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Favouritism in the workplace

We often hear about favouritism occurring in classrooms, amongst friends, or even families, but how about the workplace?

According to our recent poll, more than 39% percent of you admitted to being guilty of favouritism in the workplace. Favouring an employee for their hard work or for being good at their job may seem harmless, but it could mean that worthy employees feel ignored; weakening their morale and increasing vulnerability to discrimination claims.

Research by Forbes has found that favouritism is very common in the workplace, with 92% of senior business executives have seen favouritism at play in employee promotions, including at their own companies, and about a quarter of the polled execs admitted to practicing favouritism in the workplace themselves.

How will this affect employees?
Employees who are onlookers to favouritism may feel undervalued, angry and unfairly treated.

Consider the feelings of the 'office angel' who might feel that being a teacher's pet is damaging the working relationship with their colleagues. Well-deserved promotions and praise for hard work might also go unnoticed by colleagues who say "it's because you're the boss's favourite!"

Some office angels might go the extra mile to outperform their colleagues. Mistakes might be concealed, or blame placed on other colleagues, just so that the preferential treatment can be kept.

Such situations will most likely lead to a stifling work environment; distrust and lack of creativity may be witnessed. Members of favourite groups (also known as the in-group) will come to despise the out-group for their suggested lack of abilities, whilst the out-group will despise the in-group for being favoured and will lose self-esteem.

By not treating everyone equally, a manager is adopting a sense of resentment and separation, and with time, it can de-motivate employees and damage team unity.

Promoting a fair working environment:

  • Don't over-praise in public: maybe save it for 1-2-1 reviews or appraisals
  • Don't judge too quickly: employees who are of a reserved nature may not openly speak about their work successes and hurdles, so managers need to pay attention. It's worth arranging a weekly team update where all employees have a chance to speak up about their work progressions
  • One rule for all: be clear about your disciplinary procedure and apply it consistently
  • Distribute projects fairly: give everyone their opportunity to shine, and delegate tasks in a fair manner
  • Clear communication: provide updates in a clear and concise manner to the whole team
  • Introduce performance management: develop your own competency framework and identify where the skills and weaknesses lay in your team. This will help you organise fair awards and also will help you identify where training requirements exist