Many times throughout my career, I’ve discussed the issue of precedent. I imagine in HR departments up and down the land, people are arguing what might or might not set one.
An earlier event or action that is regarded as an example or guide to be considered in subsequent similar circumstances. there are substantial precedents for using interactive media in training’
Law – A previous case or legal decision that may be or (binding precedent) must be followed in subsequent similar cases. ‘we hope to set a legal precedent to protect hundreds of miles of green lanes’
For me, this is one of the examples where the law has strayed too far into the workplace. We quote decisions made as if they are legally binding, when of course they are entirely within the remit of our organisation. The fear of treating people as individuals is one of the reasons that stands in our way of creating really powerful cultures.
“If we allow them xxx, then everyone will want one”
“If they can do xxx, then we will need to allow everyone”
“It will set a precedent”
If you’re making a decision based on the facts of a case or situation, if you’re taking into consideration the various aspects, then there is no need to fear anything. If a similar situation occurs, it either has the same fact and aspects – in which case you can make the same decision again, or it doesn’t – in which case you have the reason and explanation for making a different call.
Too often we use an argument of precedent as a shield to hide behind, that stop us engaging with the human factors of a case or situation. We avoid the need to thoughtfully consider the specific aspects by creating a one size fits all solution, which we refuse to move away from at any cost.
Fairness isn’t about treating everyone identically, it’s about applying the same consideration to every situation. The only precedent that matters, is making good decisions.