Can we truly objectively dispense equality to all people? We always argue that we are unique individuals, that we have unique ways of looking into the world, into our life and experiences. We have long time accepted that no two individuals are exactly alike . . . that we differ in personality and temperament. Why then do we expect equality?
Kenneth Blanchard, in his book One Minute Manager says,
“There’s nothing so unfair than the equal treatment of unequals.”
I couldn’t agree more.
If I performed exemplary well in my job, I didn’t want my boss to reward me by publicly announcing my name to be heard by the entire organization as he enumerates the exemplary actions I made and then handing me a trophy or medal to be seen by everyone. No, for an introvert person like me, that’s very awkward. I don’t like it. Instead, I would ask my boss—if he really wants to reward me—to give me a few days of vacation so I can have time for myself and my loved ones. That is the reward I would be more than happy to receive.
On the other hand, my colleague didn’t want a few days of vacation. Instead she would be excited even just by the thought that she would walk on stage while all employees are clapping their hands as they stare at her.
Why is that so? Because we are completely different. What motivates her, does not motivate me, or even worse . . . demotivates me. Sometimes, vice versa. How then will our boss treat us “equally”?
In training, even in management, there are people who need first to be hurt before they obey you, while there are who don’t need persuasion at all: they are already aligned with your thoughts.
Sometimes, we insist to have “equality” if it favors us. If not, we seldom care. We demand equality mostly when we are envious of other people who have received favor that we have been expecting for ourselves. Don’t we realize we become “unfair” when we demand equal treatment to everyone?
People are not equal. Everyone is unique. Although we have some basic similarities, we differ in our paradigms, beliefs, values, attitudes, behaviors, and many other things. The things that excite me, may be absurd to others. What triggers my rage, may just be a laughing matter to some. What I love, some people hate.
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One of my staff in my office needs detailed step-by-step instructions, while my other staff needs general direction. If I happen to interchange my approach to them, we all end up confused and exhausted: the one who expects general instruction will be limited to use her creativity; the one who requires step-by-step direction often got lost; and I, eventually scratch my head and repeat the process from the beginning—bewildered on what happened and why.
Within few months, I learned to adapt to their natural inclinations and capitalize on their strengths. The only way I can be fair with both of them—I reflected deeply—is to treat them differently.
In the training field, I encounter similar situation. Cadets have different triggers. When I shout at them, others will be made active, while others will get confused and unable to move.
In the classroom, the same things happen. Some prefer reading assignments; some verbal discussion; and others prefer practical application. That is why teaching syllabi include different methods of delivery. If my approach to my students revolve only on giving them reading assignments “equally”, I would be unfair to those who don’t prefer reading. If I devote more time to lengthy verbal discussions, those who prefer reading type of learning will be bored.
Fairness and equality are not the same. we can be fair yet not equal. Ironically, we can also treat people with equality while at the same time being unfair to them.
People differ in many ways. We can always provide them “equal” treatment, but remember this:
They will not receive it equally—and the impact of our “equal” treatment to them will not always be equal: some will take it as blessing; some as a curse.