Being fair isn’t always fair.
Treating everyone the same is rarely fair or what’s best for them. This is a topic that new leaders, and sometimes very mature leaders, often struggle with. I speak from experience. I still struggle with this topic from time to time. Earlier in my leadership I typically tried much to hard to be ‘fair’ which led to situations where I was trying to treat everyone on team in the same way. Eventually I learned that treating everyone the same isn’t actually fair and it’s rarely what is best for the person you’re trying to be fair to in the first place.
People are different and have different needs.
Newsflash: People are different. We have different needs. We offer different skills. We develop in different ways. We all knows this and in an abstract manner I think we all get the notion that treating everyone on our team (if for example you manage a team) exactly the same way isn’t fair. But still, and I’m not sure why, it’s incredibly common for people to manage their teams under a management style which tries to treat everyone the same way. I’m not sure why this us. I still struggle with this myself from time to time although I’ve been better in recent months once I finally came to believe that treating everyone the same in an attempt to be fair was in fact not what was best for the people on teams that I am trying to lead a serve.
What about favoritism?
Favoritism often has a negative connation in a management environment. It sounds one step away from cronyism. Newsflash: Some people on your team will be more gifted on your team than others. Some people are more likely to get that promotion or key assignment than others. Grooming the rising stars and managing the expectations of others is one skill that I think separates mediocre supervisors from gifted managers and developers of people and teams. Doing this the wrong way can destroy relationships and teams. Doing it the right way builds people up and creates a healthy and trusting team work environment.
Why is treating people differently, but fairly, hard?
I’m not sure but here’s my theory. Treating people in an identical manner is much more difficult than understanding the individualized needs of your team. Being different but fair is a heck of a lot harder than simply treating everyone the same and it takes much more time as a manager and leader. I don’t have an easy answer for that problem but I’m convinced that one path leads to mediocre teams while the other path leads to extraordinary teams. Choose your path.