Why Favoritism Exists in the Workplace

Out-of-the-office relationships often lead to internal favoritism.

Out-of-the-office relationships often lead to internal favoritism.

Favoritism in the workplace can lead to frustration, especially if co-workers are praised and rewarded for their efforts and your efforts seem to go unnoticed. There's no exact recipe for favoritism, so your boss might not even realize she's established a teacher's pet. Favoritism often starts with out-of-the-office relationships, so it's possible you might have to tolerate the inequalities if you're not part of the inner circle.

Family Ties

Some companies have generational family ties that lead to workplace favoritism. For example, a father might have passed down the company to his son who then passed it down to his heirs. As a result, family members may be the chosen recipients of all the praise, promotions and financial gains. Heirs to the throne may even receive rewards they don't necessarily deserve, while more productive employees are ignored. As unfair as it may seem, workplace favoritism due to strong family ties isn't easily rectified.

Friendships

People enjoy working with friends which often inadvertently turns into favoritism, reports a 2012 "Forbes" article. Those who develop friendships in a company or organization often eat lunch together, send text messages back and forth, hang out at the water cooler, get together during breaks and socialize outside of work. Workplace friendships can lead to favoritism if one is a supervisor and the other is a subordinate. When it comes time for promotions or bonuses, a supervisor might show favoritism to her best friend.

Human Nature

Favoritism is part of human nature. It starts in childhood with a favorite toy and extends into adulthood, according to "Forbes." Sometimes a boss chooses an employee for a special project or assignment because she truly feels the employee is best-suited for the job. If the employee's skills are superior or he has a proven track record with a particular client, a boss's decisions are justifiable and don't usually denote favoritism. If a boss hand selects an employee just because she likes him, or wants to impress him with benefits, favoritism has influenced her decisions. Favoritism can be toxic to other employees who resent unfair and unjust treatment.

Common Interests

Workplace favoritism exists because employees share common interests. We choose our friends, partners, neighborhoods and entertainment based on mutual interests and compatibilities, according to the website "Today's Workplace." Some companies restrict relationships between supervisors and subordinates and condemn practices such as dating co-workers to limit the possibility of favoritism. A healthy company creates a team-centered dynamic that encourages all employees to use and excel in their gifts and talents, without unfairly singling out individuals. The goal is for the entire team to share common interests so they can build a strong workforce. But, not all companies pursue those same high standards.

 

About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

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