Words Have Power
Try to Avoid the Words “Fair” and “Unfair” at Work. They are often self-defeating.
More often than I wish, clients share with me that they seek “fairness” at work, and sometimes, too, that they want to file a complaint about “unfairness.”
In my experience, use of the words “fair” or “unfair,” or variations of them, at work, more often than not do not help, but instead hurt, even where it seems reasonable, appropriate or necessary.
Why? For two basic reasons. First is the emotional response it often evokes. My clients who are HR personnel or senior managers tell me that these words give rise to unspoken feelings of “Life is not fair,” “Who promised anyone fairness?” and “That is not what work is all about.”
It’s as if the word “fair” serves not to engender sympathy or empathy, but quite the opposite: indifference, if not hostility.
The second reason it’s not wise to use “fair” or “unfair” at work is that “fairness” is such a subjective word; that is, so often it depends on a person’s perspective.
If one person was born quite poor, and has worked very hard throughout his or her life, and gets paid more than another person, who was born wealthy, privileged and protected, and has not worked hard, is that “unfair?” It will probably depend on which one you ask.
It’s not that “fairness” is a bad word, or an unworthy goal, or not something to strive for, but it is not something that is required by law, rule or regulation at work. Yes, there are laws that prohibit discrimination, and compliance with them can be expected, and violation of those laws can be complained of. The same thing goes for harassment or retaliation. But “unfairness?” No.
Perhaps it should be your goal to make your circumstances fair, and your workplace environment fair, but it is not helpful to expect it, to complain about it, or demand it. No, that usually backfires. It cannot be given, but it can be created. Like power, it cannot be handed over, it must be made to happen.
Fairness in human relations is an aspiration, it is a goal, it is something we strive for. But actually expected at work, or to be complained of if not received at work? I don’t think so, and I see myself as something of an idealist in this regard.
Few, if any, employers will give you “fairness” at work. Rather, achieving “fairness” at work is something you need to “work” to achieve. That’s what SkloverWorkingWisdom™ is all about: We show you how.
Words have power. To help, and at times to hurt. Use them wisely.
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