Fairness lies in the eye of the top performer (Guest commentary)

Employers beware: All employees are not the same
By Tim Rutledge
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 11/09/2005

You may have seen the TV commercial where a man won’t share his potato chips with his friend. “If I share them with you,” he says, “I’ll have to share them with everybody else.” As he speaks, however, viewers are shown a vast, empty Arctic landscape. There obviously isn’t anybody else around.

The underlying joke rests in the fairness principle, the one that assumes treating people fairly means treating them the same. The workplace has supported this notion for a long time, entrenching it in employee relations thinking and practice. But it’s fiction. Employees are not the same where it really matters: in the results they produce at work.

In the next year or two, there will be more jobs than jobseekers to fill them. This will result in the first broadly-based sellers’ job market. It will become increasingly difficult to find talented replacements for employees who leave. Retaining existing talent will be significantly more cost-effective than trying to replace departed employees.