CEO at Stone Age † Keynote speaker | Thought Leader | Consultant | Author | Podcast Host | YPO member.
The word honest can be triggering. Every time my nine-year-old uses this term to describe some injustice he has suffered, I burst out of my head. I believe too many people feel that life isn’t fair when things don’t go well in adulthood. But this conception of justice is misplaced. Honesty isn’t about getting your way just because someone else got theirs.
Honesty is about meeting everyone where they are and considering their unique situations when making decisions. Honesty is about allowing everyone to grow and develop, not in a simple way, but in a way that is adapted to their goals and talents.
Honesty is about sharing information with everyone on your team, not just a select few. It’s about recognizing everyone’s contributions, not just the rock stars on your team.
Creating a fair workplace by an organization can be vital to retaining talent. In a study by Gardner Inc., 82% of employees felt their workplace was unfair. The same study found that employees who believe they work in a fair workplace perform 26% higher than those who don’t, and are 27% less likely to quit.
According to research into the factors driving the Great Resignation, 6% of respondents specifically cited unfair compensation as their top reason for quitting, with no sense of appreciation for one’s work being cited by the organization as the top cause at 25%.
Creating a fair workplace has never been more important. The pandemic has turned the way we work upside down and hybrid workplaces are here to stay. While many benefits have emerged from the global ‘work from home’ experiment, one area that has been negatively impacted is an organization’s ability to remain fair. How do you ensure leadership hears all voices and spends time with everyone on their team, regardless of proximity in the chain of command or location? How can you foster an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual respect when everyone has different working conditions?
While we work hard to create a fair work environment in my own company, our efforts are sometimes overshadowed by the emergence of an “us versus them” mentality.
“We have to work locally; they go to work at home”, some will think.
Or: “Whoever works on location gets more attention and recognition from management. The management is looking at us because we are not there.”
And I understand the concerns of our employees: there are real problems that contribute to divisions, and they are not always easy to solve. I don’t have it all figured out yet, but at least we’re going to continue moving the needle. Here are five strategies organizations can use to create a fairer workplace.
1. Communicate with your team.
Make sure to communicate regularly and share as much information as possible with everyone on your team. People feel mistreated and overlooked when others know and they don’t. Be as transparent as possible and create communication channels that effectively share information with all team members.
2. Talk about work situations and listen to people.
In a hybrid workplace, not everyone will be able to work from home or in the office. Even if you can’t replicate the same work environment for everyone, that doesn’t mean you can’t listen and find creative solutions that are fairer to everyone.
At my company, we have employees who have to be on-site to do their jobs and who reported feeling that they didn’t have as much flexibility as their colleagues who work from home. Rather than tailoring it to job requirements, we surveyed our on-site employees and developed a tailored plan that allowed our employees to work from home a few days a month, on a four-day workweek schedule and with flexible start times.
3. Hold yourself and others accountable.
It is disturbing when your employees see that some teammates are held accountable and others are not. It’s even worse if their leaders don’t follow the same rules. Creating a fair workplace requires everyone to do their part, adhere to company policies, and perform as part of the larger team, including and most importantly, leaders. When someone falls short, you need to hold them accountable and help them get back on track. Otherwise, the teamwork will break down and morale will drop.
4. Acknowledge everyone’s contributions.
The fastest way to create a fair workplace is to regularly recognize the contributions of your employees and ensure that everyone on your team is recognized, not just those who work on site or those with whom you have a better relationship .
I deal with this in different ways. First, I emphasize a job well done in my weekly meetings with each of my direct reports. I also recognize the efforts of individuals and the team in my weekly team meetings, so the whole team witnesses the recognition. During interactions with employees who do not report to me, I emphasize something I have heard about their performance. Finally, I make sure to publicly thank each team at monthly meetings throughout the year.
5. Be transparent when decisions are not uniform.
Not all decisions are made uniformly. As leaders, we need to analyze what is going on and make decisions based on the unique aspects of the situation. Leaders go wrong when they are not transparent about the decision-making process. In the absence of information, people fill in the gaps and tell themselves stories about the decision, which may or may not be true.
Be as open as possible about your decisions. People may not agree with you, but at least they know that everyone gets a fair chance. We did this during Covid-19, handling each exposure case uniquely based on the situation. When we surveyed our employees, 95% felt we were handling these personal issues fairly, even though they weren’t uniform, and although not everyone agreed with our protocol.
Every workplace is unique and you will have to find what works for your team or company. Some things will work and some won’t. It’s worth finding out, because honesty in the workplace creates psychological safety and promotes engagement and happiness – all things worth pursuing.