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Justice, Equity and Fairness. How Business can Improve Employee Morale.

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We throw the words justice, ethics, fairness, and equity around in business all the time. Many believe these words have similar meanings and that they can be applied with the same scale of measurement in both business life and public life. It is important to define each word and clearly align them with business practices.

Justice refers to the ‘administration of the law’ and the ‘conformity to truth, fact, or reason’ based on the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.com. This word is the umbrella under which, ethics, fairness and equity resided. “Justice at work is critical to employee motivation, health, and well-being and to high-performing organizations” (Melena, 2020).

There are seven key factors that affect employee motivation.

1.  The work is meaningful and they like what they do.
2. The recognition and feedback are consistent, open and candid. Communication is productive.
3. Employees are included and part of processes and change.
4. The environment is safe and clean.
5. The leaders of the organization serve as role models and mentors, who model the right behaviors.
6. The company policies are fair, equitable and uphold business ethics and actions are just.
7. The compensation is fair.

Organizational policies are critical, and justice can be broken into three areas.

  • Distributive justice – Fairness in how you distribute outcomes, rights, and resources. Employees need to feel that all distribution is fair and equitable.
  • Procedural justice – Fairness and transparency in the policies, procedures, and processes you use to make decisions. This includes your decisions about the distribution of outcomes, rights, and resources. To evaluate fairness, employees need to understand your standards or rationale.
  • Interactional justice – Fairness in how you treat employees during the implementation of policies, procedures, processes, and outcomes. [3] Employees need to be treated with dignity, compassion, caring, and respect.

Each of these areas speak to fairness and equity for all employees. Establishing policies and processes that treat all employees with dignity, respect and care goes a long way to improve morale. Improved morale leads to less sick days, less missed work, and more productivity because they feel that they are being treated equitably.

Equity doesn’t mean equal, however. “Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities. Equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome” (2020). https://onlinepublichealth.gwu.edu/resources/equity-vs-equality/ Business policies need to be consistent and administer with fair and equitable treatment to ensure morale remains high.

Fairness requires careful application and consideration. Merriam-Webster Dictionary.com says fairness is the “impartial and just treatment or behavior without favoritism or discrimination.” The Harvard Business reviews says, “Using process fairness, however, companies could spend a lot less money and still have more satisfied employees” (Brocker, 2006). https://hbr.org/2006/03/why-its-so-hard-to-be-fair

In the powerful article, “Why Is it So Hard to be Fair”, they outline the few areas a business should focus on to ensure that fairness is upheld in your business.

  1. Address the knowledge gap
  2. Invest in training
  3. Make the process fairness is a top priority

“There is a moral imperative for companies to practice process fairness. It is, simply put, the right thing to do” (Brocker, 2006).

Ultimately, every business in today’s work environment needs to have guidance and coaching to help them develop fair policies, policies, and practices. Working with a certified professional business coach can help you develop the right policies and processes for your business. ActionCOACH is the largest and most innovative business coaching organization. To find a coach in your area visit www.actioncoach.com, the first session is complimentary.


Carmen Gigar is the Chief Marketing Officer for ActionCOACH Global.