Should You Treat People Equally or Fairly?

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Should You Treat People Equally or Fairly?

Encourager-In-Chief: July 19th, 2017

Apply a common sense approach to business.

Most people--paralyzed by political correctness--will assume you should always treat people equally. But is that really true in business? It’s time to apply a little common sense and good judgment.

If you have two employees who are interested in promotions. One has worked diligently, shows up for work early every day, and is proactive. The other one does mediocre work, isn’t very punctual, and has to be asked to do anything not mentioned in his or her job description. You have two open positions to which they both aspire. Do you promote both of them?

Good leaders don’t treat people equally unless they perform the same tasks equally. The alternative, then, is to treat people fairly. That means you can promote someone with less seniority who has outperformed somebody else who’s been there since the day you started your company. It may not seem equal. There’s nothing unfair about it.

I remember a woman who told me that her company was awarding a Hawaiian vacation to each salesperson who achieved his or her sales goal. Unfortunately, this woman was the only person in the sales force to hit her goal. As a result, the company decided to cancel the prize vacation because they didn’t want the other salespeople to feel bad. Needless to say, the saleswoman who hit the goal quit.

Can you blame her? She did exactly what they said they wanted and then they removed the reward so as not to offend their underperforming sales staff. This is a case of the tail wagging the dog. Leadership is having the courage to make hard decisions and treat people fairly. If anyone’s going to leave your company, it’s better if they are your underperformers and not your stars.

There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequals.
- Don Hutson

This excerpt is taken from my How to Deliver Inspired Leadership seminar.

Inspired Leadership I: How To Deliver Inspired Leadership


I encourage you to order my Become a Leader Worth Following audio program which also includes this lesson in greater detail.

Become a Leader Worth Following


Let me hear from you!