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Jacky Sherman

The Consultant's Consultant

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Does Equality Matter In Business?

Balancing those in/out ratios ...


Posted by Jacky Sherman on 10/06/2020 @ 8:00AM

There comes a time with many small businesses when you can't do it all yourself and need to recruit a team. Bringing together and motivating that team may be a new experience for the small business owner ...

People assess their own equality ratio against the perceived ratio of others in the workplace!

People assess their own equality ratio against the perceived ratio of others in the workplace!

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Does equality matter? Never mind the ethics, legalities or politics, is it good for business? Maybe, just maybe, it affects productivity and how people go that extra mile or work harder and faster. Perhaps it accounts for your sickness and absence rates.

In all workplaces, people judge their level of work in comparison to others they work with. They assess themselves consciously or unconsciously against their own perceived in/out ratio.

  • How much I put in - turning up each day, doing the work, volunteering for extras, participating in decision making, etc

  • What I get out - pay, thanks, recognition, status, forgiveness for mistakes etc

They also assess their own ratio against the perceived ratio of others in the workplace. If they feel that another person is getting a better in/out ratio than themselves, they will alter their behaviour until they feel it is equal again.

This is easier to see in an example:

Jane and Sue both work in the same office. Their manager is quite informal and easy-going. Jane is highly diligent, works hard and efficiently, is never late for work and rarely takes time off sick. Sue is equally hard-working, but is sometimes 15-20 minutes late for work, and takes the occasional Monday off sick with a stomach bug. Their manager doesn't mind as it's not excessive and he doesn't want people spreading their bugs around the office.

But for Jane, the in/out ratio favours Sue because Sue is putting less in to get the same out. Jane doesn't imitate Sue completely as she prides herself on her standards and knows her manager relies on her to be there on time, but she starts to take an extra 5-minutes at breaks, and now is less likely to volunteer to stay on late when asked.

Imagine that example of Jane and Sue multiplied across your entire organisation? Each individual is subtly dumbing down until they feel the in/out ratio is closer to that given to the least productive person on the team.

Jack Welch, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, advocated an annual cull of your bottom 10% of employees. This has its ups and downs, and I only recommend it if you want to foster some toxic relationships.

Here are my three tips for adjusting the equality balance:

  1. Set and keep to standards across the board. Both formal and informal

  2. Focus your attention on your high performers and reward them equally and in proportion to the extra effort they put in

  3. Always take action to improve the lowest-performing member of staff

Some people will just stretch boundaries unless there are consequences. An excellent example of this in practice is more often seen in larger firms who give an attendance bonus that is rigidly adhered to.

"Miss the attendance standard and you get no bonus!"

I have simplified this to make a point, and in any organisation, there are lots of factors which influence how you motivate your teams. Still, it's worth checking you're not inadvertently the cause of a slow decline in your business' overall performance.

Until next time ...



Would you like to know more?

If anything I've written in this blog post resonates with you and you'd like to discover more, it may be a great idea to give me a call on 07970 638857. Let's have an initial chat over a coffee and see how I can help you.

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