Fairness could very well be the secret to employee retention, engagement, and success.
Did you know that by accepting low performance, you may be putting your best performers at risk?
Those high performers who you can always count on to get the job done are still only human, and by over-burdening them with an unfair workload, you are setting them up for burnout.
In fact, lack of fairness in the workplace is a PREDICTOR of burnout!
Berkeley professor, Christina Maslach, and researcher, Michael Leiter, conducted a study and were able to predict AN ENTIRE YEAR IN ADVANCE if burnout would happen. (Plummer 2019)
The critical factor was fairness.
You see, burnout has three notable symptoms:
1) emotional exhaustion, 2) cynicism, and 3) a reduced sense of personal accomplishment.
The researchers did two assessments, one year apart, on the same group of employees. Some patterns became apparent in the findings: Employees who were either emotionally exhausted OR cynical, but not both, tended to remain healthy one year later. However, where employees rated themselves high on emotional exhaustion or cynicism AND believed their workplace was unfair at the time of the first assessment, were significantly more likely to be burned out by the time the second assessment rolled around a year later.
Fairness, or perceived fairness, has huge ramifications for engagement and retention in addition to contributing to burnout. Fairness, or unfairness, in the workplace can swing team member performance by up to 26% and employee retention by up to 27%. (Notice I said perception. It’s not what YOU think, it’s what your team members think. And their job performance is dependent on that sense of fairness.)
As a mom of twin boys, I took fairness, really an even-steven obsession, to a whole new level for my two darlings when they were little. I would painstakingly cut a grain of rice into perfect and equal halves if it meant keeping the peace. (Can you relate?) Chores. Video game time. Sports and extracurriculars. Number of broccoli spears on the plate. Even. Fair. No favorites. Not in this house!
Even with all of this effort, I would still hear the nails-on-a-chalkboard whine, “That’s not fair, Mom!” from time to time.
I kind of missed the point with fairness at home. Fairness means treating people according to their needs. And it does not always mean the end result will be equal, or even-steven. Fairness is more than being impartial. It’s bigger than an absence of favoritism or discrimination. Fairness is making sure everyone has what they need to be successful.
When your team members have what they need to be successful, a powerful chain of events gets triggered.
While life isn’t always fair, leveling the playing field for your employees is important for so many reasons, and like a lot of important things, fairness starts at the top, with leadership.
So, I am going to leave you with three eye-opening questions to think about as a leader to assess your level of fairness. Now, if you want to go deeper, I have to tell you Fairness is the January topic in our membership program, Fully Staffed. Membership opens in January if you are not already a member. In the meantime, join our waitlist by clicking here. I will send you Drive’s 5-Day Recruitment Challenge to work on until membership opens in January!
Now, here are those fairness-probing questions for you:
1. Do I spend more time informally chatting or joking with certain employees?
2. Do I let mistakes pass or use my authority to cover up errors of certain employees?
3. Do I favor certain employees in the allocation of workload (either giving them more overtime or lighter workloads)?