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Equal Isn't Always Fair

Do you have employees who complain that you aren't treating everyone the same? If so, then you can skip today's lesson providing you are treating people fairly. For the rest of you, here are five reasons why treating all employees the same is a bad decision.

Expectations should vary – Suppose you have two employees doing the same job. One has been on the job for five years and another five months. Would you expect them to be performing at the same level? Probably not. Particularly if they are performing work where experience should improve performance. This means that you should have higher expectations regarding the work performed by the more experienced employee than you would of the less experienced person. Are you treating them equally? No. However, you are treating them fairly.

Pay should vary – One of the biggest complaints I hear from employees is that someone is doing the same job that they are doing and that person is receiving more pay. After further investigation, we see that the person receiving more pay has more education (perhaps a college degree) or more experience than the person who is doing the complaining. Would it be fair if we raised this person’s salary to match the other employee? I don’t think so.

Salary reductions – In this economy, we are seeing a lot of organizations doing across-the-board salary decreases. Is this fair? Not in my opinion. Asking a high paid executive to take a 5% reduction in salary has a different impact on that person than the employee at the bottom of the organization who is just making ends meet. Fair to me in this situation is to reduce payroll by terminating non-performers. This includes people who have been protected for years because of internal politics.

Office space – Who sits where and gets how much space is a really big deal in Corporate America. Many companies avoid this by putting everyone in cubicles. Equality rules, but is this any way to run a business? Certain positions require privacy. For example, if an employee wants to have a private conversation with someone in HR, they need to be able to do so without relying on a conference room being available at the precise time they are having their crises. Or perhaps members of the IT team need  larger offices so they have workspace to repair computers. Use common sense when designing and assigning offices.

Promotions – Making people wait six-months or one year before they can be promoted makes little sense. This just encourages people to maintain their level of performance rather than continually shooting for the stars. Yet, we do this all the time because we believe this is fair. Set expectations, manage performance and promote those who reach the established milestones, regardless of how long it has taken them to get there.

Take a closer look at the impact equality is having on your office. Are you inspiring your workers to be their best? Or are you merely treating them like average employees?

Until next time,


Roberta Chinsky Matuson
Human Resource Solutions

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