‘Fair’ Leaders Don’t Leave Great Memories!

660 330 Kamal Karanth

Who is the leader you fondly remember the most? Isn’t it somebody who blessed you those extra favours?

Most leaders aspire to be fair or think they are fair to their team members, organisations strive to have checks and balances to ensure favouritism doesn’t get the better of leaders. One of the roles HR plays is to ensure the policies and practices of organisations are fair to all. But in the true world don’t we spend significant time criticizing how unfair some of our bosses are, how HR doesn’t/can’t check the unfair behaviour of leaders? Well, I don’t think I qualify to offer advice on how unfair practices can be minimised, but I would make an attempt to highlight how we have corrupted our ‘memories’ with people who possibly influenced us through their favours on us.

Back in time I was checking through the last 3 years increments data in my new assignment, 3 of the hikes in the previous year caught my eye which were in excess of 70%. One of them is worth discussing, a guy who was at 1.2 million salary per annum was moved to 2.8 million, now I know its a obscene 3 digit hike and I found no earth shattering qualifying criteria, now I dont know how it was even allowed by HR, when I quizzed the HRM he smiled and said “you will soon know”. The guy who benefitted from this hike had atleast half a dozen bosses subsequently, but whenever I spoke to him I realised he only looks up to one boss, you know who 🙂 We can’t blame him can we? You and me will happily have portraits of such bosses in our homes!

When I close my eyes, and think about my senior leaders whom I remember the most, I am reminded of 4 sets of people,

The last two are the topic of discussion today, yes it would be ungrateful to forget the guys

Who demonstrated to me that they took some discretionary decisions to either give me a plum new role or sent me on an overseas assignment to name a few. Discretionary bonus and increments have not been my lucky forte yet! Yes’ there have been many people who were highly professional, who worked without emotion, but were fair in recognising my efforts, but they were equally impartial when they dealt with my peers. So, it takes an extra effort to remember them 🙂

Now let me ask myself If I was fair, impartial in my leadership stints, I would like to believe so 🙂 Nobody has filed a discrimination case yet! But I know I took many discretionary calls which went beyond the metrics and policies that were laid. Giving a 3-digit hike to people was one of the fantasies which I have not executed yet 🙂 I think I was little stingy on mega increments and maybe quite short on showering ‘out of turn’ promotions compared to the expectations my team would have had from me. But, I am sure many of my team members would list out how I favoured a few when some had to wait longer or had to leave for greener pastures to find their fair share.

So, who are these leaders whom we always label as biased or who have favorited? In my view these leaders

  • Typically question the status quo and are people who say things ‘as it is’
  • Make faster decisions and are the kinds who would say ‘I will get it done‘
  • Feel responsible for their people and would go the extra mile to get things down
  • Take non-populist routes as resolutions related to people
  • Recognise their team members’ impromptu

No wonder these are traits which suit us when we are the beneficiaries of these gestures. As it turns out whenever these behaviours get played out there will also be people who are adversely affected due to this and some of us have been on that side too. Thats when the leaders get brickbats for the display of the above emotions. The advantage of being at the top is you possibly won’t know about the adverse reactions as you would have locked yourself in a corner room or surrounded by people who are benefactors of the discretionary decisions.

  • Let me check with HR and come back to you
  • I know your salary is below market, but we need to also consider parity within the organisation
  • The policies in the organisation are there for a reason and we need to be ‘fair’ and consistent with all
  • This years’ timeline is over for these recognitions, keep your performance consistent next year as well for you to be considered.
  • Are the types who would say “I will try my best but no promises“

It’s a no brainer why we don’t like the above-mentioned fence sitters when it comes to decisions which needs to always go in our favour. That plum role, the overseas trip, the next award, out of turn promotion, above average increment, discretionary bonus, the best seat in office, working from home, irrational leave approval, that expensive gift paid through the company……. It’s a long list of exceptions we want ourselves and remember those people through the materialistic gains.

It’s politically the right thing to applaud in public or with colleagues about leaders who are impartial or fair. But when it comes to leaders whom we favour the most or send birthday greetings to, it would be to people who gave us those extra benefits. Nobody remembers the leaders who tried to be fair to the employer and our colleagues!

I know, like me, you too aren’t the type who feels guilty about deserting those impartial leaders who demonstrated character and showed a thing or two on leading the right way. If you ‘do’ then send those souls a ‘Hi message via WhatsApp and feel a touch liberated for the day!

The memory of leaders who don’t add ‘wings’ to our dreams always fades away! For some reason, we all think we were born to fly!

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