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Why you should not be fair to your staff

By Darryl Stewart, Head of the Herd

My mantra on being a fair manager goes something like this:

Treating people fairly to me does not mean treating everyone the same,
it means treating everyone the way they deserve to be treated.

The biggest part of this for me is spending most of my time and energy on and with my best employees.

There is an exercise that I do in my employee engagement workshops where I ask a volunteer to blow up three balloons, each one harder to inflate than the last one.  The last one is one of those water balloons, darn near impossible to blow up.

tipping scaleWorkshop participants quickly see that the first balloon fills quickly and becomes huge, the second one becomes a normal size and the third one is barely blown up at all and we all get a laugh at the red face of the volunteer. This is a great analogy for determining who should get most of your time and energy as a manager.

Your best employees (the easy balloon to blow up) will get stuff done without draining you. Be kind and generous with them, treat them in the style that they like to be treated, set reasonable expectations that allow them to use their strengths and they will do tons of good stuff for you.

Some employees will waste your time and offer you very little in return.  It is analogous to my volunteer spending all that effort trying to blow up little balloons made for water, not air.

I spend most of my time with my best people. I get tons done this way with the least amount of energy expended. It’s not that I am lazy – it’s that I want to succeed. Many people (the old me included) tend to focus on the squeaky wheel: the employees that causes the most grief.

Is this fair? What kind of message does it send?

The message I think it sends is this: To get attention around here, stir up trouble.”

Well, I want to send a different message: To get my attention, show me you are here to help make things better.”

To do so, I reserve my best stuff and my most creative ways of helping for my best people. It has helped me create a more productive workplace in which great team members are rewarded with more than just a pat on the back or a bigger paycheck.  They get an understanding manager who is on their side and who always has time for them.

Next week – how to deal with the squeaky wheel…