have created. If they are not self-aware then this gives you an opening to make them more aware of the issues, they are creating for you and the team.
- Ask them if this is a job or career that they think they are a good fit for. Are they enjoying their work? Do they look forward to coming to work every day? Their answers will give you some insight as to next steps. If they are out of sync with their strengths, possibly you can guide them into another position or career that meets their needs and matches their talents. If they feel they are a good match and you don’t think they are, this will give you a chance to coach them in their areas of weaknesses. Set specific benchmarks and milestones they will need to meet in order to prove their worthiness.
- Redesign the job to match their strengths. Work around their weaknesses by delegating the mismatched duties to someone else or buddying them up with someone who can help them shore up these weaknesses. Again, give a timeline for checking back in.
- If you feel it is appropriate, offer to let them go part-time. Carve out the things they do well to fit the hours agreed upon, part-time work or contract work is something they are interested in.
- Discharge the individual with support during the transition period – days, weeks or months based on the level of the position. When discharging someone, your conversation with them will be different based on what has led up to the discharge. You do not have to give a lot of details. You can simply say “This is not working out for the organization, for me, and probably for you. I think it is time to end our working relationship and allow you to move on to something that is a better fit, a job that meets your needs.”
“Let us keep our mouths shut and our pens dry until we know the facts.” – A.J. Carlson
“It is not fair to ask of others what you are unwilling to do yourself.” – Eleanor Roosevelt