"Does Favoritism Belong in the Workplace?" with Rosa Ponce de Leon, Leadership Strategist

Does Favoritism Belong in the Workplace?

Just seeing the word “favoritism” most likely stirs up some emotions. Most people see favoritism as being completely unfair, but what if favoritism were inevitable? It’s human nature to prefer one thing over another and whether in our work or home lives, we each have our own favorites.

“In order to not show blatant favoritism, I must take into consideration individual needs and do my best to treat everyone the right way. This means NOT treating everyone the same way. But then, won’t I appear to be playing favorites to some outside observers.” – Robert Whipple

Favoritism isn’t always bad, it’s a human tendency.

There are people you’re just going to gravitate more than others. It’s not a bad thing. We’re all different personalities. One supervisor might like one person better than they like you. It’s natural for us to connect with people differently. 

When we are making decisions in terms of granting positions or assignments, we should consider that you have biases. Whether you’re picking a person to fit with a new team, you want to look at these personality traits, but you also want to look at the competencies that they’re bringing to the table. Sometimes we can hunker down and get on with this person because they get along with everyone and they’ll be a good fit, but they might not have the competencies that someone else has and also work daily to see the potential of the team rolling to like someone that may not initially be that person. 

It is okay to have a favorite. Sometimes it’s as simple as the frequency with which you see people influences how much you end up caring about them. What some of the studies have shown for example is that if you’re near an elevator, you’re probably going to make friends very quickly. Why? Because people see you all the time. So whether you’ve even said hello to them or not, they’ve seen your face so many times that they see you somewhere and feel more comfortable with you. It’s easier for them to talk to you outside of work.

Select the best person for the job based on your values, not just because you like them.

Don’t forget about your values. If one of your values is having people show up to work on time and the person you’ve connected with shows up two hours late every day. They aren’t your person. Look for someone who is in alignment with your values.

In the sales industry, they have what’s called a “Love Line”. A love line is where top performers have first dibs at the customers that are most likely to buy. Those at the bottom of the line might see this as unfair, but if the goal of the position is to get more sales, it makes sense to give the best opportunities to those that can close the deal. This job is all about sales, so having a love line and giving the best opportunities to those that can get the deal is what is best for the company at the end of the day. One thing to remember is that those at the top of the love line also started at the bottom. Where there is favoritism for one person, there’s a chance for you to be favored as well. Will you put in the work?

If you’re feeling unfavored, there are things you can do.

There are opportunities for everyone. If you’re an employee who feels left out, how can you increase your visibility? In the love line example above, what if the low-performer on the love line became a cheerleader for those at the top of the line? What if that employee asked to shadow the high performer to learn how they can close more deals or become a high performer too? 

Do you have a manager with an “open door” policy? Take advantage. Set up a meeting with your leader and give them time to get to know you. It might not be an issue of favoritism, they just might not know you because of a lack of visibility. Put yourself out there.

If you’re a leader, remember not to be so quick to promote the golden child. Let them prove themselves. As a leader it’s important to create a culture of encouraging support when others are succeeding. 

Tell us, how have you dealt with favoritism in the workplace?


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