“That wasn’t fair” is the battle cry of kids on the playground. We soon learn life isn’t fair, so we devise more sophisticated ways of saying “that wasn’t fair.” This oft used phrase claiming unfairness focuses on ones view of how they themselves are being treated differently than how they think they should be treated. The perspective of this working definition of fairness is self-centered.
Our conversations on an ethical approach to making decisions brings us to this question of fairness. If we extend the notion of fairness to everyone, the idea of treating others the same way we would like to be treated arises in our thinking. Too often we start and end with how decisions effect us personally. We have established that in the process of making ethical decisions it may be inconvenient and that there is an inherent attribute of serving others.
Fairness for All
Fully extending our thinking of fairness to everyone requires us to adopt an attitude of not treating one person or group differently than another. Applying a fair approach to our interactions with others means we should have blinders on in a way. It should not matter who the other person is, we should treat them how we would like to be treated.
The intentional activities of protecting the rights of others and insuring protection from harm with compassion is our working definition of justice. The idea is that “fairness” is applied to everyone regardless of who they are. Because we live in a world where some individuals choose to harm others, a justice system has been established to fulfill this protecting objective. However, in our daily decision-making activities, we should apply the justice not out of fear of receiving punishment from the system, but because it is the right thing to do.
I have added in our definition the aspect of compassion in order to bring up the motivating factor that we are dealing with people, not just a multitude of entities. Decisions we make in business affect people. Decisions in all aspects of life affect other people. We cannot escape this fact. I heard a great explanation of compassion that brings it home: compassion is the suffering alongside someone else. The deeper emotional caring of others in a way that offers understanding of their situation. This draws upon the idea of empathy over sympathy.
One of the factors influencing how we make decisions should include justice. It is unavoidable that our decisions in business and all of life impact other people. Justice in decisions is then an intentional consideration of how others are affected with the objective of not harming them.
How do we bring justice to all in our every day decision-making? How do we bring the idea of justice into our company culture and into our daily business dealings? What is the balance of justice and profit?