Another interesting reminder courtesy of COVID — particularly for Compliance professionals & Senior Managers — of the importance we all attach to fairness when it comes to rules. If regulations are perceived not to be fairly applied to everyone, there is likely to be a negative reaction.
The latest incident involves tennis star Novak Djokovic who explained on social media that he will be playing at the Australian 🇦🇺 Open Tennis 🎾 competition, thanks to an "exemption permission".
That appears to be necessary because Djokovic — who previously said he was “opposed to vaccination” and “wouldn’t want to be forced” to receive a jab — doesn't appear to be able to comply with the rule set by Tennis Australia that all players must be vaccinated to participate.
It is possible that Djokovic has a medical reason for not getting the vaccine. And, it's arguably none of our business why he's entitled to an exemption. But, as with the examples of business leaders, celebrities and politicians seemingly either breaking rules or being allowed not to comply with them, this type of story doesn't go down well with many of the people who do comply.
Of course, you can argue that the media loves to create conflict by publicising these incidents. But the reaction these stories elicit illustrates a basic tent of how we think.
So, if you're responsible for writing, enforcing or monitoring rules in your organisation, be aware that the perception of unfairness in the way they are applied, can create reactance. Note the word 'perception' — there may be legitimate reasons to disapply rules in certain circumstances, but if those aren't clearly understood or come across as unfair, then people will have less respect for the regime imposing the rules.
While you can simply choose to impose rules on employees because you can, if the regime feels unfair, you risk people looking for loopholes or 'complying in name only'. And remember, it might not be the specific rule where the unfairness is perceived, which they subsequently choose to break or bend.
For more on this story, I recommend reading this article.