I am so sick of people in positions of power making lousy decisions in the name of “fairness.”

Once upon a time, a colleague and I shared an administrative support person. She was struggling with some physical issues which we were persuaded were due to a bad ergonomic fit with her chair. Getting her a better chair was the obvious solution. However, we were told that she didn’t qualify for a better chair based on her role. Only managers qualified for chairs with arms (!), and “it wouldn’t be fair” to the other admin staff if she got one.

“No,” we thought, “What isn’t fair is failing to address a physical impairment caused by working conditions that are completely within our control.” We bought her a new chair out of our own pockets, tied a big red ribbon on it and rolled it into her office. Because “fair” isn’t always right.

This inability to make and defend tough decisions too often masquerades fairness. Instead of sucking it up and explaining that some people will be treated differently because that’s what the situation demands, too many people in power fall back on “fairness.” But if you’re paying close attention, what they are really demonstrating isn’t fair, and it isn’t leadership. It is weakness. It is an unnecessary exertion of control. And it is cowardice in the face of having to explain themselves. It is the opposite of good leadership and when we see it, we need to expose it and demand better.

This is particularly important when we are in a position to speak up for others who are not. Whenever you can, be an advocate for those who don’t have your advantages. Be the squeaky wheel, not so you can get what you want, but so others won’t have to fight quite so hard to get what they deserve. And, if you are the one asking for “fairness,” be sure you understand that it isn’t always what you think it is!

Cheers to your career!

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