But That’s Not Fair!

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Yes, and “life’s not fair”.  But where does that get you in the workplace? When people feel like their boss is treating them unfairly or a co-worker seemingly gets more privileges, complaints and grievances go up and morale goes down.

In our society, both individualism and equality are valued, but these values can clash when making decisions.  Everyone thinks their situation is unique and justifies an exception to the rule.  And rigid adherence to rules will garner its own problems.

So what does it mean to be fair?  It may be fair to grant an exception.  Or maybe it’s more fair to adhere to a policy that applies evenly to all.

What fairness means may be different for everyone.  Fairness means a measure against a standard of some kind.  And standards can have many sources.  Standards of fairness may come from the law.  But what each of us considers fair may still vary because legal standards are not the only standards we have learned and that we may live by.  We might use standards that we learned in our family (cultural standards).  Some of us use standards that we learned in church (moral or religious standards).  Others use standards that are a collection of acceptable practices (industry standards).

Because there are different sources of fairness, it can become a source of conflict.  And because circumstances vary as much as personalities, this creates conflict but also opportunity.  Alternate dispute resolution and mediation provide the opportunity to craft solutions that work for the unique situation and parties involved.   The parties get to decide what is fair for them using the standards that are right for them and their circumstances.  At the same time, if they can’t agree, settlement is entirely voluntary and no one loses the right to resort to a legal standard in court.

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