People in leadership positions displaying signs of favoritism at work can disrupt the workplace. A boss playing favorites sends the wrong signal. People could believe that hard, honest work doesn't pay because to advance within the company, a worker would have to appeal to the whim of a manager rather than focus on her performance. Favoritism is detrimental to your operation, and learning to recognize the signs of it can help both workers and leaders set the right expectations.
Favoritism is giving someone or a group special treatment at the expense of someone else. It's important to understand that favoritism isn't just your boss being extra friendly and polite to your coworker. Your boss's partiality toward another employee must also affect the rest of the workforce negatively. For example, the promotion or project your boss gave to a worker who didn't deserve it could have gone to you or your more deserving colleagues.
The frustration of dealing with a manager giving preferential treatment to someone who didn't earn it goes beyond being an annoyance: it can set your career advancement back and rob you of the goals you've set to achieve within the company.
You might be asking, "is it illegal to show favoritism at work?" The answer is not as forward as one would hope because like most legal issues, context and interpretation matter before the courts.
Favoritism can take different forms, and for it to be deemed illegal, one would have to demonstrate that a manager's preferential treatment of a coworker is somehow related to sexual harassment or violates the Department of Labor's criteria of discriminatory behavior in the workplace. So, unless you can prove that a violation of sexual harassment or labor anti-discrimination laws has occurred, your manager's unfair preference for your coworker is not illegal.
Aside from the legal status of favoritism in the workplace, preferential treatment to undeserving individuals is unethical and problematic. Hard-working, dedicated employees can feel demoralized — and their work ethic, commitment and respect for the organization could erode to the point where the company is unable to retain talent.
To get a handle on the situation, you must learn to understand the signs of favoritism at work. Can you recognize any of the following 10 signs in your place of employment?
You know the person your manager just gave that promotion to have neither the tenure nor the experience to handle the position. Everybody else knows it, too. There are other employees in your organization with the gravitas to do well in the area. Still, for some reason, your manager decides to pass them up and give the position to the less qualified person in the team, who seems to get along superbly with management.
Meetings take up a considerable amount of time during hours of operation since they're necessary for keeping everybody aware of what's happening in the company. You notice that no matter what the meetings are about, the input from a particular coworker seemsto matter more to the manager than anybody else's, regardless of whether this person's contribution produces value for the company.
You notice your manager is always visiting your coworker's cubicle and pays more attention to them during team interactions.
Your company has policies in place to address delays, and, for the most part, management is pretty good at implementing these policies — except when it comes to a particular employee who seems always to be able to get away with being late without facing the same consequences other employees have to face when they're late.
Your boss seems to believe that your coworker is their assistant because they enlist their help for the most mundane of tasks. Also, your coworker bends over backward to stay on your boss's good graces.
A strong sign of favoritism in the workplace is the behavior of the person on the receiving end of favoritism. Entitled behavior and a nasty attitude from a person who thinks they're above any rules and policies because they feel they have the backing of your boss is a very telling sign.
It could be a bigger desk, a closer parking spot or access to resources other employees don't have, even when they have been in the company for longer than your boss's favorite.
Is your boss always earmarking travel opportunities, training, seminars or access to certain clients for a specific individual who doesn't have the skills and experience with the company to qualify for them? And at the same time, is no one else in your teams taken into consideration for these same opportunities?
An important project needs to be completed for a client. You're the most qualified person for this project, and everyone expects it will be assigned to you. This project is pivotal for advancement in the company, and whoever completes will be on her way to a promotion. Somehow, your manager decides to pass you up and assigns it to a less qualified member of your team she seems to like more.
Your team leader always seems to ensure they sit close to a specific employee during company functions. And the employee is always being included by your boss, even in situations when it seems inappropriate to do so. Another version of this is when your boss and your coworker always come back to the office after getting coffee during breaks together.
Dealing with favoritism in the workplace can make you feel uncomfortable. Having to confront your boss about their behavior is never easy, but here are six tips to help you.
Having records and evidence of your claim will make your stance stronger should you decide to bring the situation to other people's attention in the future.
Standing up for yourself can feel uncomfortable, but you should always consider taking the fighting chance over taking the nearest exit. Maybe it took you years to develop an excellent reputation among your peers and clients, so don't throw away all the hard work you've put into this role in the company. Fight for your interests.
If the situation is affecting your chance of advancement negatively, you could consider addressing the issue with management, while ensuring you understand the escalation process and protecting yourself from retaliation before you make a move.
Talk to your management. Maybe your boss is unaware that their behavior is fostering an environment of discontent among team members who don't feel their commitment to the company matters when a particular person is being given undeserved privileges.
In most instances, addressing the issue with your manager should be enough to put a stop to it, but there will be times when your efforts to seek equal consideration will have to be taken before higher management. The HR team may need to get involved before the issue improves.
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
Yoevelyn Rodriguez holds a Master of Science from Florida International University and a Bachelor's in Business Administration. She has also completed her certificate in marketing research and now uses her education to empower women in business.
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