top of page
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Writer's pictureAndy Goram

Why Is Fairness Important?

Updated: Feb 23, 2022

Certain questionable behaviour from the inhabitants of No. 10 Downing Street of late has brought the topic of fairness into focus. The feeling that there is one rule for "them" and one rule for "us" has caused a huge negative swing in support for the UK Government and in particular, the Prime Minister. This has provided a timely backdrop to look at the topic of fairness in a work context, with a view to understanding why it is so important, and what is going on inside our heads when we're confronted with issues of fairness.

In episode 34 of The Sticky From The Inside Podcast, your host, Andy Goram, from Bizjuicer, talks to Business Psychologist, Pip Gwynn from Insight-HRC to get a fresh perspective on why fairness at work is such a hot topic, and what we can do about it. Below is a full transcript of the conversation, but you can also listen to the episode here.

A man and a woman talking about fairness at work
Pip Gwynn from Insight-HRC (Left) and Andy Goram (Right) from Bizjuicer, discuss why fairness at work is so important.

00:00:00 Andy Goram

Hello, and welcome to sticky from the inside. The Employee Engagement podcast that looks at how to build stickier competition, smashing consistently successful organisations from the inside out. I'm your host Andy Goram and I'm on a mission to help more businesses turn their lights on behind the eyes of their employees, light the fires within them and create tons more success for everyone.

This podcast is for all those who believe that's something worth going after and would like a little help and guidance in achieving that. Each episode we dive into the topics that can help create what I call stickier businesses, the sort of businesses where people thrive and love to work and where more customers stay with you and recommend you to others because they love what you do and why you do it.

So, if you want to take the tricky out of being sticky, listen on.

00:01:10 Andy Goram

OK, then, the topics associated with employee engagement and workplace culture provide a long and fertile list of subjects to discuss on this podcast. Sometimes episodes crossover and cover similar ground and others strike new ground for us to explore. Today we're going to do a couple of my favourite things. We're going to strike out into some new ground, and use a bit of psychology to try and understand the topic a bit better.

Now, recently in the UK, fairness has been, let's just say, a massive trigger for a lot of people. The feeling that there was one rule for us and one rule for the government when it came to obeying and observing the COVID restrictions has led to a huge turnaround in support for the government and certain individuals. But don't worry, this podcast isn't about to turn all political, so stay with me.

But it did bring into focus a reaction to inequality and how that affects our attitude and our behaviour. Now when we translate these things, these feelings at the workplace, the research would say that employees who feel fairly treated at work, trust their employer, enjoy their work and are more dedicated towards that organisation. Which all sounds marvellous. But what's going on behind the headlines and how can we make positive changes?

So, today's topic is all about the impact that fairness can have on your workplace culture. We're going to dig into the degree to which it impacts us, individually and personally, how it affects our work and productivity, and also how it affects businesses and organisations. Now to help me do this and understand this a lot better, I'm joined today by Pip Gwynn, who's a business psychologist and a director of HRC Insight, where she and the team help individuals and businesses take a look at what's affecting their performance and helps them put strategies together to improve and grow. So, Pip, I think, will be an excellent guide to help us navigate through this topic and come out the other side in much, much better shape.

As always, I'm a huge fan of this psychology stuff, so let's get straight into it.

Welcome to the show Pip!

00:03:32 Pip Gwynn

Hello, thank you for having me.

00:03:34 Andy Goram

Ah, I'm so excited to have you here. We've spoken once before. We did an Engage for Success radio show a long time ago, and today we're going to talk about fairness. Look, I know a little bit about you. Could you share a little bit about what you and the guys at HLC are up to right now?

00:03:51 Pip Gwynn

Yeah, so at Insights what we try and do is to support organisations to be happier, more productive places. So we want people to feel happier and better about the things that they do. “We want to enable leaders to spark change”, is our official purpose and vision and I suppose what that means is, that we don't want to go into organisations and do things to people and do things for people, we want people to feel that they are able to make positive change in their organisations. And I think as a business psychologist, what my job is really, is helping people to understand who they are and how sometimes who we are can get in the way of our own happiness, and get in the way of us being able to do things the way we want to do them. And it's sometimes understanding ourselves better and helping us to build better relationships to build better teams. To be more productive and perform better in our jobs. To have happier, healthier organisations.

So, a lot of the work that I do personally is working with individuals, but we also work with teams to, you know, what's the stuff that's going on in teams to make them not quite as good as it could be, and looking at organisational culture as well. So, that kind of messy people stuff that it's really hard to get a hold of. Sometimes it feels like what we're doing is trying to hold on to Jelly and put it into a form that makes sense for people, and the jelly-juggling is the bit that I enjoy most about it. The bits that are kind of messy and difficult and hard to pin down. So yeah, broadly, that is what we do.

00:05:44 Andy Goram

That’s brilliant! We've never discussed jelly-juggling on this podcast before...

00:05:48 Pip Gwynn

As a profession.

00:05:51 Andy Goram

As a profession. That's great. I love that “spark”. Yeah, no one likes things done to them, do they? I think it's all about encouraging, giving people the tools to kind of do it themselves. And yes, messy people stuff. We like nothing more on this podcast than to talk about messy people stuff. So I think... I think we're in good company today, Pip.

So, when you talk about fairness, what do you mean exactly?

00:06:19 Pip Gwynn

So, I'm sure some psychologists have 100 different definitions of fairness and probably can't agree on any of them. I think what I mean by fairness is, is people getting what they deserve and so good people having good things happen to them, and bad people having bad things happen to them. And bad things happening to bad people and good things happening to good people. I think it's that sense of if I do my best then I will get good things happening. And at a really kind of fundamental brain level, fairness is one of the strongest triggers that we have. You know, our whole behaviour is driven around managing risk and rewards. We’re trying to reduce risk and maximize reward. And we are much, much, much more sensitive to risk, than we are to reward. So good things that happen to us, don't impact us anywhere near as good as bad things that happen to us.

I mean, just think about the feedback that you get. So, it's a one tiny little bit of bad feedback that really sticks in your mind, and all the good feedback just kind of floats away. So, we're really sensitive to risk and to bad things happening to us. And fairness is one of the things that triggers emotions most for us. And a lot of that stuff is, I suppose you could describe it as “micro stuff”. It's the things that happen in organisations where as HR professionals, people get bogged down in in stuff you know, “Oh, she's 5 minutes late every day”, you know, “How come she gets to leave early to pick up her kids, but I have to work full time?” “Why am I not allowed to have a free milk in my coffee anymore when I used to?”

It's quite often those really small things. But they seem like small things, but actually they are huge derailers to how organisations work. Because they've become the thing that everybody focuses in on. They become the thing, that is more important than anything else that is going on. They suck so much time and energy and happiness. And they are the bane of leaders’ and managers’ and HRs’ lives. And they make people be miserable, really, genuinely miserable.

00:08:44 Andy Goram

Oh, they do. They do. I can't wait to dig into all of that. I just wonder before we get going, 'cause I'm going to ask you about, you know, the research that you look at, right, in in a minute. But just to make some, I guess some clarity because there's a there's a bunch of phrases around this, I think that sometimes can get a bit confused and a bit conflated. So, when we are talking about fairness, Pip, what are you really concentrating on here? I mean, I'm thinking the balance between what HR policies might say, and actually the way we feel like we're being treated, maybe?

00:09:19 Pip Gwynn

Fairness is quite subjective. So, fairness is... it's like a sense of humour. We all think that we treat people fairly. You all think we have a great sense of humour. But actually, we all view fairness through our own lens. So, what's important to me, and how I feel fairly treated, will be different from what's important to you, and what's important to other people. So, what I'm talking about here is that subjective experience of fairness. So, it's less about HR policies, for example, to make sure that people are kind of, by the letter of the law, treated fairly. It's more about our experience of fairness and that subjective fairness that, you know, that it's right for me, and not right for other people.

And so, so I think that's the bit that I've been really thinking about most at the moment. And I think that a lot of that is driven by organisations, I suppose the way organizations have developed over time is that we have made organisations more bureaucratic to try and make them fairer places. To put in place policies and to put in place processes and to try and respond to peoples’ sense that things are not fair. And there's a move in organisations that has been massively moved on much faster because of the pandemic to treat people as humans, to see people as humans, to make organisations more human places. And I think the whole agenda around employee engagement hugely gets into this, you know, that we want people to want to work. We want them to feel engaged in the way that they do, so it's moving away from a bureaucratic-type organisation to a human-type organisation where there are less rules, less policies and procedures, and people have greater autonomy. They are empowered. They have more impact on the work that they do. More autonomy about the way they organise their work. Which is the way that when people are working at home, you've got less control over them. that is the way people are working. But I think this brings a different sense of fairness then, because fairness is not then linked to everybody being treated in the same way, because not everybody is sitting at the same desk, in the same temperature, with the same start time and finish time and break time and the same chair, and you know the same uniform and everything being the same.

It’s not that. We’re all living in a different world now, so...

00:12:07 Andy Goram

We are.

00:12:08 Pip Gwynn

So, fairness, and feelings of fairness is different.

00:12:11 Andy Goram

Yeah! Well, look, we definitely agree that fairness is the goal. We just want people to be treated fairly, because there's huge benefits on both sides, like from a personal perspective, and then from the business perspective, right? But that just sounds obvious, but what does the research tell us, Pip?

00:12:30 Pip Gwynn

Well, what the thing that has triggered me thinking about this is some research that I looked at last week, which came out just before Christmas from Gartner. And they did their annual engagement survey, and 19 sorry,

18% of people responding to that survey say they think they work in a high fairness environment.

00:12:51 Andy Goram

Wow, less than one in five.

00:12:51 Pip Gwynn

So that means, yeah, exactly so four out of five people think that they work in an environment that is a low fairness environment.

00:13:01 Andy Goram

Were you shocked when you saw that statistic?

00:13:03 Pip Gwynn

Yeah, I thought it was huge. I thought that... I thought there'd be a greater spectrum, at least. That you know, that there would be, yeah, but it wouldn't be quite as stark as that. And one of the things digging into it a little bit deeper, that was also interesting, was that

22% of HR employees thought that they worked in a high fairness environment.

So only a teeny, tiny, little bit higher. So the people in an organisation who are responsible for, essentially responsible for making things fair and policing the fairness of an organisation, also don't think that the organisations they're work in are fair. It must be so demoralising.

00:13:46 Andy Goram

I'm just sitting here going, I'm not quite sure what I expected, really with those numbers. I'm not sure I expected that kind of, stark picture. And the fact that there's not a marked difference between what the HR officials who are building the policies think, and what the employees think, is... Yeah, that's a bit of a worry. That's a bit sad.

00:14:09 Pip Gwynn

Yeah, and I link this, and you mentioned this into your introduction, I link this to trust really, strongly. And we know that trust has been eroding over time. So, trust in leadership, trusting politicians, trusting you know, people in authority in general has been declining. I think that relates into fairness. That we feel fairly treated when we trust that the people who are treating us in that way have our best intentions at heart. That we trust them to do the right thing. They might not always do the right thing, but, you know, or it might not always have the right outcome, I should say, but that they are doing it with the right intentions. They want things to be fair for us, even if that's not always possible to achieve.

And I think this links back to why we feel so disappointed in what has happened over the last couple of weeks, is that sense of fairness that we will do the right thing, and we will follow the rules, and we will not see our friends and family. And we will experience this huge, just massive loss and grief, because everybody is doing it. And we trust that you're doing, what we're doing. And if we're suffering, you're suffering, and I think that erosion of trust really impacts on the fairness. But you can also link that back into organisations. If we trust that people are doing things, because they want to do the right thing for us, and by us, then we will be able to, kind of feel more fairly treated. Even if some of the actions are the same, we feel more fairly treated. And I think that's what I mean by this sort of subjective experience of of fairness. You know how do I actually feel about it and what impact does that have on me?

00:16:20 Andy Goram

I think that’s very well observed. I do think that, I mean, I layer trust into pretty much everything, when it comes to employee engagement.

00:16:28 Pip Gwynn

Yeah! You can link most things back to trust.

00:16:34 Andy Goram

It’s really hard to take it away. And then I think, whilst policies will have some impact, largely this comes down to behaviour, so again, plays back to what you said. If we genuinely think someone, or a policy is coming from a good place, and they behave in-line with that, there's no kind of gap between what's said and what's done, we can kind of go with it. I think when we feel unjustly done too, when you know, someone says something and they don't deliver through, or somebody is being treated outside of that, there's a bit of favouritism, or whatever, that's what pushes a load of our buttons. I mean, let me just offer up an example of my own, and ask you for the same, but, like even right at the start of all of this pandemic stuff, you know working with organisations, making sure that people who are now going to be working at home were all looked after, and you know, communicated to informed, entertained. You know, God knows how many quizzes went around organisations wanting to keep people engaged. It's the secret to engagement, everybody, a quiz on Kahoot!

But the thing that kind of went under the radar, was that there were a proportion of people still left in offices. And all the focus was on the guys outside offices to make sure they were OK. And in some sort of survey work that I was doing with businesses, these guys felt really... they were being treated really, unfairly. They'd almost been forgotten. And you know, it caused great deal of angst and upset and what have you. So that's the sort of thing that we're talking about here, but in a microcosm of the pandemic.

I mean, are you seeing lots of other bits and pieces from when you're with clients?

00:18:12 Pip Gwynn

Yeah, I mean similar stuff, but actually interesting. I'm starting to see people going through a curve with that. So, it's an organisation that I work with, where they have a lot of frontline workers. They recognised, kind of towards the middle of last year, that that's how their frontline workers were feeling. So, they put loads of energy into supporting their frontline workers and making them feel engaged and valued. And now, it's their home workers who feel unvalued.

00:18:41 Andy Goram

There you go.

00:18:45 Pip Gwynn

Because they're saying these frontline workers, “They get to be with each other. They get that... they have the social interaction, they get to do their job in the way that they've always done their job, and I'm sat at home in my spare bedroom. It's January. It's freezing. You know, no one talks to me anymore. I don't know what's going on. What about me?”

00:19:01 Andy Goram

Hey, what about me?”

00:19:03 Pip Gwynn

Yeah, and that is the fairness thing, “What about me?” So you've got these frontline workers who’re like, “Well, we're out. It's January. It's freezing. You know we've got customers giving us abuse, 'cause we haven't fixed this quick enough, you know, and you're at home. And it's nice and warm. What about me?

So, definitely experiencing that. And I think as we're going through the pandemic, and we're seeing cultures, organisational cultures fragmenting and people's connection to their organisations loosening, I think, you have a relationship with your potentially, with your direct team and your Direct Line manager, but you might not have seen other people for nearly two years now, and we're not doing Kahoot quizzes anymore, so I'm not even seeing them doing that.

00:19:54 Andy Goram

They were taking a lot of my time up, so I’m quite pleased about that, Pip.

00:19:58 Pip Gwynn

Yeah, so as those ties loosen that feeling of unfairness, because we don't know what's going on for other people, and we know this to be true, that our brains don't like a vacuum. So we fill space. If we don't know what's going on for other people, we imagine that they're having a lovely time and it's us that are suffering. And again, you know, that connection to trust and to relationships and that social interaction, as that loosens, that potential for feeling unfairly treated also increases, because we don't know what other people's experiences are like anymore.

00:20:41 Andy Goram

So, you mentioned “the brain”, that's a trigger for me. Let's get into the science, come on. So, what's going on in our heads when we're thinking about fairness?

00:20:53 Pip Gwynn

OK, so in terms of... as I mentioned before, the way that our brain works, right at its very root, the simplest way to think about it is that we're managing risk, reward and trying to get more good stuff and less bad stuff. And some research that’s been done by neuroscientists, and particularly, David Rock, but also neuroscientists based in Australia, is around these five particular areas that are really strong triggers for us. And David Rock calls it the S.C.A.R.E model. Others call it the S.C.A.R.F model. One of my colleagues calls it the C.A.R.E.S model because, he thinks that's nicer than both SCARE and SCARF. And essentially, which it is of course, and essentially what that looks at are these five different areas, that really trigger the brain.

A thinking head between Threat and Reward Decisions
David Rock's SCARF Model

So, the first one is about feeling Significant. We need to feel important. And again, that is harder to do when we're working on our own. You know, how valued are we feeling?

Then we've got Certainty. It’s the C. We want to be able to predict what’s going on. That links into fairness, because concepts of fairness help us to predict what will happen. If I follow the rules this is what will happen. I will be rewarded for good behaviour. I will be punished for bad behaviour. It gives us a sense of being able to predict what's going to happen. Fairness also is linked to kind of pro-social behaviour. So, it keeps societies together, which also helps us to predict what's going to happen. So that certainly links into that as well. And again, the pandemic has had huge impacts on how well we can predict what's going to happen in the future. Our short-term future feels hard to predict. So that certainty is kind of lower for us at the moment as well.

The A is around autonomy. And this is actually one that is kind of increased for people working at home. That they have more Autonomy over what they do. So, we like to feel, we need to feel, like we have some sense of control over what happens to us. And that's really important to us.

The R is for Relatedness. And so that is about our connection with other people. We need to have connections with other people. And that's even for, you know, introverts and extraverts. You know, we might need different sorts of interactions. We might need different amounts of interactions but having relationships with other people is really key and really important to how we feel.

And that final E or F is Equity or Fairness. And so feeling that things are fair.

And when we feel that any of those are lower, that's when we start to kind of experience negative emotions, you know, our brains and our bodies go into a more distressed state. And then we... that's a kind of downward spiral, because we then become more sensitive to that kind of information. So, we start to feel like we're unfairly treated. We then start to interpret other things that happen as more evidence of that unfairness, and you can get into that loop. And again, working on your own where there's no one to say, “Well, wait a minute, get yourself out of your own head. Yeah, that's not what's going on here”, is much harder to do.

And so those five key things, I think, are really important to think of, in all sorts of different environments. When you're thinking about how you manage people, the relationships you have with people, I think I've already talked about this when we're talking about change last time...

00:24:41 Andy Goram

Yeah yeah, yeah.

00:24:46 Pip Gwynn

Really important in terms of when change is going on. If one of those areas you know, is going to be lower, so if people are going to feel less certain, how can you increase something else? Can you give them more autonomy, or increase their... you know, the relatedness that they're feeling and so more time with people. More good, quality time with people. So I think those five things really trigger us. And yeah, fairness seems to be one that is right at the top of the list at the moment.

00:25:15 Andy Goram

Understandably so, right? And I look at that list of five things, and this, I mean, there's generally so much crossover with engagement, I mean, it shouldn't be a surprise, right? It really shouldn't be a surprise, but it's always beautiful when these things come together, because people talk about engagement being, you know, the never-ending quest and it's really hard and it's all about emotions. And yeah, it's all of those things. But it's not some kind of weird, left-side theory that doesn't have any relation to who we are as human beings. It's directly related. You know, these things about involvement, significance, autonomy, and feeling valued feeling, part of a team but treated fairly. I mean, we’re just basically describing humans, aren’t we?

00:26:10 Pip Gwynn

Yeah, I and I think that's exactly it. I think you know, that's what we want to create in organisations. That is how you make people happy and productive. That they are engaged. Exactly that. And that they, that we see people as humans and allow them to be humans. You know, I'm a huge advocate for the emotion in work, you know, that increasingly, we're talking much more openly about how people feel and what their emotions are, and what's going on for them and why. And I think that human element links into fairness and engagement and you know, just people feeling like people at work.

00:26:56 Andy Goram

I think that's right. I mean, I've said it many times in this podcast that, the chance that we have coming out of this grim 2 years, is that the spark of humanity that I think, has come back, stays with us, right? Stays with us and people kind of see it as a real foundation to sustainable performance and not just a nice to have, right? I think this is something that, you know, whether we get into the detail of a great resignation or whatever else, people have plenty of time to think about all this sort of stuff, and I think from what I see, businesses, and without wanting to sound too preachy, or anything, businesses that treat people like human beings, not human doings are the ones who are making a success, right? The ones who have a better shot long-term. And you know, there are lots of people making this stuff really complicated out there. I'm not one of those advocates. I think this is getting back to what it's like to be a decent human being. It doesn't mean it's all happy-clappy. Look, at the end of the day, business is about growth and about profit, but it's also about creating great lives for the people who work within those businesses. So, that when they come to work, it doesn't necessarily feel like work, but it enables them and their families to do amazing things. You know, that’s sort of where I come from.

00:28:21 Pip Gwynn

Yeah, and I think it's exactly the right road to go down.

00:28:21 Andy Goram


00:28:25 Pip Gwynn

And I agree it is both simple, but also really complicated and really difficult. Because we are humans and we're complicated, complex beings as well, who get the hump when things happen and interpret things the wrong way. And you know, the messy jelly that, you know, we are that as well. I think the idea at the heart of it is beautifully simple, and I think people like you and me, will keep on banging that drum, so that hopefully, you know, no one will be able to ignore us.

But I think in organisations the detail of getting it right is also complex and complicated, because people are messy, messy things.

00:29:14 Andy Goram

They are, they are. But yeah, I think you've got to start somewhere, and I think... I think we'll know things have changed, right, I mean, maybe it's just me, but when you're talking to people about this stuff, I won't get all the nods and the, “Yep. Yep, we're gonna get to this. When we’ve sorted performance out we’ll come back to this.” And people will start to realise that no, no, no, no, no, this this is the producer of performance, ultimately, right?

00:29:41 Pip Gwynn

Yeah, yeah, we start here. Performance comes out of it. Start with the happiness the performance comes after. It’s not soft and fluffy. It's mean and tough, and that's why I say it's complicated and complex. Because it's not just as you say... it's not happy-clappy. It's not that at all. But yeah, it's the right way to go for sure.

00:30:01 Andy Goram

I've got my soapbox out now, and I'm still here. chest pumped out. And I get another wound up when people start talking about “soft skills” because to me soft kind of denigrates what it is. This is human skills. This is what they are. #humannotsoft. I mean, this is the platform we now stand on. But apart from getting into all of that, so if we've now got these triggers and we're understanding what's going on and how it's impacting our behaviour going forwards, what can we do about it, Pip? What are the sort of guidelines, rails, processes even, that we need to be aware of, that we can influence. And that as an individual and also as organisations, what does that support structure look like?

00:30:49 Pip Gwynn

I think if we're taking at heart this “Organisations as human places” and particularly when we're thinking about the subjective experience of fairness as opposed to the policy fairness, it starts with listening. And I'm also seeing a move in organisations to listen to people. So culture can no longer be owned by senior leadership, or owned by HR, and they put in place all these lovely, shiny, nice things that we can do that makes us all feel together. I think culture and fairness now need to be led by people in the organisation. And the work that we're increasingly doing is cultural listening. What are you experiencing at the moment? How are things for you? What is the culture of this organisation? So senior leaders not saying, “Like this is the culture that we need” but listening. So, “What is the culture that we have, warts and all, and what do we need to do about it?” you know...

00:31:55 Andy Goram

Well, I think that's great. I love playing back the gap when you get to that point as well, though. When you do that, when you do ask the table, the big table what's the culture like, and then you go underneath and say what's the culture like, it's really interesting, isn't it, sometimes to see the differences?

00:32:14 Pip Gwynn

Yeah, yeah. This is what we say we want it to be like; this is actually how people are experiencing and just a massive gap between those things. And you know it's hard. You’ve probably experienced this as well, it's hard giving that feedback, you know, because people have put in so much work, you know...

00:32:31 Andy Goram

Why don’t they get it? Why don’t they get it?”

00:32:32 Pip Gwynn

Yeah, exactly. The HR team in this organisation, they asked us to come in, because they've got the same thing. where they've had some people working in the labs all the way through, and

it's gone a little bit “Lord of the Flies” in there.

00:32:47 Andy Goram

Oh God!

00:32:48 Pip Gwynn

And so, people are coming back in, and they’re like, “This is not a nice place to work anymore”, because you've got this group of people who have gone a bit rogue. And the HR team are like, “But we created a really nice culture” and we’re like, “Yeah, and it's just not there anymore and you need to start again.” And that's really hard for the people who have spent a lot of time and effort building a culture.

00:33:11 Andy Goram

Yeah, it really is. So, look the cultural listening’s important, but what else are you kind of seeing, recommending there to help organisations and individuals sort of keep on track with this stuff.

00:33:25 Pip Gwynn

I will now go back to trust again, you know, because that is something that needs extra special work at the moment. As part of the listening that we've been doing, and you hear the, “She gets to do this, and he does that. And that's not fair.” The way that that links back to trust, you know, those are not... they're talking about issues that have come up since the pandemic and are related to homeworking. But it comes back to trust that wasn't there before the pandemic. And that, “I feel like I'm working really hard, but he isn't because that's fair. And now he's doing even less because he's just sat at home, you know, playing games all day”, so, I think really actively working on that trust is really,really crucially important. That vulnerability-based trust. That people getting to know each other and understand each other, as we said, as humans, and the experiences that people have gone through over the last year, two years nearly, and what... who they are now. They might be very different people than they were last time you sat in an office with them. So, who are they, and how can you build that trust? And I think that's an individual thing. We can all do that as individuals, and but it's an organisational thing as well.

How do we make people feel that we're not trying to get them back to the office to do more work, but to build that trust, and you know, just be with each other.

00:34:59 Andy Goram

I, think that's right. I mean, I'm reminded of a piece of research I read some while ago. You're probably more familiar with it than I am. But there was a piece behind building the High Trust Organisation. That was DR. Pamela, I get her name awfully wrong, but I think Shockley-Zalabak, I think, and...

00:35:22 Pip Gwynn

I’ll go with that.

00:35:26 Andy Goram

I was going to say, just go with me on that, and a, Dr. Sherwin Moreale. I think they built this piece based on trying to bust some myths behind trust that were like, “Trust matters, but there's very little we can do about it” and “Trust is nice, but performance is necessary.” And this sort of backed up some of the things coming out of a PwC report back in about 2015 or so, where 55% of the CEO's surveyed highlighted that trust was a threat to their organisational growth, but in honesty, most of them had done little to try and increase it, because they weren't sure what to do. 'Cause it's complex. But I think the sort of framework that this work, this research, kind of threw out gave broadly five things for organisations to focus around.

One, was about competence. So, the ability for an organisation through the strategies that its leaders kind of put together and then make decisions. That organisational efficiency and capability around that of its employees at all levels is really important.

Something we've already talked about, openness and honesty. Being able to have a good conversation about a problem. To be constructively disagreeing, as opposed to all nicey, nicey. And then having a good framework for communication behind that, right? I think that's critical.

They also talked about having genuine concern for employees and wider stakeholders. Like really showing concern. Getting to know people and listening. Your point about listening culturally. I mean really, really important and then acting on those concerns or at least feeding back on those concerns, if they weren't going to do anything. Critical.

I think the fourth thing was around reliability. So having no “say-do gap” as I often call it. Do what you say you're going to do and do the right thing. And then not being a silo when it comes to leaders, managers and people really having and being able to identify everybody in the organisation. You know, like you've said, building those relationships. To me, that is a construct that, as a framework, is how you can start to kind of manage around, I think building trust in an organisation.

00:37:48 Pip Gwynn

Yeah, and we often do it around Patrick Lencioni’s 5 dysfunctions of a team.

00:37:54 Andy Goram

Love that work.

00:37:55 Pip Gwynn

Yeah, and you know that starts with building that vulnerability-based trust. So, you've got kind of procedural trust, which is, I predict that if I do this, then you will do that. I trust that you will always be late for everything that you do, or whatever it might be. But the vulnerability-based trust is so much deeper of, I can put myself at risk just by saying something that you could use against me in the future. Or that you know that might be held against me, and I trust that you are going to treat that the way that it should be treated. And I think it's that vulnerability-based trust, that really enables people to perform. That links into psychological safety and those kinds of concepts and allows people to say when they don't think that things are fair. But not in a kind of, whingey, “That's not fair!” way, but actually, “I've got real concerns about this because this is my experience of this thing. What’s your experience? What was your intention?” You know, having those really, real conversations.

00:39:05 Andy Goram

Yeah, without any fear of retribution at the end of it. Absolutely.

Unbelievably, Pip, we've reached the bit of the show, where we’ve got to try and pull all this together. So, I have sticky notes! OK, this is where I'm asking you to leave 3 bits of advice, you can stick on a post-it note, so people can take it away and start to affect this area more positively.

So, if we think about fairness and our ability to deal with it, what would you leave as your three sticky notes. Pip?

00:39:33 Pip Gwynn

OK, so I think the first thing is around thinking about our fairness triggers. So, what are the things that really get us, you know, and which will probably be linked to your values and the things that you hold really dear. And seeing if you can take yourself above those triggers to see how other people might experience them. This kind of idea of subjective fairness. That's something that I experience as being unfair, might not be the same as what someone else experiences. So, I think, something about understanding your own fairness triggers.

Think the second one has to be something around trust. So, what are we each doing to build or rebuild that vulnerability-based trust a little bit more. So, what's one conversation that I could go away and have with somebody to re-establish a bit of that trust. Or as an organisation, what could we do or as a team what could we do to re-establish that vulnerability-based trust? And I always say that vulnerability-based trust is like a comfort zone. You squeeze it out a little bit at a time. You make yourself a little bit more vulnerable, see how that's taken. Do it again. And you'll get that back as well, so what one action could you take to just rebuild a bit of vulnerability-based trust?

And the third one isn't really related to fairness or trust, but is... sorry about that, but it's related to that risk and reward. And one of the things that we can do when we feel like we're being treated unfairly is boosting our reward centres. Those are things like, I'll give you just a couple of ideas. Things like reinforcing positive, so things like a gratitude diary is really kind of reinforcing what good thing happened to me today. And the second one is going out to find a positive emotion. So going for a walk and not stopping your walk until you find something that gives you joy or gives you peace or gives you a moment of exhilaration or excitement. You know, that you see something that just makes you feel a positive emotion. Because boosting our reward centres make the risks and the bad stuff feel smaller and helps us maintain a sense of perspective, and a sense of balance between the bad stuff and the good stuff.

And there's a lot of bad stuff going on so... but my third one is to just go and find something. Work hard at finding something that makes you feel good.

00:42:11 Andy Goram

What a lovely, lovely way to finish, Pip. I always love talking to you, and I lose all ability to control time.

Thank you so much for sharing your insights and experiences today. I really, really appreciated it and I could talk about this for another hour. But I don't have that so, thanks for coming today, really appreciate it, Pip.

00:42:35 Pip Gwynn

You're absolutely welcome. Always a pleasure to talk to you as well. And sorry about the time management.

00:42:41 Andy Goram

No! That's me. That's not you, that's on me. OK mate, you take care, and you thank you.

OK, everyone that was Pip Gwynn. And if you'd like to find out a bit more about her and some of the things we've talked about today, please check out the show notes.

00:43:00 Andy Goram

That concludes today's episode. I hope you've enjoyed it, found it interesting and heard something, maybe that will help you become a stickier, more successful business from the inside going forwards.

If you have, please like comment and subscribe, it really helps. I'm Andy Goram and you've been listening to the Sticky From The Inside podcast. until next time, thanks for listening.

Andy Goram is the owner of Bizjuicer, an employee engagement and workplace culture consultancy that's on a mission to help people have more fulfilling work lives. He's also the host of the Sticky From The Inside Podcast, which talks to experts on these topics from around the world.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page