Fairness and Integrity

Posted in management by Christopher R. Wirz on Tue Feb 02 2016

Note: For this post, assume you are a leader. The difference between a leader and a manager will be discussed in another article.

For a leader, integrity is the quality of having and practicing transparent and meaningful ethical standards. Fairness in the workplace is a strong way to demonstrate integrity. It is important to be very clear the word fair means.

Note: Fairness refers to equal opportunity, not equal distribution of outcomes or resources.

To be "fair," treat people the same by creating a positive and transparent workplace. When you treat them differently, it is based on their performance and needs.

Note: Integrity and fairness matter because they help develop trust.

As found in many research journals on high performance teams, truest is one of the key in determining success. When the team trusts you, they will listen better and perform at a higher level. Trust makes the difference between compliance and real commitment. It is an intangible team asset that takes time to build - though it can be lost in an instant.

Protection of trust can be accomplished through actions. After all, "actions speak louder than words." Transparent behaviors do a better job demonstrating trustworthiness. Consistency in behavior, having defined standards, allows you to build trust by doing what you say and by challenging any action that encourages dishonesty or rewards unethical behavior.

Another great strategy is to share credit widely. Do not steal the spotlight for yourself; give it to others. When the team passes a particular milestone or receive some recognition, acknowledge everyone's contributions. Make as many people as possible feel included in the win.

The opposite is also true. When the team faces challenges that are not avoidable, share the pain. If the team's budget gets cut, so does yours. If the team does not get a raise, neither do you. If the team has to work overtime, you should work it too. You share in the burden you ask the team to undertake. The rules for the team are the same for you. This is a tenant of integrity.

Note: The rules for a leader/manager should be a superset of the rules for the team.

One final way to demonstrate integrity is to involve yourself in the task at hand. The leader should be the first to sign up and participate in any activity in which the team should engage. This may include performing on a new or abnormal task, working a weekend or receiving training. Nothing is beneath a leader.

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