Fairness In The Workplace

If there was any concern that was greater than fairness in the workplace…I do not recall it.  Each of us are members of the workforce for a variety of reasons.  A primary passion for working is the need for money.  As I have commented, on numerous occasions, most geographical locations are splendid…if you have enough money to enjoy the benefits of living there.   Southern Illinois is one of the most lovely locations to reside in, with the ancient hills and valleys created by the glaciers stopping nearby, and the luxurious natural surroundings.  Southern Illinois is a hard place to earn a living.   Consistent with the need for a living wage is a clear plan for not only attaining good job performance but a map for success, or promotion, for ambitious employees.

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There is a valuable creed that I attempted to live by as a supervisor/manager/administrator…for over 30 years, ‘Be friendly, but not familiar…good, but not gullible.’


If you are honored to lead a department or group of colleagues, the first rule is to remind yourself, daily, that the success of the operation is not solely because you are the leader, and in fact it may have little to do with you…but rather the hard work of your colleagues….and when others disagree with you…they may be right.


The upgrade of excellent staff, that are critical thinkers and feel strongly regarding their viewpoints…is your responsibility.

The renown author, Doris Kearns Goodwin, wrote a bestseller entitled, Team of Rivals, where she discussed President Lincoln filling his cabinet with, skilled and brilliant, political opponents.


Nothing is a more glaring red light…than the favoritism of some people and the ignoring of others who have not produced the required obeisance.  I remember when my supervisor upgraded a person who  he played pool with and enjoyed fish dinners with…and ignored a more skilled professional who desired the position.  Managers and leaders seem to believe that what they are doing is hidden from the rest of the team.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We all seek to be treated by a recognized and consistent set of work standards that do not include who the bosses personal friend is.  Good work performance, measured by an agreed upon standard that all members of the community understand, should be recognized.  Herculean work performance…has to be recognized!


During my time at the university I strove to treat my colleagues, many of whom disagreed with me on issues, as I wanted to be treated…and considered not, their criticisms.


For a supervisor or a manager or an administrator…do not seek your friends from the groups that you have been tasked to lead.  This is a prescription for disaster.  Now that I am retired…I am humbled to have a few friends from my days at SIUC…but I am no longer their leader.  I have had colleagues tell me, sometimes years after we first began working together, that they respected my fairness.  I could not have received a better compliment.


I battled lay-offs for my entire career at the university.  I was tasked with budget cutting on almost an annual basis.  During one fiscal year I cut one millions dollars without laying off the precious staff of Building Services.

I recall the imminent reality of laying off several staff if I could not find the money in other than salary dollars.  I found it and presented it to my boss and we agreed that there would be no lay-offs in Building Services.  I then proceeded to a meeting of the Employee Advisory Committee to the Merit Board, in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois.  I had no more than arrived at my hotel room when my assistant, Elizabeth, called me to tell me that 13 lay-off notices had been passed out to members of my staff.  When I telephoned the director he told me that he was compelled to lay-off  a number of my people due to another superintendent not being able to find the money in OTS dollars and thus members of his staff were going to be removed.


Never compare one colleague with another’s job performance or lack thereof… and expect either member of your staff to be happy with a comparison that is outside the parameters of recognized good job performance.

I, vividly remember, our consternation and dismay as members of the Civil Service Council, when our president wrote the university president, in the latter 1990s, to ask if he would consider a cost of living raise for the civil service staff at Carbondale…in view of the fact that he had just awarded a, sizable increase in pay, for all of his, immediate staff, at the Stone Center.  He responded that ‘his staff’ was underpaid and that he felt compelled to give them a raise.  He went on to inform us that sadly there were no funds available for, even a small raise, for the civil service staff on campus.



We civil service staff…thought that we were a part of the president’s staff…as he was the leader of all of us….



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