Strengthen fairness competencies

Using fairness as a success factor; dealing fairly with unfairness

  • Why should you as a company management and executive deal with the topic of fairness?
  • What influence do perceived fairness and unfairness have on cooperation?
  • How can you develop fairness competencies in your organization?

For several years, I have been investigating these questions both by analyzing the results of scientific research and in everyday business practice. From this, I have developed a set of methods that we can use to specifically strengthen fairness competencies.

This includes impulses in the form of workshops, seminars, coaching, interactive lectures, publications, microsessions - on-site at your company or online.

Read my interview on the question "Can fairness be trained?" among others.


Possible event topics:

We know today - both from research and professional practice - that how fairly and decently the people concerned feel they are treated is of decisive importance for the quality of cooperation, the performance of organizations and people, and their motivation and willingness to change. We humans are not cool calculating robots, we are driven by emotions. The feeling of unfairness is one of these strong impulses - as a company management and leader, you should pay attention to these influencing factors and use them constructively.

Video: Importance of fairness at work and in the company?

Here are a few examples out of many:

  • If employees observe that colleagues are treated unfairly, their productivity decreases recognizably by up to 12 % (Prof. Dr. Sutter, University of Cologne)
  • 94 % of employees who feel they are treated unfairly want to "take revenge", 50 % think about quitting and 12 % actually do quit (these often include top performers!)
  • Fairness Barometer 2011 of the Fairness Foundation: 83 % of respondents state that fairness in companies is very important to them.
  • Fair behavior leads, among other things, to lower employee turnover, fewer sick days, less theft by employees, and it promotes innovative behavior and creative ideas (sources: Prof. Dr. Frey, University of Munich; Gallup study, among others).

Based on today's findings, I have developed a comprehensive profit and loss statement for perceived fairness and unfairness. If you are interested, please feel free to contact me.

Fairness is interestingly an aspect that is very often addressed in the current discussion about sustainability, Corporate Social Responsibility CSR and the Sustainable Development Goals SDGs. Sustainability and responsibility necessarily need a sense of fairness. In my view, however, too little work has been done to date to ensure both the appropriate organizational culture, organizational structures and processes, and the individual basic attitudes ("mindset") and competencies.

Fairness does not fall from the sky, and unfairness does not stop by itself.

Therefore, you should strengthen the fairness competencies of managers as well as employees and teams in a targeted manner. In the following, I offer you an overview of the essential contents.

Fairness as a leadership competence

Target group: Managers and junior staff who want to lead fairly and thus successfully.

Fairness requires fairness competence in leading people.

The goals are therefore:

  • Enforce fairness as a leadership principle
  • to secure fairness as a success factor, to reduce risks due to unfairness
  • Live sustainability and responsibility through fairness
  • strengthen leadership through fairness

Based on the results of my publication "Fairness as a Leadership Competence" published by Springer Verlag, I have elaborated targeted content impulses.


  • Your own understanding of leadership: How do you want to lead?
  • Why fairness? The concrete benefits.
  • Values, beliefs, human images: The driving forces behind our actions.
  • Convincing leadership requires conviction: How to stay true to your values.
  • Fairness competence: What skills are necessary?
  • What does fair.leadership mean in concrete terms?
  • Fairness in daily leadership: Examples and approaches.
  • Your personal fairness compass for orientation: assistance and methods on the way to fair leadership behavior.

Methods: Input, reflections, exchange of experiences, exercises, practical examples, personal learning transfer.

Seminar contents as PDF "fair.leadership


With fairness to a meaningful handling of power!

Target group: People who want to consciously place their handling of power on a fair and meaningful foundation and thereby convince.

The use of (hierarchical) power today is increasingly classified as authoritarian. "Subordination" or better acceptance only occurs when a position of power is perceived as "legitimized" by personality, competence and above all appreciative, fair behavior.

Goals and benefits:

  • The attitude towards power changes.
  • A personal style of power develops ... with sense and understanding.
  • Respect and acceptance through fair exercise of power.


  • With power to the top?!
  • This is how power makes sense.
  • Being competent in a meaningful way. Showing power in a meaningful way
  • "Know How" plus "Know Why".
  • Acceptance through fairness.
  • Fairness: from attitude to behavior.
  • Power: Sources of power and responsibility.
  • Power strategies and power games: Desire, fear and powerlessness.
  • Meaning: "nice to have" or crucial source of power?
  • What does meaning mean and how do I find it?
  • Being humanly powerful: Using power in a valuable way, avoiding "meaningless" exercise of power.

Seminar contents as PDF "Fairness.Power.Meaning

Fairness in everyday work ... for employees and teams

Target group: Employees and teams who should be more aware of fairness aspects in their cooperation.

Based on my compact publication "Fairness in everyday work" (GABAL-Verlag), supplementary content can be compiled for the target group of employees:

Supplementary Content:

  • Developing a Team Understanding of Fairness
  • Big conflicts start small: Developing a sense of fairness in the team
  • Staying fair even in difficult situations: dealing with unfairness fairly
  • Jour Fixe and project meetings: regularly reviewing fair dealings with each other in a pleasant and collegial manner

Coaching on current fairness issues can be conducted at a location of your choice, at my premises in Heidelberg, or online. Please contact me!

What value does fairness have in the job and in the company?

Is fairness important in the company or not?

Central and current questions and answers about fairness / fairness questions in Corona times.

Fairness and economics - until the Corona crisis, they seemed to go together less and less. Has that changed now?

The Corona crisis has brought the issues of fairness and responsibility into focus. As if through a burning glass, we are suddenly looking at the fair and unfair aspects of society and the economy. In our daily lives, we have been confronted with responsible actions in a very concrete way. And we see that responsible action, consideration and also renunciation are possible - in private and in business. A beautiful and very important signal! But we also see that this change has not come about automatically or voluntarily, but has been conditioned by external circumstances and political regulations. Nevertheless, the willingness for a fairer and more responsible economy is definitely there.


Caregivers get applause, while corporations get billions in aid. Has the crisis really made us a fairer society?

We now know that we can subordinate everything else to a goal that is vital to our survival. We can defuse crises with consideration and discipline. With climate change in mind, this will be important in the future. But there were also the negative examples of corporations that attracted attention with unfair behavior during the crisis. The situation of vaccine research was also significant. There were accusations that research into SARS vaccines before Corona was not relevant because there was no money to be made from it. Here, one could think about other framework conditions. In general, it is clear that the so-called "free market" is one of the big losers of the crisis and that we humans should use our creative potential to create framework conditions that benefit us. We need clear regulations for a fairer economy.


Many people understand the term fairness to mean similar, yet different things. What is fairness?

In my workshops, I experience time and again how different the associations are with the topic of fairness. For one person it's about equal treatment, for another it's about performance-based justice or moral decency, for example. In my opinion, fairness means taking into account the interests of all those concerned in a way that is perceived as fair or appropriate. Unfairness arises when not all those affected are included in a process or at least their interests are taken into account.


Can fairness be trained?

Fairness has to do with attitudes, perceptions and behavioral competencies. As with other competencies and soft skills, we can develop attitudes and skills relevant to fairness, for example through reflection, information, exercises, feedback. Managers can train their personal fairness competencies and, in exchange with their team, strengthen fairness competencies in the company. Among other things, this involves developing a shared idea of fairness and sharpening communication skills in order to be able to express one's own needs appropriately.


But didn't the Corona crisis show that unfairness is not a personal problem, but rather a structural one?

That's right. It's true that we need important personal fairness competencies, such as constructive communication, the ability to deal with conflict, or fairness intuition. But there are also typical structural fairness hurdles in many companies. These include strong competitive situations, pressure to maximize profits, anonymity and short target intervals. We now know from research and also from our everyday experiences: The fiercer the competition within a team or in a market, the more likely those involved are tempted to use tricks to gain an advantage. The greater the pressure to achieve a high margin, the more likely unfair business practices are. In terms of the sustainability triangle, one could say that in many companies, social and environmental goals fall victim to the pressure to be economically successful. This imbalance is unfair and unsustainable.


How do profit maximization and fairness fit together?

I think the concept of focusing on one's own profit maximization is a discontinued model that will experience a much more negative valuation in the future. There are already concepts today that talk about reasonable profit instead. The goal is to generate an appropriate profit, to exist in the long term and also to do justice to social and ecological interests. Adequacy results precisely from this triad (concept of the triple bottom line).

Many medium-sized companies are dependent on large corporations and cannot achieve maximum profits anyway. But if a large corporation does not maximize its profits, but maintains a fair partnership with its suppliers, the medium-sized companies also benefit.


Is that realistic?

Yes, there are already recognizable approaches to appropriate profit calculations in practice. Participants from industry, for example, tell me that fairer negotiating practices already exist in some cases. People no longer just try to squeeze their negotiating partners to maximize their own profits. Instead, all parties put their necessary margin on the table and then we look together: How can we design the process so that all(!) parties involved achieve their margin as optimally as possible? This creates sustainable working relationships. It's quite remarkable: Something like this happens in the automotive industry, among others, where corporate groups lived in fierce competition for decades. In the meantime, corporations are also cooperating in the development of new technologies. They are doing this because they are learning that in certain market segments they can only stand a chance against new competitors if they work together.


Many people have lost their jobs in the crisis or fear for them. How should entrepreneurs and managers deal with such a situation?

Here, too, it is important to take appropriate account of the needs of all those affected. This includes transparent communication and the possibility of exchange. Research shows that companies that are transparent about the process of downsizing face far fewer lawsuits. Transparency, fairness and respect pay off, especially in such critical situations. In the best case, the departing workforce feels taken seriously and treated fairly despite the adverse circumstances. The remaining staff, by the way, also registers this very accurately.


Why do many companies nevertheless act differently in day-to-day business?

Firstly, because we humans often think in the very short term; secondly, because we only consider part of the effects; and thirdly, because it is very difficult to do without. In addition, there is a widespread belief that fairness is of no use. Fairness has - despite Corona - a big image problem. Yet the positive effects of fairness have long been researched. Employees are happier and perform better when they feel they are treated respectfully and decently. This can be proven both neuroscientifically and in terms of business management. Initial studies also show that companies that adhere to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, for example, post better figures in the long term. Managers need to be much more aware of these correlations.


Can the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals actually make a difference, or do companies use them more to look good?

When companies implement concrete measures to ensure less plastic waste, cleaner oceans and more climate protection, this has a positive impact. It helps companies to realize, through addressing the SDGs, that profitability is not the only important factor for a business. Companies are a natural part of our world and depend on a functioning coexistence and a stable ecosystem. More and more executives understand this. It's also worth noting here that more and more chambers of commerce are offering signposts for businesses to implement the SDGs. This is not happening without reason.


What is your fairness conclusion so far after the first months of the Corona crisis?

We have seen that fairness and sacrifice are possible. But we've also noticed that we need tougher framework conditions in some cases, because the market doesn't regulate everything. We absolutely need a fairer, more sustainable economy. We should use the positive approaches since the Corona era and not fall back into earlier times, because I see the danger that we will slip from the Corona crisis into a much more serious climate crisis.

Finding the balance between economic, social and environmental responsibility will be the biggest challenge for companies in the coming years.

Companies need to rethink. Those who dismiss fairness as unimportant have not understood the signs of the times and are missing an opportunity for success.


Fairness - the unlearned skill?

Whether on the soccer field, in traffic or at the supermarket checkout: In many everyday situations, fairness is an integral part of human coexistence. The foundations for cooperation and fairness are laid in our cradle and developed during childhood. At birth, we humans are already born with a genetic predisposition to fairness. Between the ages of three and eight, we develop a strong sense of fairness. So we can be fair - if we want to be and if we let each other be. Because it seems that, in a certain sense, we learn to be fair and decent in the course of our lives. Take road traffic, for example: in a recent survey by the Allensbach Institute for Public Opinion Research, 90 percent of the 30- to 59-year-olds questioned complained of increasing aggressiveness on Germany's roads. "If we are taught from childhood that fairness is not rewarded and unfairness is not punished, this value is not given and does not remain a priority. Rabid behavior on the road is then only one possible expression of a society that is taught to be unfair. It is therefore all the more important that we demand decent behavior from each other. Those who perceive unfairness should not back down or retreat, but rather represent their own point of view appropriately and thereby improve the image of fairness - whether at work or in everyday life.


What happens when fairness is not taken into account?

We have been experiencing increasing deregulation of the markets for several decades, and at the same time we have to realize that not enough attention has been paid to social and ecological aspects. If things continue as they have in the last 30 or 40 years, phenomena such as natural and environmental disasters, but also social inequalities, will increase. For the economy as a whole, this poses risks that are difficult to calculate. We cannot have any interest in this; what is needed, therefore, is a conscious countermovement in the form of greater consideration for all interests. If you like, fairness is a lost piece of the puzzle that restores the balance between the market, society and the environment.


The destruction of fairness?

Communities of states breaking apart, problems of racism, and no common line on climate protection: the world seems far from fair these days. A look at international politics is not more positive: In more and more countries around the globe, politicians are in power who limit themselves to national interests and neglect international agreements such as climate protection targets or support for the WHO. The unfair behavior of these influential politicians does great damage to the value of fairness. It perpetuates the misconception that fairness is a value without a benefit. This makes it all the more important to strengthen individual fairness competence. Each and every one of us should exemplify fairness at work and in everyday life, and address unfairness wherever it occurs. In this way, we can create awareness and contribute to a fairer society.