When people in positions of power show signs of bias at work, it can cause havoc. A manager who favours their employees sends an incorrect message. People may assume that hard, honest labour does not pay since, to advance within the organization, a worker must appeal to a manager's whim rather than focus on their performance.
Favouritism is bad for business, and knowing how to see the indications may help both employees and bosses set the correct expectations. However, there is some evidence that leaders have favourites and treat them differently from the other employees.
According to a survey of 303 U.S. executives, more than half (56%) of executives admitted to having a favourite employee when making internal promotion decisions, and 96% of them advised they will promote their favourites over the candidates' abilities, which may be critical for the position under consideration.
People are compelled to prefer or favour someone over others as basic human nature. As a result, there should be many aspects that decide how fond of someone we are or how much we admire their abilities.
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Favouritism is alive and well in any workplace, and humans, despite their best intentions and efforts, tend to favour certain individuals. This can be seen in subtle indicators or, on rare occasions, in rather unmistakable ways by select employers. In this article, we have outlined key signs for one to identify that they are their boss's favourite.
What is favouritism in the workplace?
Favouritism is when someone or a group receives preferential treatment at the expense of others. It is critical to recognize that favouritism isn't simply your supervisor being extra kind and polite to your teammate.
Your boss's favouritism for another employee must have a detrimental impact on the rest of the team. The promotion or project that your manager handed to someone who did not deserve it, for example, could have gone to you or one of your more worthy co-workers.
Why is favouritism in the workplace problematic?
The irritation of dealing with a manager who gives preferential treatment to someone who hasn't earned it goes beyond annoyance: it can set you back in your career and prevent you from achieving the goals you have set for yourself at work.
"Is it illegal to display favouritism at work?" you might wonder. The solution isn't as simple as one might think because, as with other legal issues, context and interpretation are crucial in the eyes of the courts.
Favouritism can take many forms, and for it to be considered illegal, one must show that a manager's preferential treatment of a co-worker is related to sexual harassment or violates the Department of Labour's criteria for workplace discrimination. So, unless you can show that your manager's discriminatory preference for a co-worker violated sexual harassment or labour anti-discrimination laws, your manager's unfair preference for your teammate is not illegal.
Preferential treatment of undeserving individuals is unethical and undesirable, regardless of the legal position of favouritism in the workplace. Employees who work hard and are dedicated to the firm may become demoralized. Their work ethic, devotion, and respect for the company may deteriorate to the point that the company cannot retain talent.
Favouritism has a wide range of repercussions. Employees not only see favouritism as a type of workplace injustice/unfairness, but they also react to it with unfavourable feelings toward the company through:
- Lower loyalty
- Worse job satisfaction
- Higher intentions to resign
- Lower work motivation
- Emotional tiredness
Employees who perceive lower levels of favouritism will most likely have poor work relationships with their bosses. They obtain less recognition and professional assistance from their bosses, such as mentoring and coaching, receive less support at work, and have less trust in their bosses.
Signs you are the boss's favourite employee
There are numerous factors that contribute to your professional development and progress at work. Some of the main factors are:
- Hard work
- Problem-solving abilities
However, one more thing to consider is being the boss's favourite employee. There is a chance you have a majority of the characteristics of a beloved employee, which every boss prefers. Our bosses, in reality, hold the key to our long-term success at work. So we must understand that being the boss's favourite employee is equally vital if we want to advance at work. Nobody likes to be stuck in the same spot for an extended period.
If you are succeeding exceptionally well at work, it is possible that being the boss's favourite is a contributing factor. Of course, you will respond with, "I don't believe so!" So far, I've never received any sign," yet this is not the case. So, what are your expectations? You cannot expect your boss to exclaim, "Hey, you are my favourite employee!" when you show up. There are indications that your boss holds you in great regard.
Being your boss's favourite employee is an excellent thing in the workplace. However, there is still a fine line between bosses who applaud their employees' efforts and certify them with successful projects and bosses who favour one employee over others. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you want to know if you're your boss's favourite
1. You get undeserved promotions
You have been promoted by your boss even though you lack the necessary tenure and experience for the job. Everyone else is aware of it as well. Other employees in your company have the gravitas to succeed in this field. Despite this, your boss decides to pass them up in favour of the less competent team member being you, who appears to get along swimmingly with management.
2. Only your suggestions will be taken into account
Meetings consume a significant amount of time during business hours because they are required to keep everyone informed about what is going on in the organization. You note that no matter what the meetings are about, your boss seems to favour your input more than anyone else's. This will be the case regardless of whether or not this contribution adds value to the organization.
Employees that are trusted by their bosses are frequently asked for their comments. Therefore, if your boss often requests your involvement in team meetings and team initiatives, this is a positive indicator that you are their favourite.
3. Your boss gives you extra attention
You observe that your boss frequently visits your cubicle and pays special attention to you during team meetings. Your co-workers have to go out of their way to keep your boss happy, and it still appears as if they don't even notice them as they try compared to you. Thus, this is an important sign to show that they appreciate you apart from likeability. It is not as vital to like you as an employee as it is to support the team, participate in crucial talks, etc.
4. Double standards
Your organization has standards in place to deal with delays, and management is generally effective at enforcing them except when it comes to you when you always appear to be able to get away with being late without experiencing the same consequences that other employees experience when they are late.
5. There is some sense of entitlement
The behaviour of the person receiving favouritism is a powerful indicator of bias in the workplace. Entitled behaviour and a hostile attitude from someone who believes they are above all laws and policies because they have your boss's support is a tell-tale indication.
6. You get extra privileges
It could be a larger workstation, a closer parking place, or access to resources not available to other employees, even though they have worked for the company longer than you. This is a clear sign of favouritism as you will be getting special treatment from your boss.
7. You get additional opportunities
If your boss always reserves trip chances, extra tickets to events, training, seminars, or access to certain clients for you alone even though you lack the necessary skills and expertise needed, then it is a sign you are their favourite. If no one else in your team is being considered for these same opportunities, it is a sign. Generally, bosses frequently provide extra responsibilities to talented employees and employees in charge of critical initiatives.
8. Your boss takes from others and gives to you
For a client, an important project must be accomplished. Everyone expects this project to be assigned to you because you're the most qualified person for it. This project is critical for company progress, and whoever finishes it will be on her way to a promotion. Your manager, for some reason, decides to overlook you and allocates the job to a less qualified member of your team whom she appears to prefer.
Is your boss always reserving trip chances, training, seminars, or access to certain clients for someone who lacks the necessary skills and expertise with the company? Is no one else in your team being considered for these same opportunities?
9. You notice some form of bonding between you and your boss
During business functions, your boss always seems to sit near you, and they always include you, even when it appears that it is inappropriate to do so. Another example is when you and your boss always return to the workplace after drinking coffee together during their breaks.
10. Your boss relies on you
If you are your boss's go-to person for help with something at work, it is a good sign that they trust you. When your boss knows they can count on you after you have helped them with a range of scenarios, you have most likely shown to be trustworthy. Your boss may put your patience and dependability to the test. It also demonstrates your respect for your supervisor, which is always appreciated. Under extreme situations, they may test your patience.
Advantages of being the boss's favourite employee
Some of the advantages of being the boss's favourite employee are:
- Self-evident: You get first-choice assignments, extra attention, and insider knowledge about what's going on at the company.
- You can feel a greater sense of self-worth in your job from the preferential treatment given from time to time.
- Higher job security; thus, you will most likely stick around longer in the organization.
- You become an effective leader due to more exposure to the projects, more input accepted and a chance to share opinions in meetings.
Disadvantages of being the boss's favourite employee
According to Harvard Business Review, being your boss's favourite has a lot of benefits. However, there are certain drawbacks: Your teammates may dislike you, which is bad for team morale. This may make hard-working, dedicated employees feel demoralised leading to a hostile work environment. How can you urge your boss to treat everyone equally if you are his pet? How do you say no to favouritism without coming across as ungrateful or jeopardizing your relationship?
Experts like Karen Dillon, the author of the HBR Guide to Office Politics, among other books, agree that being chosen by the boss is "both fantastic and dreadful" at the same time. For instance, you might receive exceptional attention from your boss, but it comes at a price. It might develop anger and resentment among your peers, making things difficult for you to be a team player.
Being the boss's pet may put you in a difficult situation with your co-workers, but keep in mind that your boss isn't placing you in this situation on purpose. It is usually from a good source, and you have earned your boss's respect and admiration. This doesn't make your boss a bad boss or bad manager. It is possible that your boss does not realize how terrible the situation is for you and that they are unintentionally "undermining the work atmosphere" by fostering resentment among your co-workers.
Allowing yourself to be the boss's favourite, on the other hand, is not necessarily a wise professional decision. You are tying your wagon to the star of this person. This means you will have lost your power base if they quit or are dismissed. Take into account why your boss hired you in the first place. The favourite knows how to tickle the boss's ego, and this is psychological collusion, according to Harvard Business Review. You may make the boss happy now, but you may find yourself out of favour at some point.
How to deal with being the boss's favourite
Thomas J. DeLong, a Harvard Business School professor of management practice and author of the book Flying Without a Net, among other works, states that because others are jealous, it is often open season on the boss's favourite. Favourites can be politically blindsided in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways. However, there are several ways in which this problem can be dealt with and how to persuade your boss to share the love.
Working in an environment with favouritism can be stressful for others; hence it is always good to put yourself in others' shoes even though you are the one being favoured. When you have a friendly and informal connection with your boss, it is really easy not to understand how much others see and notice. Do you show up unannounced to your boss's office frequently? Do you eat lunch with your friends more often than not? These may appear to be insignificant gestures, but they are obvious to those not included. They have meaning, and people interpret them in various ways. To be sensitive to the situation's optics, I recommend you put a guardrail between you and your boss.
You should also try to build some structural distance. In the interest of fairness, you could recommend that your boss participates in a time-tracking exercise. Please keep track of your time to see who you spend it with the most. Then take a look at how it appears. Your goal is to persuade your supervisor to be more aware of their patterns. Everything a leader does is a signal, and the signals ought to be pure. It is never easy to confront your boss about their behaviour, but here are some ways to help you.
Encourage your boss to spread the love
As the favourite employee, you must also make an effort to assist your boss in seeing the importance of other team members. Use your celebrity to bring attention to others and give credit where credit is due. This motivates your employer to spread the love and shows your co-workers that you are making good use of your platform.
This can be done both publicly and privately. For example, you might write your employer an email describing how a colleague helped you prepare for a significant presentation and CCing that colleague. You might also request that your employer acknowledges a specific employee at the next team meeting and thank them for their efforts.
Your goal is to motivate your boss to be generous with credit and praise where due. Above all, do not keep your boss's attention and goodwill to yourself. Also, do not take advantage of your connection.
It is also a good idea to discuss the problem with your boss.
"We are close, and it's impacting my relationships with others."
You should make sure that you also do not want to be mistaken for a spy. However, you need to keep a strategic distance from your boss. According to a Harvard Business Review article, they predict that the boss will fall even more in love with you as a result of your candour.
You are not simply focused on your own goal because of your sincerity and directness. At the end of the day, this is best for the institution. You should ensure care when it comes to bringing up the matter as you do not want to put your boss on the defensive. Thus, you should strive to negotiate with your acts and demeanour as best you can and be productive and positive.
Do not gossip
Naturally, it is more interesting to chat about other people than talk about, say, systems or theory. However, we advise against gossiping with your boss. You should always maintain your composure. If your boss nags you about a co-worker, mention to them that you hope that they have told this person what they are thinking in a teasing and encouraging tone.
Your goal is to train your boss out of this bad habit gently. However, we advise against being too harsh on your boss. It might be best just to listen and let your boss speak for himself. You might also attempt gently defending your colleague or providing more context. Don't join in the criticism, no matter what you do.
Strive to be everyone's favourite
According to a Harvard Business Review article, one of the greatest ways to deal with animosity produced by your most-favoured status is to try very hard to be a nice colleague to everyone. Don't simply be the boss's pet; be everyone's pet. Be involved and supportive, pay attention to what your team members are working on, and provide feedback and assistance when others require it. Your goal is to earn the respect of your boss and the rest of the team. It is difficult to resent someone helpful, engaged, and supportive publicly and privately.
According to the Independent, if you are the first person your boss thinks of when it comes to getting things done or dealing with a crisis, it implies they have a lot of faith in your talents. Favouritism still exists in the workplace.
We have outlined ten signs in this white paper of how you can determine if you are your boss's favourite employee. As with everything else, being your boss's favourite employee comes with its pros and cons and there are ways to deal with and neutralize this problem. Listed below are some principles to remember when faced with such a situation and these are:
Consider discussing the problem with your boss. Be open and honest about the impact on the team.
Become enraged at your boss. They are probably unaware that they are inciting hatred among your co-workers.
Keep an eye on outward appearances. Make an effort to put some distance between yourself and your boss.
Encourage your boss to openly recognize the merits and accomplishments of others by hoarding his or her attention and goodwill.
Work hard to get the respect of your co-workers. It is impossible to despise someone willing to help and participate.
Allow your boss to gossip about you. Encourage them to change their ways.
Kudzai Derera is the Business Systems Manager at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a management and human resources consulting firm.
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