Unfairness perception destroys team collaboration

One of the deadliest invisible killers in teams is the perception of unfairness: that some are rewarded beyond which their contribution merits. "Fairness perception" is a massively important but poorly understood team concept, which even extends beyond human teams into the animal kingdom. Here is how to successfully manage it.

Capuchin Monkey

In Monkeys Show Sense Of Fairness, National Geographical News reports on research that "fairness perception" extends into nature with capuchin monkeys refusing to co-operate with researchers when they see fellow monkeys getting greater rewards for the same task.

In Good collaboration: the critical unspoken question I describe in practical terms how to successfully manage "fairness perception" in human teams.


About Ken Thompson

Ken Thompson is an expert practitioner in the area of bioteaming, swarming, virtual enterprise networks, virtual professional communities, virtual teams and management simulation and has published two landmark books:

Bioteams: High Performance Teams Based on Nature's Best Designs

The Networked Enterprise: Competing for the future through Virtual Enterprise Networks

Ken writes the highly popular bioteams blog which has over 500 articles on all aspects of bioteams (aka organizational biomimicry) - in other words how human groups can learn from nature's best teams.

Ken is also founder of an exciting European technology company Swarmteams which provides unique patent-pending bioteaming technologies for all shapes and sizes of groups, social networks, business clusters, virtual/mobile communities and enterprises. Swarmteams enables groups to be more responsive and agile by fully integrating their mobile phones and the web with bioteam working techniques.

The latest Swarmteams implementation is SwarmTribes which helps social object owners (e.g. musicians/bands, sports teams, film-makers) and good cause sponsors (e.g. Volunteering, Environmental, Public Health) to form unique collaborations with their fans/supporters for mutual benefit.

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I can't believe you actually created an equation for fairness!! I don't know whether to laugh, cry or bow down in awe.

The mathematics aside, another excellent article. :-)


Hi Jorge

Many Thanks for the encouragement - I always was a bit of a closet mathematician!

Best Regards


Refreshing to read your post after hearing so much cliches like "real life isn't fair", "Don't expect the world to be fair" thrown at people who voice their problems at work.

If even monkeys can demand that they be treated fairly, why can't we human beings not demand it from our bosses?

Yup, the world out there may not be fair but if you want your team in here to deliver results then ensuring fairness in the work and reward process has to be part of your job as manager or team leader.

If you want your team to deliver results, you have to operate under some rules or values of trust, interdependence and other values that make teams work.

Other values such as empathy, genuineness, risk, and success are discussed in Dianne Crampton's book, "TIGERS Among Us-Winning Business Team Cultures And Why They Thrive." It also features examples of how companies were able to build successful, ethical, and quality-focused work teams based on these values.

Just curious... in the animal kingdom what is your best example of how a new and young leader was able to build 'the trust' of his group?

Hi Celina

Thank you for your insightful comments.

Regarding your question "... in the animal kingdom what is your best example of how a new and young leader was able to build 'the trust' of his group? "

In the animal kingdom leadership is much more collective leadership rather than single leadership however you might take a look at the article "Animal Leadership: Dictatorship Rules in Baboon Societies" which references Andrew King's research into Baboon societies


Best Regards



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