Workplace fairness is there to ensure the maintenance of fair practices in the workplace to avoid and manage conflict. Conflict in the workplace can increase absenteeism and decrease productivity. Eib et. al. (2016), define workplace fairness as the glue that holds the employee and the employer. Workers who perceive their work environment as unfair will develop toxic working relationships over time (Barsness, Diekman & Sondak, 2007). They may become distrustful of managers and even act territorial, lashing out at co-workers who they perceive as a threat. In extreme cases, the mismanagement of workplace conflict can lead to allegations of creating a hostile work environment. In such cases, conflict resolution can be extremely costly.
Fairness in the workplace is about respecting, and advancing, the human rights of all those who work within the organization. Research has shown that employees who feel fairly treated in their workplace trust their employer, enjoy their work, and are more dedicated to their workplace. Also, they are more likely to help colleagues, are more willing to go through difficult times with the organisation, and stay with the business for a longer time (Eib, et. al. 2016)
In many cases, the topic of workplace fairness is covered by an organization's policies and procedures as well as bylaws. By law, workers are guaranteed certain rights, including a safe work environment. There are many laws on the books that guard against discrimination and harassment. Employers must also follow a variety of laws concerning work hours, unpaid time and compensation (Bianchi, et.al., 2016).
Managers are often accused of "playing favourites" with employees, but there is great debate about what constitutes fair treatment in cases that are not explicitly covered by the law. While it’s important to avoid giving preferential treatment to one worker over another, it is equally important to reward those employees who work hard and do their jobs well.
How do you ensure fairness in the organization?
Employee concerns over pay systems, managerial favouritism and equal recognition are common leadership challenges. To help your organization strengthen its fairness policies, here are a few points to consider:
Create a sense that promotions are handled fairly
When an employee complains that a co-worker's promotion wasn't fair, his or her underlying question might be, "Why wasn't I promoted?" The best organizations address this by ensuring all employees receive frequent, constructive feedback and by providing personal support in professional development.
Add transparency and a commitment to equity to the pay-check
When it comes to a sense of fair play, it's not just about the amount of the pay-check that matters. The transparency of the compensation system and a clear commitment to equity by the organization are critical in ensuring people feel fairly paid.
Offer a fair appeals process
Employees must understand that they have a fair opportunity to have grievances heard by management. By offering a transparent system to address grievances, employees may be assured that the policies in place will adequately address any issues they may have.
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Reaffirm that everyone will receive an equal opportunity to be recognized
One of the fastest ways to erode a workplace's sense of fairness is by giving recognition unequally. This challenge can be especially difficult when managing employees across multiple sites. By assuring employees that they all have an equal chance to be acknowledged for their work, employees will feel that the organization recognises and appreciates them.
11 reasons why workplace fairness matters for every employer
- It contributes to business continuity
- Helps attract and retain the best talent
- It increases productivity within the organization
- Builds long-term value to shareholders
- Increase employee morale and engagement
- A healthy workforce
- Good relations between the employer and the employees
- Diversity within the organization because of fair practices
- Cooperation between staff because of fairness in the workplace
- Reduced absenteeism and employee turnover
- Improved communication and trust from employees
Workplace concerns about fairness are challenging for any business and can be frustrating for employees and leaders alike. Focusing on transparency and frequent communication can cut down these concerns, allowing everyone to focus on more rewarding and productive responsibilities.
Cropanzano, R., Barry Goldman, & Folger, R. (2003). Deontic Justice: The Role of Moral Principles in Workplace Fairness. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 24(8), 1019-1024. Retrieved October 22, 2020, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/4093752
Seifert, Matthias; Brockner, Joel; Bianchi, Emily C; Moon, Henry. How Workplace Fairness Affects Employee Commitment MIT Sloan Management Review; Cambridge Vol. 57, Iss. 2, (Winter 2016): 15-17
Diekmann, K.A., Sondak, H. & Barsness, Z.I. Does Fairness Matter More to Some than to Others? The Moderating Role of Workplace Status on The Relationship Between Procedural Fairness Perceptions and Job Satisfaction. Soc Just Res 20, 161–180 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11211-007-0036-x
Constanze Leineweber, Constanze Eib, Paraskevi Peristera, Claudia Bernhard-Oettel. The influence of and change in procedural justice on self-rated health trajectories: Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health results. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, 2016; DOI: 10.5271/sjweh.3565
Lindah Mavengere is a Business Consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a business management and human resources consulting firm.
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