The fairness triangle: creating a fair and satisfactory service experience

The fairness triangle is a useful tool to understand what concerns stakeholders have around decisions that impact them.

About the fairness triangle

When you are managing competing interests, it is helpful to be able to demonstrate and explain how you arrived at your decision in ways that don't come across as arbitrary or autocratic. Respecting the three sides of the fairness triangle will make it easier to explain how you arrived at a fair and balanced decision.

The three sides of the triangle are interrelated. If one of the components is weak, it will have a bearing on the perception of fairness and the decision is more likely to be contested.

The fairness triangle is adapted from "The Mediation Process: Practical Strategies for Resolving Conflict," by Christopher W. Moore, and "The Fine Art of Fairness: A Guide for Fair Practice," by Ombudsman Saskatchewan.

Image: the fairness triangle

The three sides of the triangle are:

  1. process
  2. decision
  3. relationship
The image shows the fairness triangle. The sides of the triangle represent the three facets: the process, the decision and the relationship.


These are the steps taken to arrive at a decision and after a decision is made.

A strong decision making process includes:


After a fair process, the:


Taking into account the human factor and acknowledging that a stakeholder might have a different perspective than your own is another side of the triangle. This isn't about being warm and fuzzy. It's about using approaches that prevent situations from escalating into expensive, time-consuming and often embarrassing conflicts for you and for the department.

The human side of fairness is to:

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