Man giving woman high five, illustrating favoritism at work.

You probably already know that all employees deserve fair, equal treatment. But everyone in the workplace is human, and some personalities click better than others. Before you act on your feelings, though, keep in mind how showing favoritism can affect everyone around you. Here’s what you need to know. 

Favoritism Through the Eyes of Your Employees

Maybe you’ve been there yourself at some point in your career. Do you remember that one coworker who was always late, never met his deadlines, or refused to follow the rules? Yet instead of getting in trouble, that same person was always laughing and joking with the boss, and always got the best assignments. How did that make you feel?

Favoritism leads to resentment. Your other employees will begin to feel disrespected and unimportant. They will lose enthusiasm and motivation. They may stop putting out their best efforts, feeling that they will never be noticed no matter what they do. Over time, favoritism can cause even the strongest teams to fall apart. 

This can hurt your bottom line. You may see employee turnover rise and productivity plummet. Depending on how bad the favoritism is, you may even be at risk for lawsuits from employees who feel that the playing field isn’t level. 

Avoid Playing Favorites at Work

So how can you avoid favoritism? How do you protect your team members and your company? Here are a few tips: 

  • Document: Keep records of everyone’s assignments and rotate them impartially. This will keep you from relying on just a few employees for big projects.
  • Take advantage of workgroups: Create democratic, collaborative workgroups designed to give everyone a voice. During reporting sessions, ask different members what they think rather than letting one or two people speak for the group.
  • Find ways to connect: Seek out the employees with whom you don’t naturally click. Find areas of common ground with them. Maybe you support the same sports team or you both have young kids. Make frequent conversation with them about those topics, and you will naturally start to build trust. 
  • Be empathetic: Even if you simply can’t connect with someone on your team, you can seek to understand her. Lead with empathy and treat everyone with equal respect. 

Being a strong leader means recognizing your own weaknesses and biases. You can’t control the fact that you will simply like some employees better than others, but you can ensure that you don’t cause harm by demonstrating favoritism. 

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