Interesting studies on fairness have shown the ontology of the two forms of fairness differ quite significantly. The recognition that an event or behavior is unfair to me is universal and is well developed at an early age. This sense of fairness seems unaffected by social mores or the type of environment in which children mature. In contrast, the recognition that an event or behavior is unfair to others develops much later and is influenced by the social mores and the environment in which children mature. Arguably, the most egregious example of this is slavery. Most children who had grown up as masters in an area in which slavery was the norm, developed a less robust and flawed ability to recognize unfairness to others. Sociopaths never develop this form of fairness or they simply don’t care.
In organizations I have led, I emphasized that the indivisible unit of value is the individual and that leaders and managers had no right to be deliberately unfair to an individual no matter how important the justification and that I believe deeply. It is also a slippery slope. If you can justify being unfair to an individual in one instance, it is likely that you will do it again. More importantly, the people you lead will see your behavior and the required trust will be lost. I believe that to be consistently fair, one must err on the side of generosity to all, but to be deliberately generous to one individual is, by definition, unfair to others in the organization.