The concept of procedural fairness works in arenas outside the workplace. For example, parents constantly make decisions with which their kids must comply, even when they disagree. No doubt we could compile quite a list of stories about how smoothly the implementation process went for such unpopular or unwelcome decisions! As explained in the How to Increase Employees' Acceptance of Workplace Decisions, people who are dissatisfied with the results of a decision (distributive fairness) are more likely to accept them if they perceive that the decision-making process was fair (procedural fairness). By taking the same steps listed in the Ensuring Procedurally Fair Decision-making Processes section, we can increase the likelihood that decision-making processes outside the workplace are perceived as fair.

To illustrate a non-workplace application, let's see how a family whose three teenagers share one computer can develop a decision-making process for computer access that everyone is likely to accept.

  1. The parents hold a family discussion that covers all aspects of computer usage, including distinguishing between individual wants (e.g., spend time on Facebook) and genuine needs (e.g., conduct research for a school project).

  2. Together, the family identifies decision criteria that will enable them to prioritize competing needs and wants and to consider each individual's schedule.

  3. Once the parents finalize the criteria, they communicate the rules to the kids and post them next to the computer.

  4. When questions or conflicts arise, the parents resolve them by referring to the designated rules.

  5. When exceptions to the rules occur, the parents provide clear justifications for their resolution.

  6. Periodically, the family assesses the extent to which the results are consistent with the stated criteria, and adjust the latter as necessary.

  7. Each child is entitled to appeal a decision that he or she believes to be unfair.

While the above process will not necessarily result in every child's being happy with the amount of computer time he or she is allocated, it is more likely to ensure that they all will accept the outcomes simply because the rule-making process is fair. And isn't peace at home a valuable outcome?

Pat Lynch, Ph.D., is President of Business Alignment Strategies, Inc., a consulting firm that helps clients optimize business results by aligning people, programs, and processes with organizational goals. You may contact Pat or call (562) 985-0333.

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