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Fairness & Justice

Fairness & Justice

Fairness & Justice

Those finding themselves in difficult conflict situations in the workplace often are seeking justice.  A definition of justice is the administering of deserved punishment or reward.  This thinking ties in with a right’s based system where we seek to measure right against wrong.  A judge or other person in authority makes a decision on behalf of the parties, perhaps in a legal setting. Often the outcome of a right’s based system does not satisfy the participants involved. In the workplace a grievance may be filed or an investigation undertaken.  When the outcome is unfounded, as is often the case, participants are left with no resolution. It is very important to have systems and options within an organization that support employees to determine which process is appropriate for their situation. Choosing between a rights-based process and an interest-based process has a long term impact on the outcome. The appropriate choice must be carefully considered.

Sourced from Beyond Intractability.

Power based systems are inherent in organizations where there is strong hierarchy with many layers of management.  The person at the top of the hierarchy, such as a manager, makes the decisions when others are in conflict.  Resort to “power” does not require justification for fairness – as it might for certain rights or interest-based options. The manager simply exerts the power available to them – whether or not the use of that power is justified.  Parties in conflict give up their control to decide the outcome in power based systems.

An interest based system seeks to find solutions to conflict by meeting the needs of the parties involved.  Interests encompass our values, fears, concerns, needs, hopes and expectations. It is up to the parties themselves, often with support from a neutral third party, to find a solution to the conflict.

Sometimes we rely too heavily on power and rights based systems to enable us to find a solution to our conflict.  I want to remind others that there is another path to justice – not the right/wrong, punishment/reward outcome, but an outcome that will meet both party’s needs if we follow an interest based system.

The Workplace Fairness Institute works to support employees seeking justice to ensure their needs are met.

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