Perceived Favoritism in the Workplace

Overly-familiar relationships can negatively affect others in the office.
i Siri Stafford/Photodisc/Getty Images

A new office hire seems to be getting extra time and attention from the boss. You might be wondering what makes her so special, especially if you’re an established and hard-working employee who doesn't get any extra perks yourself. Any time it appears a colleague is receiving favorable treatment in the workplace, it creates a scenario in which potential resentment can arise with other workers. Whether the favoritism is real or perceived, it still has the potential to damage relationships and reduce productivity and morale. \

Workplace Rumor Mill

    When it looks like someone in the office is getting plum assignments, reduced workloads or extra personal time off, it can kick the rumor mill into overdrive. Productive work time is lost as other employees gather in the break room to gossip about what the colleague is or isn’t doing to warrant the extra favors. Unsubstantiated rumors have the potential to create a negative atmosphere, which can potentially hurt customer service as well as hurt employee relationships.


    If an employee thinks she isn't getting fair treatment from the boss in spite of putting forth productive work efforts, she might decide it’s not worth it to stick around, and leave to seek employment elsewhere. This can mean the loss of a good, qualified employee who can be costly to replace. Others may follow suit, which can lead to productivity-reducing attrition and negative attitudes from remaining staffers.

Negative Employee Relationships

    Favoritism in the workplace runs the risk of pitting co-workers against one another and creating a potentially volatile situation, especially if perceived favoritism has to do with assignment of choice work projects, promotions or raises. For example, if the boss shows outright favoritism toward one employee and not another, the slighted employee might become resentful of not only the boss, but of the favored colleague. This can negatively impact the flow of project plans and teamwork. An employee who doesn't feel she’s being treated fairly or equitably might not be as productive as she could, her rationale being she doesn't owe the boss anything more than the bare minimum performance.

Damaged Reputations

    Even if the perception of office favoritism has no basis in fact, the perception can still damage professional reputations. The favored employee may be seen as a manipulator who must be “doing something” to warrant extra attention, while the employer may get a reputation for appearing unscrupulous in his behavior. Rumors of inappropriate office romances can also damage personal relationships outside the workplace, and have long-term repercussions, like a spouse learning of the favoritism and suspecting infidelity.

the nest