How to divide the goods produced by society? How to ensure that everyone has access to fundamental rights? And actually… why should they? If we take a closer look, the problems of employer-employee relations have a lot to do with what has been dealt with over the centuries by political philosophers, including John Rawls specializing in social justice theory.
When it comes to idea of justice, the point of view on this is usually dictated by where one stands. Poor people who do not succeed will certainly find it easier to argue for high taxes and redistribution. The rich, on the other hand, are more likely to be in favour of a total freedom – because “life can be unfair, we will do nothing about it”. Is there any way to avoid this relativity of positions and make justice really blind?
John Rawls saw the essence of justice precisely in the fact that it must be defined from a completely neutral perspective. An appropriate system can only be created if a hypothetical “veil of ignorance” is put on.
When planning any rules in society, we must assume that we do not know what role we play in it. It is as if we are to be born again, unaware of the family in which it will happen: whether we will be billionaires or workers. In the same way, in a company, well-conceived rules should be written by someone who “forgets” for a moment what position they are in. This person has to make rules that everyone would be satisfied with – CEO and a junior salesman.
According to the American philosopher, the “veil of ignorance” must include comprehensive human characteristics: both origin, property status and personal predisposition.
Rawls thought that nobody deserved to have natural talent on purpose, so a good system shouldn’t give preference to such people. In the same way, in a well-managed corporation, a system of work organization, promotion and payroll opportunities must be made so that everyone has equal opportunities. Of course, adopting the principle of the “veil of ignorance” means that we will generally look at the world through the prism of the weakest. This does not mean, however, that Rawls proposed some form of communism, where everyone gets the same.
According to the American, inequalities are acceptable if they serve the poorest. Rawls wasn’t about giving everyone a happy life, but about giving everyone an equal chance in the race to win it.
It is difficult to motivate oneself to work when a possible promotion will not give us anything, because everyone earns the same… The philosopher accepted the free market and competition, but he assumed that the state should limit too many disproportions. It is a bit like in a corporation: it is not about rewarding freshmans and experienced employees equally, but about giving those new ones the same chances for further development. Too much focus of the board on those who work longer and have more responsible functions may result in a glass ceiling that no one new will be able to break through.
However, according to Rawls, a fair system is not just the pious wish of sensitive idealists. As it coincides with the human psyche, it is to guarantee peace, stability and acceptance by all.
A well-structured system of goods distribution is not only right but also practical. Employees who know that the company’s income and development have an impact on their personal careers will feel more connected to it. In society, fair rules are to guarantee the absence of riots and support for populists. Of course, in no company will a revolution break out against privileged board members. But it is a poor consolation – in the long run, the board will suffer the consequences of unfair treatment of ordinary workers, because a company in which work resembles a slave camp has never been a long-term success.