The Fairness Game —Fiorenza
Perceived fairness: Efforts to create workplace fairness cannot end with legal compliance. While such an approach may reduce an organization’s legal risk and also offer some useful management tools, it focuses more on the expensive and frustrating process of legal defense than on the proactive process of risk avoidance and positive management. And so, the second aspect of managing fairness in the workplace demands an organizational commitment to moving past compliance standards and closer to the standards of perceived fairness in all aspects of organizational activity.
Monkeys Play for Grapes
A few years back, a group of behavioral scientists conducted an experiment with a group of monkeys. They trained the monkeys to hand a scientist a rock in exchange for a cucumber chip. This became their routine over a period of time. The scientists then began giving a different reward to a select few monkeys. Those select few were given the highly prized reward of grapes for performing the same task as the monkeys who received the less-valued cucumber chips.
Observing this change, the monkeys who did not get the grapes began acting out. They would throw the cucumber chips away without eating them, they wouldn’t hand the rock to the scientist, they would ignore the scientist all together, etc. It just wasn’t fair that some worked for grapes when others had to settle for cucumbers.
These results suggest that the desire for basic fairness is at the center of all social interaction, not only among humans, but also among our closest biological cousins. Many theorize that it is, in fact, a “hardwired” trait in human beings—part of an ingrained survival instinct relating early human survival to the need to share societal resources. Assuming this theory is correct, employers would be well-advised to avoid even the appearance of “playing favorites” in all aspects of employee management.