One of the trigger events for the American Revolution was the Boston Tea Party which was a protest against unfair treatment. While this is an interesting history lesson about the role of government, it can also serve as a lesson for leadership in the modern workplace.
Studies show that employees leave bosses more often than they leave companies. Even in this depressed economy bad management is a key trigger in people quitting their job. The reasons bosses have such a large impact boils down to how people are treated. People want a say in the decisions that impact their workload and careers, they want to be treated fairly, be given challenging work, and rewarded for their efforts.
As a leader the challenge is how to treat employees fairly. Fair is not equal. Treating people fairly means that you have to provide opportunities and responsibilities that match each person’s level of ability. You cannot treat each person exactly the same as their abilities are not exactly the same. Understanding the abilities and the goals of each member will help you determine what will help your team grow as individuals and grow as a team.
Another fairness issue is tied to integrity. Make sure that you keep the promises you make to your team. If you say you will give someone an assignment or time off, whatever it is then you have to be able to follow through. When you fail to deliver for one person and do deliver for another then people will question if you are playing favorites. This will undermine any and all attempts to treat people fairly as your actions will be suspect. Choose your promises very carefully. This is a time when it can be better to under promise and over deliver.
To achieve fairness in treatment, it is critical that you spend time talking with your employees. Regular one-on-one meetings to understand your employees concerns and issues will help you find the appropriate level of challenge and independence for each person. Being interested in each employee, regardless of how well you relate, will give insight into what makes your team tick, and genuine interest will build your credibility.
For centuries people have rebelled against unfair treatment by people in positions of authority. Recognizing the need to be fair in your treatment of those around you will prevent a rebellion on your team. When everyone feels involved, empowered and valued performance goes up along with job satisfaction.
Good luck and Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans.