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What’s ‘fair’ and who determines it?

Is life always fair? We all face ups and downs in our life but how do we deal with the situation...


Jennie Marshall | 8 April 2013

Is life always fair? We all face ups and downs in our life but how do we deal with the situation...

What's 'fair' and who determines it?

You and I have seen this; and, we've done it as well:

You graduate from university and suddenly start ranting about how 'all the good jobs' go to people with experience - people who are older and who've been around longer. 

Fast forward to your 'forties': "All the good jobs are being given to young people fresh out of school. Our management figured out they can hire them for less and save money." 

Pick any scenario in life: When your income is lower than you'd like, it's, "Tax the wealthier even more."

Voila! After a bump in your employment situation, you discover you are in a new tax bracket. "Hmm, what are all these social programs my taxes are paying for? Can't people figure out how to 'get a life' like we did? And man, the salaries of the government workers are way high for what they do, there's no accountability, and everything looks mismanaged." 

What's Fair?

'Fair; is, and always will be, determined by one's own situation, sense of (or lack of) personal responsibility, worldview, and values. I was working with a delegate today who yesterday was at a meeting where a middle manager who was transferred lamented her time at the current location. Why? The office was 'small' and had only one window. In comes the new manager and shouts about how thrilled he is that his office has a window. "The last building was originally a warehouse and there just wasn't much window space to be had. This is great!"

The issue of perspective knows no organisational limits. The Managing Director of a client organisation shared a similar incident when, due to the economic conditions, he downsized the physical space in order to use the money to save some jobs. The response of those involved: "I'm an executive; since when do executives share office space?" He reminded them that they could opt for another alternative to help him reduce costs.

Perspective defines the meaning of 'fair' in any situation. Before making a change of any sort, discuss the reasons with everyone involved and intentionally address the notion of 'fair'. Let people know what you're trying to accomplish and why it's important. Listen for ways to accomplish the goal that may have escaped you and include them if they meet the criteria. Then, remember this:

It still won't 'seem' fair to 100% of those involved because of their beliefs about 'how thingsshouldbe'. In fact, some peoplewill be impacted negatively. However, most will ultimately respect you for 'being just' in how you dealt with the situation.

Life Lesson 1: There is some percentage of people who believe that they are always victims. You won't ever change that. You move on; they won't.

Life Lesson 2: Life isn't fair. You don't have the power to make it that way even if you want to. 

Life Lesson 3: 'Fair' is a somewhat juvenile notion. As an adult and a leader, you want to begin thinking about what is 'just'.

How can you ensure that all people are shown respect and dealt with even-handedly in the most difficult situations ?

Jennie Marshall
QA Learning Expert: Leadership, Management and Business Skills
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QA Training | Jennie-marshal

Jennie Marshall

Learning Programme Director (Enterprise and Outsource Services)

Jennie Marshall is an award winning learning professional (Winner of the 2016 Learning Performance Institute, Learning Professional of the Year Bronze Award), who joined QA in 2010 as a Learning Consultant in the Leadership, Management and Business Skills team. She has gone on to progress through various positions to her current role of Learning Programme Director where she now designs, develops and manages the delivery of end to end learning programmes. She is an experienced and dedicated learning professional, with expertise including management, leadership and talent, and training and facilitation developed within a variety of environments. Jennie has a proven track record of delivering blended, multi modal learning programmes using Learning Management System platforms and in a more traditional face to face setting, is at home with small and large audiences. She is a proven developer of people and is accredited in the use of a variety of tools including Strength Deployment Inventory®, Emergenetics®, Hogan®, Prism® and Worldsview™ as well as being an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) Master Practitioner and Kirkpatrick Certified Professional (Bronze).
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