Where does the concept of fairness come from

Fairness blog from Dr. Ulrich Wiek

Each of us interprets fairness individually and subjectively. Most of the time, something is seen as fair or unfair in comparison with others. This is sure to sound familiar to you, for example when looking at your own salary. Your own remuneration is often not seen as critical as an absolute result, it happens more when you compare it with your colleague's salary, i.e. as a relative result.

The origin of the term

Fairness comes from English and is usually translated as "justice", "decency" or "according to the rules". "Fair play" is an often used term in sport and means "decent play or behavior" in sport.

From my point of view, fairness means not only thinking of yourself, but also of others. Others - these are colleagues, customers, suppliers, partners, the company as well as society and the world as a whole. But fairness does not mean always giving in or always putting your own interests aside. Rather, fairness means keeping the balance between the consistent enforcement of interests and consideration in order to achieve goals and be successful - but not at any price, because the how counts.

What does fairness research teach us for everyday working life?

In the course of fairness research, various forms of fairness have emerged over the past 20 years. The following are mentioned in this context:

  • Result fairness - who gets what?
  • Procedural fairness - How does the process work?
  • Information fairness - how is information provided?
  • Interpersonal fairness - how do you deal with each other?

For a few years now, experiments on fairness research have also received neuroscientific support. For example, the brain activities of test subjects during the experiments are observed with the help of MRT examinations, among other things.

Whether someone behaves fairly depends on the particular environment. Are there conditions that make fairness easier or more difficult? Fairness research makes it clear that fair behavior occurs more often when incentives and rules demand and promote fairness. Fair behavior cannot be taken for granted. Companies and their managers must actively create the framework for this.

Today we also know that fairness is often strategically motivated. We promise ourselves a benefit if we behave fairly. Many people want to be perceived as fair because, among other things, strengthens their reputation and social standing. If we are perceived as unfair by others, it damages our reputation; others don't like to work with us.

This desire for a good reputation can be used to strengthen fair behavior in groups.

What does fairness mean to you?

Feel free to share your experiences with us, ask questions. Feel free to blog with us!

Posted in General, Fairness, Leadership, CollaborationExperimentFairnessBrain ActivityInterest EnforcementConsideration