Episode 7: Understanding and Practicing Fairness in the Workplace

Michelle:

Thank you for joining Episode 7 of your Reboot Program. This is Michelle Perez Patel from SatisFIND. We designed short learning episodes to help frontliners prepare for the day we open our doors to customers again. In this episode, Gabe Baradi will help us understand what Fairness means in the workplace and how practicing this will help us be better at work and develop the growth mindset.

Gabe:

During this challenging time, it is important that we take care of our relationships with our family, friends, and even our colleagues. We may be physically isolated, but we should not let ourselves be emotionally and psychologically isolated from each other. Maintaining good relationships will be all the more important when we reopen our stores and go back to regular operations.

One way in which we perceive how we deal with each other is through FAIRNESS.  Fairness is treating people in a reasonable, right and just manner as they deserve it. It is different from equality, which means giving everyone the same thing regardless of circumstances. In relationships, we strive to be fair with people, hoping that they will be fair with us too. 

How we treat each other with fairness at work really makes a big difference. Studies show that an employee's perception of fairness at work can affect the attitude and behaviour of that employee. A team connects fairness with the consistent way a manager communicates and deals with the individual employees. When people feel they are treated unfairly, engagement goes down and they might act negatively, like being late to work, having no enthusiasm, not interested in making an effort to sell to a customer, and having no desire to help colleagues and their employers. These behaviors harm the team, the business, the morale at work, and ultimately, it affects the customer’s experience.

On the other hand, employees who feel that they are in a fair work environment have better motivation and attitude. This leads to improved work performance and team morale; people feel and believe that everyone can win given that the opportunities presented to them are fair. Studies also show that we are healthier when we work in a fair workplace. 

Here are 4 ways of practicing fairness at work:

  1. Be consistent. Your colleagues' perception of your fairness depends on how you treat them every day in any situation. The manner in how you interact with them should be free of discrimination or bias. It is important that you do not show favoritism to one member of the team over the others. You may have friends at work that you are closer to, but how you deal with everyone professionally shows that you are fair. It is when people perceive an inconsistency in your behaviour towards them that they will feel unfairness. Consistency will be seen through your words and actions. 
     
  2. Listen Actively. In episode 4, we talked about how communication plays an essential role in making sure we have good relationships with people. Part of good communication is being able to listen actively. When your colleagues feel that you pay attention to them when they need to tell you something, not only will they see you as fair but also respectful. 

    It is possible to sometimes not be aware of your behavior and how you are listening. The next time you talk to someone, be more mindful.

    Are you giving them your full attention? Have you put down your device or minimized your other distractions? Do you summarize what they say at the end to check with them that you understood them correctly? We can practice this at home with the people with us during the quarantine. 
     
  3. Show Empathy. Fairness is more than just treating people right. Fairness is treating people with respect, showing your concern, and acting positively. Showing empathy leads us to have a mindset for fairness in the way we treat people. As we discussed in episode 4 on Empathy, you need to put yourself in the other person’s place to fully understand what they are going through. Ask your colleagues how they are doing. Ask your customers how you can help them. When you show empathy consistently to people, they start feeling safe around you and that safety gives people confidence that they are treated fairly.  
     
  4. Be honest and transparent. When you tell the truth to your colleagues, they will know that you have nothing to hide and will treat them properly.  When you keep things from one person and tell the others, that person will feel that there is bias and prejudice. Acting dishonestly leads to gossip and further misunderstanding within a team. Small and petty issues can become worse when information is withheld. 

Part of being honest is giving truthful feedback to empower someone. We discussed how to give feedback in our Week 2 Q&A episode. We encourage you to make it a practice to recognize positive behaviour when people do the right thing at work.

One more thing we need to understand with Fairness, is that it is not up to us to call ourselves fair. Our opinion of ourselves means nothing unless the people we work with feel that we are fair to them. Creating a work environment that makes people feel safer with each other gives them the assurance that their leader or employer is a fair one, looking after their people’s needs. Practicing empathy and honesty to build trust leads them feeling they are treated with fairness. If you have been following our previous episodes, you will observe that these values in service are interconnected with each other. All these help us develop a growth mindset. See you in our next episode. 

Michelle: 

We’d like to end this episode with a few questions to help you practice what Gabe shared with us: 

  • Think of a person you know in your personal or your professional life who you believe to be a fair person. What made you say this person practices fairness?
  • When you follow the news on social media, are you able to see the fairness of the decisions and actions of people and organizations? If we allow ourselves to see these events from a point of view of fairness, it will help us understand and develop the same value in our own lives. 
  • Do you remember a time when your words or actions have been unfair to someone at work? This question is not meant to make you feel bad about what happened but is a time for self-awareness and self-reflection. If we are able to accept with humility something we have done in the past, and if we can feel what the other person may have felt with empathy, this is the path towards growth.

This pandemic has hurt many businesses and every business owner is faced with tough decisions. Some will close permanently, some have a few months more to survive, some will have to let go of their people to save the business. It’s during this time that all the more we need to empathize and see each person and each company’s decision with fairness even if we’re affected from these decisions. It’s not easy, but should we find ourselves in this situation, what matters is how we overcome this time. With a growth mindset and the skills to get back on our feet, one day, we will wake up to a world that is fair. 

If you have questions about today’s episode, we would love to hear from you. Please click the link for the Reboot Journal and share your thoughts or questions with us. We will answer them in the future episodes. Thank you for joining.