What to do and how to act when bosses play favorites.
You see it happen in too many workplaces: The owner, manager or group supervisor has a favorite employee. This person gets all the plum assignments (or is exempted from the less-desirable tasks), is allowed to work a flexible schedule and can seemingly do no wrong.
It’s human nature. Bosses, just like Mom and Dad who claim to love all the kids “equally,” can’t help liking some people more than others. Many times this never really hurts us — it’s just that the unfairness is annoying. But sometimes favoritism leads to real harm, such as missed promotions and unfair compensation.
So what can you, as the non-golden boy or girl, do?
First, consider that the preferential treatment may be warranted. Perhaps that person is always early to work, always volunteers for overtime and always turns in a stellar product. If so, this is good news. Performance-related favoritism is the easiest kind to combat — you just set yourself to meeting or beating all expectations so that you, too, can take your place in the sun.
Too often, however, it really is a case of personal preference — the pet went to the same school as the boss or, worse, the two are related by blood or marriage.
If this is the case, your next step will be more of a challenge because you must not, as hard as it seems, let the situation detract from your attitude or performance. You especially must not hide, sulk or take it out on the pet. Instead, you should be more visible, demonstrating your worth and looking for ways to build up your own relationship with the boss.
It’s also a good idea to be vigilant about keeping your boss apprised of your successes and accomplishments. You might even consider teaming up with a co-worker to sing each other’s praises.
Finally, take the time to document the details of the favoritism, just in case the situation ever reaches a point where it becomes a subject for human resources. But, assuming your personal health and safety are not at risk, it’s always better to first try to manage relationship issues on your own. These are the soft skills that will serve you all throughout your career and even, perhaps, in your personal life.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use and of the novel “The Paris Effect.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.