Human Resources Blog - Spark Hire

Why Treating Employees Fairly is Important

The stats in this post were updated February 2020.

Most of us have experienced favoritism. We’ve had a teacher or a camp counselor who obviously favored another student or camper. They let them go first in line, they always knew what was going on, and they enjoyed all of the perks of being a favorite. If you weren’t the favorite, do you remember how that made you feel? The chances are high that it didn’t make you feel positive about yourself or the person showing preferences. 

Now, as an adult, workplace favoritism feels even worse as it decreases morale and productivity. That’s why it’s critical employers understand why treating employees fairly, consistently across their workforce, is necessary for individual and overall company success.

The impact of fair treatment on your employer brand

When all employees experience the same amount of respect from leaders, stronger, more meaningful relationships have space to grow in the future. Unfortunately, 31% of employees wish their managers communicated with them more frequently, according to Officevibe’s State of Employee Engagement report. Another 57% wouldn’t recommend their companies as a good place of employment. 

Without genuine and trusting professional relationships, you risk creating a negative employer brand. Their current employees look for new and better opportunities while potential candidates hear negative reviews. Of course, employees’ management styles differ. However, there are components of a manager that should be the same across the board. Treating your employees fairly is one. 

Understanding the difference between fair and equal treatment

Before you shift your focus onto fair treatment, it’s important to understand how it differs from equality. This is where many managers get hung up and sacrifice healthy relationships. They think if anyone in a similar role has the same salary, no matter what, the playing field is level. 

This is a natural assumption to make, but you have to remember that every employee is unique. Almost all employees have subtle but important nuances in their work ethics, styles, skill sets, responsibilities, and goals. Bob and Sandy, for example, might have the same role, but the way they get the job done is likely very different. 

If Sandy works extremely hard at getting all of her tasks accomplished and goes above and beyond, while Bob simply works to meet the quota, should they be treated exactly the same?

If you believe they should, you might be surprised when Sandy starts to build resentment and anger for the lack of recognition for all of her hard work. In fact, there’s a good chance she stops working as hard because she receives the same acknowledgment and compensation as Bob, who only puts in half as much effort. As a result, she feels you’re not treating her with the amount of respect she deserves. 

Right then and there, you lost Sandy’s motivation and commitment to the business. As her satisfaction falls, so does her productivity level. This has all taken place because the difference between equal and fair wasn’t clearly defined. Equality, for example, is if both were performing at the same level and being paid the same rate. Fair, however, is providing Sandy with the pay increase, promotion, or forms of recognition she earned. 

Creating a fair and engaging employee experience

Fairness means a leader treats everyone appropriately and individually, based on circumstances and contribution. You need to exercise sound judgment regarding your employees. There are several ways you can do this as a leader to ensure you’re creating a fair environment for your employees. 

For starters, explain your expectations clearly to all employees. What kind of performance or results will be deemed excellent? What kind of rewards can employees who exhibit this outstanding performance expect? Make sure each employee has the chance to reach these personal and organizational goals on their own terms. 

Your employees also need to feel valued beyond members of your team. It’s essential you meet their unique working situations with understanding and respect. If one of them is going through a tough time or situation, then their performance will likely waiver as a result. Knowing these circumstances is a direct result of having a solid and trusting relationship with your employees. Of course, all while keeping it professional. 

Lastly, holding yourself accountable is another way to ensure your employees are being fairly treated. Changing your mind or your attitude on a day-to-day basis will do nothing to foster trust with your employees. 

Of course, equality, diversity, and inclusion should remain a critical focus as you also move toward treating employees more fairly. Both equality and fair treatment lead to happier, more engaged, and productive employees who are proud to vouch for your company. 

Nicole Nicholson

Nicole is the Content Editor for Spark Hire and mainly writes for and edits the work for the Spark News blog. She graduated in 2010 with a BA in Journalism from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. She has a passion for writing, editing, and pretty much anything to do with content. In her free time she frequents the Chicago music scene and writes reviews on shows for her own personal blog. Connect with Nicole and Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter


  • It might be interesting to dig into how management styles have changed in North America and Western Europe since the plunge of 2008? And if things will fall back to old patterns established pre 2008.

  • I agree Alec. That would be an interesting topic to examine. I would imagine that managers are working harder to show they appreciate their employees to prevent turnover and low productivity during this tough economic era. That being said, no matter how good or how bad the times are, managers should always be doing their best to treat employees fairly, give them ‘props’ when it’s due, and focus on the overall morale at the office.