Successful teams operate with an innate sense of fairness and justice. Everyone pitches in to complete assignments, and those who fail to show the same commitment are ostracized.

Within small groups, this dynamic works through personal relationships, as team members can see the amount of effort being put forth by each individual. However, that does not mean the process can't be improved

The Symbolist reported that a sense of fairness is vital to office morale. Those who feel cheated out of what they believe is theirs quickly become disengaged and could eventually cause problems within their departments. The source noted that most cases of fairness come down to recognition and praise. If staff members feel that an individual – either a boss or a co-worker – always receives credit for their hard work, this discourages them from putting forth their best effort.

Promotions not always determined by fair management

However, a recent article in Psychology Today stated that companies often look down on fairness. Citing a study from 2011 by the Harvard Business Review, the source noted that managers who were considered fair by their teams would often lose promotions to managers who were perceived as less objective. To get ahead in their own careers, managers needed to be seen as assertive and in control, which required them to step on a few toes.

This mixed message is exactly the type of element that limit firms' ability to show fairness to people. The dynamic makes it important for top executives to regularly measure employee engagement to determine how policies and programs are being perceived. Staying on top of these issues can keep the pendulum from swinging too far in any one direction. While too little justice discourages participation in group projects, too much fairness may keep top performers from doing their best work for fear that others will ride their coattails. 

Taking the pulse of a team

It is important that businesses conduct regular surveys of their staff as a way to begin dialogues. These conversations can spur specific actions that will improve engagement levels. The Cooperative News stated that open dialogues allows businesses to show a commitment to values such as fairness and dedication to build a comprehensive office culture.

"Understanding what colleagues think is absolutely vital to identifying and addressing potential issues early," Tracey Orr, general manager of human resources at Midlands Co-operative Society, told the source. "It also helps keep colleagues feeling motivated and valued. The attitude survey is our temperature check. We're a society with lots of growth ambitions. We need to make sure we expand in the right way, take people with us and keep employees engaged. We're not going for growth at all costs."

This balanced approach lets companies build more cohesive units and eliminate mistrust. When everyone knows that people will be held to the same standard and that leadership is continually taking steps to address imbalances, they are able to focus on completing assignments quickly and correctly.

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