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Why Fair Treatment Isn’t Equal

Wednesday, July 5, 2023 - Joe Kiedinger

It’s time we consider that despite great intentions of treating everyone in the workplace equally… maybe equal treatment isn’t fair.

Let me explain.

Picture three young friends lined up along a fence to watch a baseball game. These youngsters are of very different heights. One is extremely tall, one is average and one is vertically challenged, shall we say.

The fence they stand behind is sturdy, thick wood with no spaces between panels. It’s a literal barrier between them and the game. The young boys carry over some nearby crates to stand on. Each boy, standing on one crate of the same size.

One friend has no struggles viewing the game as his height affords him a great vantage point above the panels. The second friend of average height can just see above the panels. And the shortest friend still cannot see a thing despite the help of the crate.

This represents equal treatment. Though the boys are all different, they have equal tools (crates) with which to accomplish the task at hand (watching the game).

When the boys realize this plan isn’t working for everyone, they pivot. They decide to reallocate the crates so that everyone can see. The tallest friend doesn’t need a crate at all to enjoy the game. The boy of average height only needs one crate. While the shortest friend is able to see once he has two crates to stand on.

It’s about equality versus equity. And what’s equal isn’t always fair.

Can you see any parallels in your workplace? A common one that comes up is regarding flexibility at work. None of us are exactly alike, meaning none of us have the very same set of needs to succeed at work. We have different roles with different expectations and different needs in our personal lives as we aim to strike a healthy balance.

Some of your team members might travel often and attend events during the evening, choosing to flex their time during the typical workweek.

Others might be struggling with an ailing parent and choose to log in late at night to make up for appointments during the week.

Yet another might be a single parent trying to wear all hats without much support.

You can see that treating each of these people equally, by requiring them all to work the exact same shift with zero room to flex does not achieve any work/life balance… and will certainly affect your company culture. 

All I ask this week is for you to observe the people on your team through this lens. What unique needs do people have? What small changes could relieve stress by providing more equity?

JOE KIEDINGER

ACTION PLAN: We’ll get after it in more detail in my next WOW, so make sure you’re subscribed. And, hey, if this concept resonates with you, forward this email to a friend!


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