Do you speak up about unfairness?

Last updated by Chloe Lin [SSW] 5 months ago.See history

Throughout your career, you might come across a scenario that feels unfair. In these situations, communication is vital for resolving conflict and making all parties feel content with the result. Let's take a look at some scenarios that may be perceived as unfair:

  • Someone might get a promotion when you felt you deserved it more
  • A group of employees might be left out of a public yearly bonus
  • A colleague might be put on a project that someone else is more suited to

There are 3 perspectives to consider and each has different strategies for maintaining a good working environment.


Managers are human, and sometimes don't make the right decisions.

  • Avoid unfair situations - Steer clear of arbitrary decisions that could be perceived as unfair. For example, if you are going to choose who the best employee is, you better have numbers to back it up.
  • Communicate decisions - By communicating the reasons for every decision you set the right expectations for employees and prevent them from feeling frustrated.
  • Give a heads up - If you know someone might feel a situation is unfair, give them a heads up ahead of time.


Getting an accolade or present is great but consider your colleagues.

  • Remain humble - You might feel proud of your new accomplishment and that's awesome. However, make sure you don't advertise or boast about it because that may cause resentment among your colleagues and foster a bad working environment.

Neglected individual

Missing out on an award can suck. What should you do?

  • Ask questions - Finding out the reasons for decisions will help you understand why it happened. That knowledge will be valuable to you in the future.
  • Speak up - If you feel things are unfair make it known tactfully. If it is bothering you, the longer you wait, the worse it becomes. Speaking up will give the person making the decision a chance to explain or rectify the issue.
  • Be reasonable - Everybody has their day of sunshine. Even if it doesn't totally make sense to you. It would be awesome if you can be genuine and privately send a congrats or even better do it publicly.

    "Always clap for your friends, even if their dreams come true before yours."

Video: Two Monkeys Were Paid Unequally: Excerpt from Frans de Waal's TED Talk (2 min)

Video: Speaking Up about Unfairness - with Adam Cogan and Jean Thirion (9 min)

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