May 3, 2021, by HR Search & Rescue One of the most common challenges that managers across a variety of disciplines have to deal with is the idea of fair vs. equal treatment. When employee relations issues are handled poorly, managers can get labeled as using favoritism which can lead to a myriad of problems within your organization. Whether it’s recognition or discipline, managers have to create an atmosphere where employees feel they are being treated fairly. Oftentimes, management teams will have good intentions when they decide to employ equal treatment but quickly realize they are not getting the results they thought they would. Employees most times will begin to report less job satisfaction and will not feel heard, empowered, or valued. Fair, in this context, is not the same as equal treatment. Equal, by definition, means being the same. Your employees are not all the same; they each have their own unique skill sets and environments that they thrive in and should be nurtured accordingly. In order to treat employees with respect, it is important to treat employees fairly and ensure they have access to the same resources and equal opportunities. So, how can you do this? Be clear about what you expect from employees. When employees understand exactly what is expected of them, they begin to become more focused and productive team members. There shouldn’t be much gray area for what is expected, so try to ensure a clear team mentality where everyone knows their individual role. In addition, try to cater to each type of employee’s strengths. Every employee is unique and has their own environments they work best in and tasks they handle more effectively. Try to understand your employees and think of their personality type, and how they work best based on their performance and tendencies. This can lead to more organized teams with better teamwork, which will create new levels of productivity and synergy amongst an organization. Here’s an example: an introverted employee will tend to say that they’re okay even when they’re not. Successful leaders understand that they need to go the extra mile to understand how they truly feel. Consistently placing employees such as this in compromising situations they are not comfortable with will only hinder their productivity and the quality of work your organization is able to complete. There are also occasions where equality is important as well. Equality means being fair to all employees. If you are going to help employees find their strong suits and perform motivated work, it should be done for every employee. As we mentioned earlier, all employees deserve the same opportunities, resources, and trust. Even then, managers need to consult with human resources (and possibly legal counsel) to make sure an equal response is required. These are often tough decisions. Human resources and management can work together to ensure that employee relations matters are handled in a fair and equal manner. Overall, equal treatment and fair treatment are not the same things. No one in this world is the same. We all have different needs, motivations, personalities, and work preferences. By honoring each person’s individuality, managers can nurture an environment where everyone can be themselves and achieve their full potential. In the end, this is what every business should strive for.