This morning I was reading an article in USA Today about the shrinking office space in America. The article pointed out that at Zappos even the CEO doesn't have an office. As if that example of egalitarianism is great. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. I don't know their specific situation. That coupled with other recent conversations led me to a thought.
Business is not about being fair. Let me say quickly, I'm am not talking about fair trade, decent wages, health insurance, pay disparity or environmental issues. The business leader that doesn't take those issues seriously and acts like an 19th century robber baron is a fool. I'm talking about the striving for misplaced fairness.
In the ad industry, my world, we are in constant competition. It's been said the key to success is to be winning new clients slightly faster than you are losing the old ones. Based on 25 years of experience, I believe that is true. Yet, most employee policies within an agency are made with a desire to treat all employees the same, completely avoiding the competitive reality of the business. There's only one problem, the truth is, all employees are not the same.
If you have an employee that you consider critical, who, if they left the company would cost money, time, reputation and would give the competition a leg up, then how you treat them, their parking place, their income, virtually everything about their work experience should be considered unique to them.
If you have employees to whom you say, "You have been contributing so much to what we are trying to accomplish." Then you have to ask the follow-up question, "What are they trying to accomplish in their lives and how much am I contributing to that?" If you don't, trust me, they will look for a place that will.
Sure, it's not fair to the person that's working hard but not delivering. But I've never heard of a brand that was involved in a pitch that won the business because they worked really hard but delivered mediocrity.