Keeping morale high falls on you. Make it easy on yourself by following a simple rule: follow rules. I talked about how to be a consistent manager before, but this post is about a subset of consistency that I call “being fair.” By definition, being fair means living up to the rules. No employee is going to expect more than that. So why is it so hard for sales managers and small business owners to deliver?

Before you answer that, consider this interesting factoid. Of all the species in the animal kingdom, only two complain when circumstances are not fair in their opponent’s favor. No dog is going to complain that he got more treats than the puppy in the next cage for performing the same trick. But humans and chimps will. Crazy right?

Not at all. The theory is that humans and chimps evolved in cooperative units. Our own self-preservation depends on the continuation of that cooperation. We know in a fair playing field, everyone stays cooperative. Sounds like a pretty good idea for your workplace as well!

Ok, the answer to why we lose fairness in the workplace. I’m sure my four children could tell you they had the same problem at home – it’s a lack of written rules. Well intentioned parents and sales managers make judgment calls off the cuff all day long. Who knew that ruling unfairly is a negative experience for both the winner and loser of the judgment!

So there’s a simple solution. Have a rule book. Create crediting rules, commissioning rules, criteria for the distribution of promotions and other perks. Living by them is important. Even when you feel like being magnanimous and throwing a “one better” bone someone’s way, you may want to think twice. Unless you’re ready to make that a new rule, you could be tipping your fair workplace out of balance.

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