An introduction to Fairness and respect

Respect, dignity, justice and fairness: it’s no wonder that politicians refer to such terms so often, as they are fundamental to our sense of wellbeing. Feeling valued and cared for in the workplace reduces stress and frees us up to focus on our jobs.

4 Fairness & respect

Why it’s important

Many studies looking at the workplace have shown aspects of fairness and respect to be important for happiness and feelings of job satisfaction. Our international research across eight countries found being treated with fairness and respect is the second strongest predictor of happiness at work overall and it was the strongest in France, Germany, Australia and Belgium. Fairness was particularly important for women. Analysis of our client data over several months, shows that feeling respected in one month predicts levels of happiness the next month, indicating that feeling respected leads to feeling happier at work.

Reporting low feelings of fairness and respect at work also correlates with higher reported feelings of stress. In a recent review of research on stress, it was found that levels of cortisol (the hormone associated with stress) are three times higher when people feel they are being judged negatively by others compared to other stressful situations. In our experience a sense of fairness affects relationships between teams. Low scores on team co-operation (relationships between teams) can sometimes be traced to perceptions that some teams have it easier than others because of team targets, work volume or access to senior leadership.

What one of our experts says

“Fairness at work is both a long-standing workplace issue and a current one too. From women’s pay to the effects of zero-hour contracts and cultures of discrimination, these issues are often in the news. Within and across teams, relational dynamics also play a big role. Sometimes the seemingly small things – keeping the office tidy, starting and ending meetings on time, flexing around life challenges – make a big difference to the way people work and the way people feel at work”. Dr Jody Aked, Friday

How we measure it

To measure about feelings of fairness at work, we ask:

Do you feel that you are treated with fairness and respect at work?

The question is an old favorite of ours because it’s a very reliable predictor of other outcomes like happiness. We use the terms fairness and respect because they are easily understood, without being too emotionally loaded.

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