Why Fairness matters


Our brains are wired to seek pleasure (reward) and avoid pain (threat): I know this is a very simplistic way to view the human being when we are so complex and yes, it is not the complete answer on how to be engaged at work, but, it does make sense and is well worth while investigating. In my two previous blog posts I discussed the motivational ideas from neuroscience: Status, Certainty, Autonomy and Relatednes and with this, the final post in the series, here are a few tips based on the concept of Fairness, the F, in David Rock’s SCARF.

Fairness– people like to be treated fairly and with consistency

Threat Example: at the company Christmas party, your colleague tells you (after a few alcoholic drinks) that he is earning €3,000 pa more than you.  As far as you know he has the same job as you, with the same title and responsibilities. This comes as a shock because you always thought the company had fair and consistent compensation policies and you feel it is very unfair he is compensated more than you (length in service not withstanding) when you have the same job with similar objectives and targets.

Reward example:  at the beginning of the New Year, your company gives all employees a bonus for achieving its targets in 2014 even though other parts of the company are not doing so well. This makes you feel very good indeed (not just the bonus itself although it is welcomed after the Christmas slurge!) as it’s so fair that you and your colleagues are rewarded for your own hard work.

Examples of where fairness can be used to motivate people include: fair and transparent policies that are consistently applied; fair recognition and compensation; clear expectations and agreement on outcomes; a ban on favouritism or elitism; consistent behaviour and conversations

We all strive for fairness in our lives, we cannot help it, from the fights over the Sunday lunch as to who gets the most roast potatoes or last slice of chocolate cake to the equal share of the will left behind by the death of parents.  It even goes deeper to how many times we hug one child over another; perceived unfairness often leads to feelings of failure, inadequacy and isolation.  It does not make much logical sense, but when we think about it, fairness is probably the highest motivator there is because for the very reason it is so deeply imbedded into our human nature.

Happy Christmas to you all and share out those roast potatoes on the 25th, smiles all round!

Anne Marie

Anne Marie Crowley - Crowley Personal and Business Change

Anne Marie Crowley, based in Cork, is a free-lance Coach and Trainer in the field of behavioural change for individuals and business. 

Anne Marie Crowley is the founder of Crowley Personal and Business Change.





1 thought on “Why Fairness matters”

  1. dolancharlie

    Very good as always Anne Marie. Wishing a very Happy Christmas and New Year. Charlie d

    Sent from my iPad


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