If treating others with fairness and respect are not core values of your workplace, employees’ professional wellbeing may be suffering. Though many areas impact wellbeing in the workplace—including job autonomycoworker relations, and job security—perceptions of fairness and respect are particularly important, with the ability to affect organizational success 

Leaders, take note: Perception matters more than reality 

Perception is reality. If employees perceive unfairness—regardless of whether it exists—they may develop negative work attitudes that lead to decreased employee wellbeing. A recent InVista study [1] found that employees with high levels of professional wellbeing perceived that their organization enforced policies consistently 26% more than those with low levels of professional wellbeing. Perceptions of fairness affect not only individual wellbeing but also outcomes associated with organization success such as turnover and performance. An InVista client survey [2] revealed that employees were experiencing poor perceptions of organizational fairness and that this was one of the biggest drivers of turnover intentions. Additionally, employees with low perceptions of fairness had lower performance ratings by their managers. 

By being transparent and open about decisions (especially the ones that impact employees) and communicating the reasons behind decisions, organization leaders can often increase positive perceptions of fairness. If you don’t have the entire story to share, communicate what you do know, and provide updates as you learn more information. This is especially important when there is an environment of uncertainty over communication. Consider multiple sources of sharing information (e.g., company announcements, team huddles, having supervisors reshare communications). If you think you are overcommunicating, you’re probably providing just the right amount of information.  

Related: Download our custom Employee Pulse Survey to learn how your employees are doing  

Employees’ fairness perceptions can be challenged when organizations implement change. To ease the change process, organization leaders can provide channels in which employees can share suggestions, such as team meetings, individual conversations, or surveys requesting feedback. Giving employees the opportunity to be part of the conversation and have a role in the decision-making process is an extremely helpful way to improve perceptions of fairness. 

What to do if you perceive unfairness 

If you perceive unfairness, realize that you might not know the whole situation, and it may not appropriate for your manager to disclose another employee’s situation with you. However, you can bring this up to your manager so they are aware of the perception. 

Here are a few steps you can take to ensure a productive conversation: 

  • Prepare for the conversation by clarifying your goal, identifying your manager’s goals and potential roadblocks, and finding common ground. 
  • Set the conversation up for success by planning its logistics. Schedule it in advance if possible, find a private location, and consider a time of day that works well. 
  • During the conversation, clarify your intent and focus on shared objectives, and then state your observations and concerns. Ask for your manager’s input and listen to it. Finally, address potential concerns, and brainstorm resolutions. 
  • Don’t forget to follow up after the conversation. This helps ensure accountability of the agreement reached and allows you to reassess if the resolution is not working. 

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[1] InVista. (2020). [Unpublished raw data on wellbeing for Beta Client 2].

[2] InVista. (2019). [Unpublished raw data on retention for Client 2].