Why Fairness at Work Is Seldom Fair

Blog #302 – reading: about 1.2 minutes

As I explained in a previous post, we evaluate fairness by comparing our performance and reward with the performance and rewards of others.

Surely, we all exaggerate our own inputs a little while underestimating the inputs of others. This means, sooner or later, you will feel you are being treated unfairly.

You now have four options:

  1. You can reduce your performance if you feel your rewards are less than you deserve.
  2. You can increase your performance if you feel your rewards are more than you deserve.
  3. You can try to change your rewards by asking for more if you feel under-rewarded, or you can offer to accept less.
  4. You can admit that perception is reality and that you see what you already believe. Then simply focus on any information which supports why you deserve to be rewarded more, while ignoring anything to the contrary.

Research shows we are far more sensitive to being under-rewarded than over-rewarded. So don’t be so hard on the what’s-in-it-for-me generation. At one stage or another, irrespective of age and reality, we are all part of that generation.

And as any manager who has dealt with promotions, pay increases, and bonuses knows, the bulk of us fall into the “perception is reality” bucket of point 4 above. Yes, including the manager who knows.

Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.