When senior leaders decide to discipline their own more leniently than how low-level employees are disciplined for the same infraction, they typically think that no one will know.
But someone always does. The assistant who anonymously reported that her boss was cheating on his expense report. The ethics officer who received the anonymous report. The few who have access to the system where the allegation was recorded. And those who might be the confidents of the previously-mentioned – among others.
Everyone who knows of an actual double standard become disillusioned. We all believe in fairness and it hurts when we see it stolen. We become less enthusiastic, less engaged. We think “what’s the point?” The entire organization suffers as a result.
Double standards are born out of a lack of courage by those who are in the best position to fight.