Saturday, January 29, 2005

HR - It’s Unfair!!

Ah… the common refrain I hear oh so often from people whenever they feel they are hard done by. But what is fairness? To me it is like beauty,… it lies in the eyes (or mind in this case) of the beholder. Allow me to illustrate with an example from the commercial world.

Let us say you have two staff. One, Ms X, is a bright and fast worker and the other, Mr Y, not so quick on the uptake and a rather slow worker. They both have similar roles and you give them the same type and amount of work which should occupy them for 1 full working day. Ms X obviously finishes the work quicker than Mr Y. The question then is, which is the fairest approach:

i) To request that Ms X help Mr Y (after Ms X has finished her work) so that they both go home at the same time?
ii) To “reward” Ms X by allowing her to leave for home earlier, as soon as she finishes her share of the work, thereby leaving Mr Y to work “over-time” to complete his share?
iii) To give some of Mr Y’s work to Ms X such that they both have a “full days” worth of work to do, but to give Ms Y a better appraisal rating at the end of the year.

Ask any number of people and they will each have their own view of which of the above is the “fairest”. Indeed, some would even offer their own solution which they think is the fairer approach.

Managers who have worked in different countries on different continents have told me that people in Singapore and Malaysia tend to be preoccupied with the notion of “fairness” as if it is something universal that everyone understands. Granted that it is natural for people to seek some kind of “equity” or “justice” in everyday life but it appears that the issue of “fairness” seems to be raised much more often by those in Asia than in the west (this is a generalisation of course).

I tend to support the sentiments contained in the (rather curt) response that “life is unfair, so take it or leave it!” I really do believe we will not be able to agree on what is equitable or fair in any given situation and that we should all just strive (or fight) for the best deal possible and try to live with what we can get. The alternative (as is the case today) is that we will simply be miserable sods because we will just continue to complain and try to attain a concept which we think everyone else is trying to achieve but which really exists only in our own minds! A true exercise in futility… It’s so unfair!


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