The Dangers of Comparing Employees
As a parent, I am often tempted to compare my children to each other. Sometimes they even try so suck me in with the question, “Who’s your favorite?”
It’s natural to compare people to one another. It’s human nature to look around and see what others are doing. If you’ve ever made an example of someone, you have used comparison to try and achieve something. While the motives might be positive (encourage, motivate, set an example, leverage a role-model), the consequences are often negative. Here are some reasons why comparing your employees can backfire.
People are not the same
Humans are motivated differently, have different strengths, and are led differently. Comparing them implies that what works for one should work for another. It simply isn’t true in many cases.
Self-Esteem is a slippery slope
Social comparison boosts (or breaks) self-esteem. Self esteem is not a robust predictor of behavior because it connects a person’s worth to how they stack up to others. Self-efficacy, on the other hand, is about a person’s confidence to meet their goals, respond to demands, and become a better version of themselves.
Fairness is the lowest common denominator
Treating people fairly usually means “the same.” The only outcome of standardizing how you treat everyone is to standardize mediocre performance. Justice, rather than fairness, is a more effective aspiration goal.
Comparison wastes time and energy
Every second someone spends comparing, they are not spending being productive and focusing on their best work.
Is there value to comparison? Absolutely. We need role models. We need examples of effective strategies. And we need to see standards being lived out in our community. Outside of this, however, comparison usually leads to drama.
Tune in next time for Part 2 in this series; How to make an example out of someone, where I’ll reveal how comparison can be positive.
This article first appeared in Business News Daily.
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I don’t think fairness is a problem – treating people fairly usually means “according to what is needed.” I consider “fairness” on par with “justice.” Even so, among the legal profession, we celebrate Red Mass every October with “Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly,” so it’s clearly linked in my mind and the minds of my brothers and sisters in the law with mercy and humility.
“EQUALLY,” on the other hand is the same treatment for everyone, whether or not it is fair – consider maternity leave, for example. Or what self-defense means between a man combatant and a woman combatant, especially in the case of domestic violence.
“Equal” is what is written in the US Constitution. Equal has not been as good a barometer of what our society needs in modern times – it was pretty good in the day and age it was written, but societal change has made it, IMHO, less than what we could aspire to.
Thanks Sue Ann.