Being Treated Fairly - It's Nature

Here is a fascinating thing I've learned about human nature. People often would rather be treated fairly, but worse, than being treated unevenly but better overall. What you talking about Jason? 

There is a famous study done of animals showing how perceived fair treatment is ingrained into nature. This experiment was done with monkeys to demonstrate how strong this instinct is in nature. Click here to see it.

Basically, they gave monkeys food if the monkeys gave them a pebble.  It started with a cucumber.  A piece of cucumber for a pebble is great trade for a monkey.  They cannot eat the pebble and they like cucumber.  The monkeys were very happy to make that trade.  The world was good.

Then they started mixing in a perceived better food, a grape, some of the times.  All of a sudden, the ones who got the cucumber refused to take it.  They would throw it back at the researcher.  They were very angry when they got the cucumber instead of the grape. 

The Evil E's (Ego, Envy and Entitlement), are a part of nature.  Who knew?
That is just a silly animal Jason.  People do not behave that way.  We are too smart.

It happens with people too.  I remember in a past office, we had flex time for the operations team, because a lot of people liked to work the early shift to be home when their children got home from school.  Still, we needed decent coverage from 3-5 pm (when clients would call with rush orders and mail needed to go out).  There was supposed to be a rotation of people who covered the "normal" shift (not the early shift).  That way people got the benefit of the early shift some weeks at least.  There was a lot of infighting about who had to do it.   Morale was bad.  It took constant management of the situation.  I remember the manager canceled flex time and made everyone work the normal shift and all of a sudden the fighting went away and people were, on the whole, happier.

I was amazed.  Overall, the team was no better off, and was actually worse off most weeks, but they were happier because it was "even." We can see it every day in life.  Picture sports stars.  They love their huge contract until someone gets a little more, then they pout and hold out and lose money and reputation over a "perceived" inequity. 

This is a good lesson for managers.  If there are perceived differences in the equity of a situation to the team, then morale will drop.  It is human nature.  You need to explain the "why" of the perceived inequality or eliminate the inequity.  If you as a manager expect the reaction to happen, because it is ingrained and natural, it is less stressful and you can plan for the issue and address it.

This is a good lesson for all of us.  Knowing this reaction is ingrained in our nature can help us make intelligent decisions and not let base destructive instincts take over.  Getting a cucumber sometimes and a grape sometimes is a lot better than getting nothing.  Do not let Envy and Entitlement make your life worse overall.  If someone else gets something, if it does not hurt you or change your situation in any way, do not worry about it.  Be happy for that person, and maybe figure out what you can do to achieve more of your goals in life.

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