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Here’s What You Should Do When Your Boss Plays Favorites

May 24, 2017, 4:03 PM UTC
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The MPW Insiders Network is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for, “How do you deal with favoritism at the office?” is written by Sandra Lopez, vice president of Intel Sports Group at Intel.

Favoritism in the workforce is extremely cancerous. It affects the morale of the organization and demotivates employees. To help create an inclusive workforce, we must work together to help end favoritism at work. Here’s how each person involved can play a role in the process:

The victim

If you feel that you are a victim of favoritism, you first need to ensure that what you are experiencing is in fact favoritism. If possible, engage with one of your colleagues and determine if they too are observing favoritism in the office. When you see your boss possibly favoring one employee over the others, ask your colleagues what they think of your boss’s actions. It is important that you do not bias your colleagues; as such, ask open-ended questions.

If you do believe favoritism is going on, it is time for you to tell your boss that they’re being discriminating. In the discussion, provide concrete examples of when you experienced favoritism.

After the discussion, begin correcting favoritism in real time; this can correct the bad behavior more quickly. For example, when the favorite is being asked for input more than others are, you can state, “We hear from Sandra often. I think we should hear from Mary right now.”

The favorite

In one phase of my career, I was the favorite. I continuously would question if I was being rewarded because of my talents or because I was the teacher’s pet. You are most likely a favorite if you are the recipient of more office kudos than others, being included in more meetings, or being continuously asked to lead special projects. If you are the favorite, then your colleagues are most likely referring to you as “that person” and are unlikely to respect you and your work.

If you find yourself in this role, have an honest conversation with your manager and inform them of the importance of being treated objectively. Continue to have this conversation until their behavior starts to change. Also, inform your colleagues that you are aware of the unfair treatment and that you are taking action. The next time you are asked to drive a special project, suggest that someone else head it instead.

The observer

If you see favoritism outside of your department, you still have the responsibility to take action. Discuss your observations with your direct manager and provide concrete examples of how the other department’s manager is treating their employees unfairly.

Whether you are the victim, favorite, or observer, you need to take action if you notice favoritism at the office.