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What is Fair?

Jesus told the story of a farmer who needed workers to harvest his crops.  He went out in the morning and found some idle men and offered then one day’s wages to work in his field. They agreed and went off to work. Around noon, he found others and sent them into his field. An hour before quitting time, he found others and sent them to work.


When the day ended, they lined up to be paid. Those who had worked only an hour were paid a full day’s wage.  Those who had worked only half a day received a full day’s wage.  Those who had worked the whole day were paid the same. This last group grumbled and complained that the farmer wasn’t fair because they had worked a whole day and were not paid more than those who had worked far less.


Was the farmer unfair? Was he making a leadership mistake?


Jesus argued that the farmer did exactly as he had promised.  He paid what he had agreed to pay to those who had worked all day.  If he chose to be generous to others, did that make him unfair? Was he making a leadership mistake?


I know many people who feel unfairly compensated at work.  It isn’t that they aren’t well paid. Many of them being paid many times more than the average person.  And, it isn’t that they are being paid less than their employer agreed to pay. In fact, they are regularly given bonuses.


It is true, however, that some of their coworkers make much more money than do they.  When they see what those people make, their compensation seems shabby.


Fairness is such a difficult issue because like beauty, fairness lies in the eye of the beholder. And, the feeling of unfairness can fester into ugly emotions like resentment, bitterness, envy and jealousy.  Is there not a lesson here for all of us who feel unfairly treated? Should we not be grateful that the farmer hired us for the day and paid us what he agreed to pay?


Perhaps we should go home and have a very nice dinner.


About Jack Skeen

Jack Skeen
Jack Skeen, founder of Skeen Leadership, has been coaching bright and successful leaders for close to two decades, spending thousands of hours addressing every imaginable leadership, business and life issue with wisdom and professionalism.

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