Favouritism at the workplace is for real and disappointing

Cover Image of Favouritism at the workplace is for real and disappointing
15 Nov 2022
All employees are equal but some are first among equals.

Remember the ‘teacher’s pet’ back in high-school whose smug face annoyed you to no end, not because they were better than you but because no matter what you did, you could never gain their spot in your teacher’s good books? Teacher’s favourite, the one who showered in all the attention while your efforts were conveniently ignored. Fast forward a decade.

You are now an adult with a college degree and a job with the responsibilities that come with it. And now that you look around your workplace can you spot that face as smug as the one you disliked in school? Do you still see someone who feels as much an untouchable as that teacher’s pet in school? If not, then you may be that person for all one may know.

Favouritism at workplace is as real as the disappointment of the well-deserved appraisal you did not get. It is as real as the opportunity which someone else stole due to their ‘better connections’ and despite what the company policy proudly claims, it is as real as the target you need to meet to get that bonus.

So, what is favouritism?

Favouritism at work is when one of your colleagues is subjected to better or special treatment from your manager or superior, while everyone else gets pushed aside. What is really shocking is the fact that favouritism, though looked down upon, is practised in several work places. It can be as simple as turning a colleague into a friend, and therefore, favouritism follows not too far from there.

Favouritism is part of human nature. For instance, when a manager assigns an important task to an employee based on their experience and work credentials, it’s not because they were held as a favourite. However, if a manager hands over the best seat in the office or some benefit to an employee for no criteria at all, it is favouritism.

The favouritism comes in both flavours, overt and covert. Sometimes, it is not visible like the time your superior invited your peer for lunch and handed them a project which you had hoped to receive. And sometimes, it can be crystal clear when everyone can genuinely see the boss mollycoddling an employee who had done nothing to deserve such attention or praise. Both hurt as in workplaces, perceptions matter as much as the real work does.

Favouritism has deep consequences for the company, overall. Primarily, it erodes the confidence of an employee in the management’s good judgment and alienates them from the company’s true vision. Secondly, it creates a sense of indifference among employees who start by working diligently but start slacking once they experience someone else overtaking them despite not deserving it. This subjective feeling of being ignored plays a great role in seeding employee dissatisfaction.

And eventually, the employees who regularly experience the negative side of favouritism ends up low on self-esteem, efficiency, and slightly cynical about the company as well as their own work.

No company can afford to have their employees in such a situation wherein they feel the injustice so acutely that they start retaliating through non-compliance.

That being said, the favouritism is not always intentional and it may happen through sheer ignorance on the part of the senior but that is even more dangerous as people in authority need to be even more mindful of such occurrences. But there comes a time when the employee, as a victim or as the one who benefits from it, must speak up.

Firstly, how do you know if there is favouritism at the workplace?

It’s easy to spot favouritism, especially if it is not directed at you. However, to make sure the workplace is healthy, equal treatment must be ensured among every employee. And one must always speak up, whether it is being directed at them or not. Here are some sure signs of favouritism at the workplace.

#1. Good projects go to them

All good projects are given to the person in question. Whether it is for you or someone else, everyone else on board are given repetitive projects to work on while only one person gets to feel good about their work.

#2. Advice galore

Your manager is open to advice only from this person. It’s clearly evident as to how easily they listen to this employee in favour, and disregard any ideas that others may have or present.

#3. They have been given leeway

You notice that the person in favour has been given way too much leeway when it comes to finishing assignments on time or even behavior at the workplace. Everything they do, even if it goes against the rules by a tad bit, seems okay and the manager seems to be fine with it.

So, how do you deal with this?

If you notice favouritism at the workplace, either being directed at you or at someone else, it’s important you speak up.

You must have a conversation with your manager about the said issue, or even the HR. If it is you who is being singled out entirely, you may end up feeling negatively about yourself and your peers.

Learn how to say no.

If your manager wants you to handle more responsibilities simply because they know you better or being impartial, then learn how to say no to their advances. By sharing what’s on your plate, you can inevitably turn your work-life more pleasant.

Don’t give into favouritism.

If you observe your manager showering you with benefits out of favouritism, don’t sit idly by. Refuse these advances, and ask yourself first if you deserve this different treatment. It’s always better to share the limelight than be the only person receiving the praise.

If you are someone who enjoys the benefits of favouritism, kindly speak up and share the glory with your co-workers. No one has succeeded well by disregarding those who helped them be there. And if you are the victim, you need to first ascertain that that is indeed the case and not merely your view. Do not accuse anyone but try finding your options through your Human Resource managers through discussions. But most importantly, stay calm, patient, and positive.

The first step for any company, therefore, is the identification and acknowledgment of favouritism. It is then followed by a resolution. But it so happens that most seniors and people in authority would not acknowledge it and therein lies the problem.

A little tact and a bit of discretion may, then, be your greatest ally. 

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