Was Your Justice Visible?

Trigger Question #23

Justice being seen to be done.

. . .

Things happen. Sometimes things happen wrong. Often wrong things happen.

People do things. Sometimes people do things wrong. Now and then people do wrong things.

When things are done wrong, empathy and understanding will go a long way to prevent a repeat. When wrong things are done, you need a more forceful intervention.

And this is where leaders and managers (and even parents) get it wrong. Often when they intervene, they do so invisibly.

Let’s deal with the difference between doing something wrong and doing a wrong thing. When someone does something wrong, they need to be corrected. But when someone does a wrong thing, they need to be disciplined (or sanctioned).

Here’s the catch. It matters little whether others know you corrected someone who has done something wrong. But it matters much when others don’t know whether you disciplined someone for doing a wrong thing.

Surely you’ve guessed what this is about: “Justice must not only be done, but must also be seen to be done.” You know it. But do you practice it?

Unless people see you deal appropriately with those who do wrong things, you will lose credibility and power as a leader and a manager. Because, in their eyes, you have done the thing wrong, or not at all.

We can sum it up this way. What you do is one thing. But what you appear to have done, or not to have done, carries more weight. At least, when it is about perceived justice and fairness.

(To be fair, and to do that quote justice, I will now give you the unabridged version, as delivered by Lord Hewart, then Lord Chief Justice of England: “It is not merely of some importance but is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.”)

Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.

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