Preferential Treatment in the Workplace

Don't let workplace preferential treatment get you down.
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It's a bummer when a colleague gets preferential treatment because she's the friend of the boss. You might notice that she receives special favors, such as choice work assignments, a better work schedule or the newest computer in the office. While special or preferential treatment is not fair, it's only against the law when it is related to discriminatory practices.


    Federal and state laws prohibit employers or managers treating employees differently because of sex, gender, race, religion, age or disability. When two employees perform the same job at the same competence level, one cannot receive a higher pay raise than the other because of race or sex. While employers must be fair in their treatment of protected classes, when it results in unfair or discriminatory practices against other employees, it might be considered illegal preferential treatment.

Morale and Motivation

    Companies or managers that allow obvious signs of preferential treatment for some employees rather than others are making grave mistakes. Favoritism at work causes motivation and morale issues in the employees that don't receive the "special" treatment. It also results in employees behaving toward the "favored" employee differently. Employees in this kind of environment begin to dislike work, withhold information or perform sub-standard work. When you are in this situation, you might begin to dislike your job or the person who gets the special treatment.

Hostile Work Environment

    When the preferential treatment is so noticeable that it causes anger among employees, this can lead to a hostile work environment. Under federal and state laws, employees have the right to work in a hostile-free business environment. Preferential treatment can – over time – create a hostile work environment and lead to high employee turnover. You might notice that employees react to preferential treatment by complaining about over-the-top favoritism, promotions, hiring and firing or employees that get the "best" offices.

Positive Outlook

    When you have to deal with preferential treatment at work, it's critical to avoid anger and resentment, even though it might be a natural response. Use the event to evaluate your position with the company. Ask yourself if you really want to work with a company that provides favoritism unfairly. Schedule a meeting with your boss and talk about your feelings – you might discover that the employee who is allowed to leave work early makes up the difference by coming in early or working on weekends. A meeting with the boss is a good time to let your boss know about your accomplishments. It's a time to take credit for your work.

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