How fair is fair enough?

When your actions impact others, fairness in the way you reach your decision is as important as the outcome

Eva Tsahuridu By Eva Tsahuridu
How fair is fair enough?
How fair is fair enough?

Given the emphasis at work on outcomes, objectives and goals – as well as budgets – we’re usually pulled to focusing on the end result of an action and not so much on how we get there.

Particularly when we are busy at work, it’s not unusual to concentrate on outcomes and not on the means of getting them. But when we are on the receiving end of others’ actions, we look not only at what has been decided, but at how it was decided.

People are concerned with fairness in the workplace. But it is not only fairness of outcomes, such as our share of salaries or resources, that we’re concerned about, but also procedural justice: the fairness of processes and procedures used to arrive at them.

 

Related: Pressure to create shareholder value leads to new ethics environment

 

While we need to ensure that the outcomes are perceived by people to be fair, it’s also important to ensure the same goes for processes. Procedures tell us what factors are considered and also what rules are applied and how they are applied.

What we know about procedural justice tells us that if people think that the processes are fair, they are more likely to trust the system and are more likely to accept and comply with decisions.

We also know that when we feel respected and valued by our employer, we’re more likely to perceive that there is procedural justice. This is more powerful in explaining our views towards our employing organisation and its management than fairness of outcomes.

Allowing people to participate in decisions, and communicating how and why decisions are made, can help employees’ understanding of fairness at work. 

Allowing people to participate in decisions, and communicating how and why decisions are made, can help employees’ understanding of fairness at work.

Importantly, people don’t look at procedures to assess only fairness. Procedures are important because they also define who we are and how we are understood/respected by others.

In this sense, our view of how fair our workplace is plays a part in defining who we are and how we think we are seen by our employer and our team.

If you make decisions that affect others or have the power to reward them, remember that it is not only the outcomes that matter. We are not only motivated by implicit or explicit rewards or sanctions. We also pay attention to processes. Fair processes enable us to accept even unfavourable or unfair rewards.

 

Dr Eva Tsahuridu is CPA Australia’s policy adviser, professional standards and governance.

 

This article is from the May 2014 issue of INTHEBLACK.


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