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The Fairness Game —Fiorenza

March 2008
WHAT IF you could find one basic concept that would have a powerfully positive impact on all aspects of personnel management at your printing establishment? What if it would do more to help you avoid employee lawsuits than any compliance training you could provide to your managers or employees? What if it would do more to boost employee morale and overall performance than any set of policies, evaluation protocols or progressive discipline system? And, what if this concept came as close to “the answer” to successful human resources management as any company is likely to ever get?

The answer lies in monkeys, rocks, cucumbers and grapes.

Consider the likely results of a classic party game. You are given 10 $5 bills and asked to share them with someone you’ve never met. You are given one chance to decide how much money to share. If your new acquaintance agrees, you both get to keep the amount to which you both agreed. If not, neither of you get anything.

Would you share half of the money? That would seem to assure that you walk away with at least $25. But maybe that’s too much. Surely if you kept at least a little extra for yourself, your new acquaintance would still say “yes” to the deal. Something is better than nothing, right? The “Fairness Game” is interesting, not just because of the ultimate split of $50, but because of the dynamics, reasoning and motivations that go into deciding how much to share.

What Would You Do?

Think about what you would do if given the choice. How close to a 50/50 split would you come? How does your answer change if you know that your new partner gets to choose next time?

Managers and supervisors should consider the fairness game and related concepts in each and every significant decision made with respect to the employees they manage and are asked to lead. And they should be reminded that while they may have the unilateral ability to decide how much to share in the first round of the game, their employees get to decide the next round and thereby, ultimately, control the game’s outcome.

You’re starting to wonder about the monkeys, aren’t you?

The lack of fundamental fairness in the workplace—or perhaps, more to the point, a perceived lack of fairness—is the single greatest cause of the host of human resource problems plaguing graphic arts industry managers today. These include problems ranging from baseless employment-related lawsuits, to low productivity, high absenteeism and runaway turnover. The lack of fairness generates deep conflict, even among those with the same goals. And, as such, real and perceived fairness must be actively preserved in the successful workplace.
 

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