Employees have an inherent desire to be treated fairly and rewarded appropriately. Study after study shows that employees who feel that their organization respects and appreciates them are more engaged and more productive than workers in companies that are perceived to be selfish, biased, and uncaring. So where does your company rank and how do you know if it’s fair or not?
In a Fast Company article, Michael J. Kuhar, Ph.D., of Emory University’s Center for Ethics in Atlanta, says employees know – and leaders adhere to - a company’s expectations and evaluation criteria in a fair workplace environment, especially in these four areas:
In a fair workplace environment, harassment, bullying, and intentional infliction of emotional distress are not tolerated. This includes not only direct harassment (a manager propositions a subordinate, a coworker bullies a fellow employee), but also indirect harassment. An example of indirect harassment may take the form of an employee having to see or hear a manager berating or being sexually suggestive with another employee, or being subject to hearing lewd and other types of inappropriate jokes, since these actions can constitute the creation of a hostile environment.
In a fair workplace, the company provides extensive training to ensure that all of the employees and managers know what constitutes harassment. The company also takes all allegations seriously and impartially investigates each complaint.
The company takes the necessary steps to ensure that workers are safe from hazards and dangers in a fair workplace environment. If the company has a nonsmoking policy, it does not turn a blind eye to workers who want to smoke outside of the designated smoking zones. In addition, workers are provided with training and the proper tools and equipment to prevent workplace injuries.
According to Workplace Fairness, violence affects nearly 2 million U.S. workers each year, and those who handle money in public (cashiers), have extensive public contact while working alone (postal workers, taxi drivers, real estate agents), or work at night in high crime areas are more susceptible to workplace violence. In a fair workplace environment, the organization takes security seriously and provides such measures as increased lighting, video surveillance, and protective barriers, in addition to training and information-sharing to protect its workers.
The company does not force workers to work overtime without pay in a fair work environment. Usually, it is blatantly obvious when employees are working overtime; however, some instances may not be as noticeable, such as requiring an employee to set up equipment before their shift starts or requiring them to breakdown or clean the equipment after their shift ends, asking an employee to pick up breakfast for a company meeting on their way to work (which requires them to leave home earlier), or asking employees to drop off packages, etc., on their way home.
Also, in a fair work environment, employees are not expected to work during their lunch break, and those who work on assembly lines, etc., are not forced to take bathroom breaks at specified times only so the company can keep the assembly line moving.
In a fair company, employees are valued as people and not just a means to an end. Understanding that most employees consider their jobs to be a source of stress, these organizations discourage workaholism so their workers can rest and spend quality time with family, friends, etc.
Exempt employees, in particular, are more likely to be expected to answer phone calls and respond to emails and text messages after work, on weekends, and even on vacation or while out on sick leave. They are also more likely to be expected to miss events (such as their kid’s school activities) for the sake of the company. However, in a fair work environment, exempt employees are encouraged – not punished – for clearly delineating between work and personal time.
In a fair work environment, the company provides opportunities for employees to grow and develop personally and professionally. It offers training and development to increase the worker’s knowledge base and skill level. The organization also ensures that its positions are not dead-end jobs. Employees who grow and develop have the opportunity to be promoted to better positions within the company.
Now that you know what constitutes a fair workplace, you can get to work creating – or searching for – the type of company that values its employees and fosters the type of environment that inspires employees to do their best work.