As leaders we are all familiar, or should be, with the term and/or principles around Equal Employment as designated by the EEOC (Equal Opportunity Employment Commission). If not, that’s the first place to start. The EEOC mandates and enforces laws that make it illegal to discriminate against an employee or job applicant based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information as well as a myriad of other processes and procedures surrounding employment and/or the employment process.
That being said and all things being equal according to the EEOC requirements; as a leader, manager, supervisor or any person to who people report, are you being fair? Are you treating your direct reports equally and should you? Fair is defined in one online free dictionary, thefreedictionary.com, as “free from discrimination, dishonesty, etc; just; impartial.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary online has a similar definition – “marked by impartiality and honesty; free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism” and as “conforming with the established rules”. With these definitions in mind, are you being fair and why is it important?
The lack of equality amongst a group of direct reports, particularly those who perform identical functions, can result an unpleasant, unproductive environment characterized by low morale, lack of or reduced production, high turnover, undue competition, irrational behavior, an individual rather than team-oriented environment or any of a number of other effects that detract from a healthy work environment or negative workplace behaviors. When such conditions exist it can be as stressful and unhealthy for the management as it is for the direct reports. And one must consider how they would feel in similar circumstances.
On the other hand being fair doesn’t mean that everything has to be exactly the same from one person to the next, particularly assignments and tasks, as people are individuals and diversity is one the things we look for in applicants. Having a diverse pool of applicants can make for a more diverse customer or client base; can make an organization more versatile or more efficient. There are a number of benefits that an organization can capitalize on from a diverse pool of talent.
Having looked at these two aspects, the challenge for any successful leader is to be able to balance fairness, a level of equality, diversity and talent; to use of all these aspects and attributes to the benefit of the organization while allowing each direct report to grow and diversify their talents and knowledge base. As leaders we need to create an environment where every team member is willing to share in the challenges and experiences of the job and to give of themselves to the degree of their comfort and be a benefit to the organization.