Fairness in the workplace - Is life Fair?
On a recent Sunday we read the parable of the vineyard owner. In case you don’t remember it, it is time for the grape harvest and the owner of the vineyard goes to town early in the morning and hires some day labors to work in the vineyard for a stated wage. About 9:00 seeing that the work will not get done by sundown, he goes again into town and hires some more workers agreeing to pay them what is right. Later that day he goes again and again and finally he goes again at 5:00 and hires the last group.
At the end of the day he asks to see the last group first and he pays them a full days wage. He then proceeds to pay all the workers, a group at a time, the same full days wage.
The ones who came at the beginning of the day are upset. What is the deal one says, we have been here all day and yet you pay those that came at 5:00 the same as you paid us who have been here in the boiling sun all day long?
The vineyard owner says I paid you what we agreed. Can’t I do with my money what I like?
What are we to conclude from this?
In our modern age there probably would have been a union action or a call to unionize to set this right.
But Jesus tells the story to illustrate what life will be like in his world. He makes no distinction between the person who has been with him all day long and the one who is only lately come to belief.
We typically see this as unfair, but isn’t Jesus redefining what we mean by fair?
Or is he saying to us life is unfair, and we should not expect it to be otherwise.
The delusion of fairness is one that psychologists often encounter in the therapy process. I would suggest that we have a problem with this in the work place as well.
How much time is spent in petty squabbles about who is treated fairly and who is not? - In my experience a lot.
I am certainly not suggesting that managers not work to meet our modern definition of fairness. But if we are dealing with adults and not children, and if we are managing as adults and not as parents, don’t we have a right to expect that not everything that is done in the workplace will be exactly even. One hundred percent equal is what we expect as a child; that everyone will get exactly the same and be treated exactly the same.
People are different and sometimes require different treatment. This is true in life and in the workplace.
It remains, however a tough one, what do you think?