How do you let an employee who always seeks 'fairness' know that life just ain't fair?

The people who think managers have too much privilege or managers don't 'work'? How do you let them realize that managers have bigger problems to think about and aren't always concerned with 'looking busy'?

They don't see the big picture, but I can't always tell them everything, or sometimes it's just hard to explain to them that they're too narrow-minded.


smorison's picture


Perhaps you need to communicate with them more (mean no disrespect here). That said your job isn't that much different from your directs job either.

  • What exactly are they complaining about?
  • What bigger problems are you talking about?
  • Do you delegate enough of your job to them? - helps them see what you do.
  • Do you communicate the big picture to them in terms they can understand?

As M&M say, start looking for the cause of the problem in ever increasing circles around ones desk - words I've [un]fortunately found incredibly relevant to myself!



DISC: 7511

LFinkle's picture

I suspect that your employees believe this about life in general, not just at work.  Employees often believe the 'boss' has all the privledges and they the worker bees are just that...workers. 

Communication is often the key here.  Talk to them about what they want in their career and see if you can help then get there.  Share with them your successes and the things you did to get you to your position.  Sometimes they aren't aware of the sacrifices you made along the way.  Find out what's really bugging them.  I'm sure it's more than just you not working as hard or looking busy.  Maybe they feel overloaded. Maybe they feel underappreciated or under valued?

And are you misusing your position?  Are you asking them to do things you aren't willng to do such as showing up late for work, leaving early often, taking long lunches...outward things they look at as indicators that you 'have all the luck."

This sounds like a great question for a product we are creating. I'd love your insights. Click to submit questions or ideas and a chance to win the product.&nb

GlennR's picture

In my organization we have three levels. National, Division, and Local. Each tends to blame the other two when things go wrong. Once a local employee was promoted to the Division level. It wasn't six weeks before he was asking, "What the @#$%@! are those people at the local level doing?" It's a lack of perspective. It's especially true when someone has never experienced what he or she is railing about.

You can't teach people that life isn't fair. They have to learn it on their own. In the meantime, lead by example.

RaisingCain's picture


You asked for my thoughts on how and what I came up with was to show them [the big picture]. Not over coffee in the kitchen, but formally and out in the open.  Lets assume that your managers are not over privileged and do work. Then it would be safe to say that they earn privileges and produce results.  Performance should be communicated candidly and have a component that is very tangible.
So, show people the big picture. Let them know who the stars are (say, top 20%) and what they did to earn the privileges. The key is, differentiate the top performers, and reward them. If the person seeking fairness is really a top performer seeking rewards based on the merits of what they can demonstrate as top 20% work…then give them fairness. Otherwise, your performance process should be making it clear they are not in the top 20% and need to work on x, y, and z to get there.
If you did that then the conversation with this employee would be easy. “You didn’t make the top 20%, what can we work on to get you there?” Or “that manager could have had a layup last quarter but pushed hard and beat his numbers and external bench marks in the market…she earned those privileges and more.”
Overall, change the topic from fairness (as you point out a “weak” concept) to performance.