Fairness: A brain-based model of leadership
Our perceptions of unfairness and injustice are strong motivators that generate negative rumination, decreased motivation, reduced productivity, conflict and workplace tension. Fairness, openness and transparency, while exposing, can be powerfully strategic approaches in a work setting.
If you read my last blog about matching communication, you may recall that we tend to favour those who are similar communicators to ourselves. While understandable, if in a leadership role this plays out in your team, you are likely to favour those similar to you (in-group) and be perceived as lacking fairness by others (out-group). This can lead to perceptions of favouritism, nepotism and a loss of trust in some of your staff.
To counteract this primal threat, an effective leader needs to work hard to ensure that their actions are perceived as fair by all stakeholders. Holding open discussions about workplace challenges, job roles, work expectations and financial matters can empower staff and prevent misinterpretations from occurring.
Generating staff buy-in for decisions that affect your whole team can also be an effective way to foster a sense of fairness in your group (I recently ran a team session where we engaged the group to discuss how they intended to meet the values and behaviours of the organisation, rather than just stating that they needed to meet these values and behaviours – this was empowering as it provided a sense of ownership and agreement in the team).
When it comes to salaries, David Rock states that “The issue of pay discrepancies in large organisations is a challenging one, and many employees are deeply unhappy to see another person working similar hours earning 100 times their salary. Interestingly, it is the perception of fairness that is key, so even a slight reduction in senior executive salaries during a difficult time may go a long way to reducing a sense of unfairness”.
If you would like to discuss how you can foster more fairness with your staff, please contact me.
This is part 5 of a 5 part leadership master class blog series, adapted from David Rock’s 2008 publication in the Neuroleadership Journal, SCARF: a brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing others.