Treatment by superiors is mitigated by peers culture of fairness either way
Superiors may be fair or not: whether employees feel well treated depends largely on peers. If they are fair to each other, mistreatment by superiors is mitigated, if there is no culture of fairness within a team itself even good treatment by superiors is mitigated, too.
This is the conclusion a new study by the UCLA in collaboration with Columbia University is drawing. Why this matters? Because the level of fairness an employee is treated with points to his/her high or low standing in the organization which in turn results in a more or less motivated staff. This is crucial particularly in times of Corona & Zoom.
The researchers recommend leaders to pay attention to the fairness culture in their teams in their own interest: a) by being role models and b) by limiting violations of collegiality through fostering of ethics and a strong culture of cooperation.
Bendersky/Brockner, “Mistreatment from peers can reduce the effects of respectful treatment from bosses, and respectful peers can offset mistreatment from bosses”, in: Volume41, Issue8, Special Issue: Contextualizing Workplace Mistreatment, October 2020, Pages 722-736
From the practice:
I am hearing this pretty often: if one employee is treating peers unfairly a superior does not want to interfere. Because it´s not his/her business, because being the boss does not mean you are a parent, because a good superior does not want to be partisan, has to focus on relevant stuff and does not have time for game playing.
The truth is – at least due to countless coaching sessions over the past 20 years – that a lot of superiors tend to avoid non-factual arguments. Rather hoping that things will be solved by itself than to go between in this type of conflicts, seems to be the motto.
So the recent study might contribute to new perspectives: Yes, of course you have to intervene if employees are not treating each other fairly or correctly. If necessary you have to be very direct, as well. You are setting up together with the team some guidelines of fairness, are engaging as a sort of mediator in a meeting with all people involved or are offering coaching respectively. I do recommend: let it be part of your assessment whether any of your employees is sticking with or leaving behind any sort of unfair behavior towards peers. Otherwise your efforts are supposed to be not binding.