How to Combat Signs of Favoritism at Work

24 March 2022

We all have favorites. Some of us love listening to pop; some love to rock. Some like reading nonfiction books while others like steamy romantic novels. Some enjoy being with their siblings while others prefer to hang around with their friends. The list is never-ending. But it's a different story when we talk about favoritism in the workplace. It’s unfair, toxic, and in some cases, even illegal to practice.

It’s understandable that we all have inherent biases based on our individual backgrounds. We may think that we don’t have any prejudice against anyone but sometimes, our subconscious boxes people and things into stereotypes. Our subconscious makes us lean towards others who have the same background or interests as us.

While this may be natural, it doesn’t mean we can’t avoid giving into the practice of favoritism. We must be mindful of our actions and thoughts and avoid every behavior that may lead to a decision or action that may favor one over another.

It sounds very ideal because it is. In reality, favoritism is adamant in the American workforce. When you think you have equal chances for a promotion, there comes your boss’ favorite and he or she will sweep it right in without showing too much effort at work. Almost all companies have safeguards put up against favoritism, but still, the culture is very much alive up to today. There are even others who are honest to admit that they have and play by their favorites.

You should be on the lookout for signs of favoritism in your office. While you should focus on your performance, you should also be mindful when you are not being treated on equal terms with other colleagues. Your boss might be spending a lot of time hanging out with specific employees, chatting both about work and non-work-related topics. You might have noticed that your boss lets it pass when his or her favored employees commit and admit to mistakes. Some even use their authority to cover up for the mistake that might have cost the company a lot. Through your investigation, you discover an open door policy exclusive for certain employees that get less, lighter, or their workload of choice. Another sign is when your boss would prioritize certain employees to get resources and would just apologize to you if there’s no more left. Even though you’ve repeatedly asked for feedback, your boss never gives you one but you catch him or her personally assisting the career development of your colleague. You also never get praised for the hard work that you do and the finished outputs you present. Others get a leg up for a promotion even if you as a staff collectively agree that he or she does not deserve it. There are some whose voices at the office are always heard, with their opinions and views being listened to. An impartial boss would also take the side of his or her favorite employee without hearing the sides of the different names involved. Then, you are one of the last to find out about vital information at work.

What to Do When There’s Favoritism

First, assess the situation in the most rational way that you could.

We know that you might be emotional but you have to look at the situation with a rational lens. Think about a particular moment when you thought favoritism was at play. Look at all the factors why the employees received that kind of treatment. Do they have the skill? Do they meet high qualifications? Do you notice that they have a relationship with the boss that may affect the decision of your boss? Only then can you know what to do next.

We understand it might be difficult to be rational, or even impossible for some. You could consult a third party who is not involved in the situation. Let them know about your initial view and what you want to happen moving forward. Be prepared for what they will say and listen with an open mind to their advice. These insights would be valuable in devising a solution to the favoritism situation that you are in at the moment.

Be firm with your next course of action.

If your rational assessment is that favoritism is being practiced, then you should be confident to stand up for yourself. Gather all strong evidence to prove that there is favoritism being practiced. Use clear and direct language when communicating your concern.

If You’re the Boss

If you’re on the other end, the leader or the manager in the office, then you must be mindful of your personal biases. You may use Harvard University’s Implicit Association Test to determine your thoughts and feelings about things that you might not consciously know about.

Implement systems to combat favoritism.

Sit down and write policies to put a stop to a culture of favoritism in the workplace. Show it to your employees and ask for feedback. It will help if they will feel that they are part of the process, even making it more possible to completely end it.

Get the support of a leadership coach.

You may already be the boss but that does not mean you can’t learn from others. You could get advice from a coach who is trained and experienced in these types of situations. The coach will most likely challenge your mindset and hopefully provide you with insights that would prove valuable in the long run.

Why You Don’t Want to Practice Favoritism in the Office

You will lose the trust of employees, harbor resentment, start conflicts, and kill collaboration and partnerships if you are guilty of favoritism in your workplace.

And while you’re trying your best to give your all to your employees, don’t hesitate to gift them with ergonomic furniture. This will help them work at their best and help the company grow bigger.