A power of injustice
Fairytales for people managers, part 4
Greg was furious. He even forgot that he was able to have such strong emotions.

– Listen, – said Jane, Greg's wife, – You know how it works. Injustice is almost any corporate culture's second name. Good guys are promoted, and bad guys are punished only in fairy tales.

Three hours earlier, in the office, Greg learned that another employee was promoted, and Greg wasn't.

– I know – Greg tried to take control of his emotions – I know. But it hurts anyway!
– Surely it does. But try not to dwell on this that much. Look at yourself – you're fuming while your boss is having dinner somewhere in a good mood. Don't let him control your emotions and your life!
– I do understand that I shouldn't, but I can't stop thinking about it. It is so unfair!!
– Yes, this is unfair. But anyway, try to relax.

A sense of justice is very important for us humans, even though we don't observe much of it in the world around us. Even some animals living in groups have this sense. The scientists conducted the experiment. They gave two monkeys a piece of cucumber each. Both looked completely satisfied, but then one of them got a bunch of grapes. The other one became so furious that it threw the piece of cucumber to an experimenter.

People, unlike monkeys, are more social creatures, and we can feel and demonstrate so-called "inequity aversion". We may be outraged even when we see injustice towards other people. The feeling of justice is very pleasant, it activates the striatum, a part of human brain which is responsible for rewards, it reacts to justice the same way it does to delicious food. And, vice versa, injustice is a powerful stressor.

A people manager shouldn't underestimate a possible subordinate's emotional reaction when she or he does or something that may be regarded us "unjust". And even if she must do it for some reason (for instance, to reward one employee but not another), it is better to do everything she can to soothe this feeling and explain the reasons for such a decision.

Svyatoslav Biryulin

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