How to Deal With Office Favoritism

Perhaps you thought you left teacher's pets behind once you finished school. But unfortunately, bosses sometimes play favorites, too—a situation that can be damaging to workplace morale and awkward for everyone, including the pet. Learning how to deal with office favoritism requires humility and vulnerability, no matter whose shoes you're in.

office favoritism

How To Stay Focused When You're Not The Boss' Favorite

Realizing you're not the boss's chosen staff member tends to sneak up on you. It generally starts with a nagging feeling you're being overlooked—a feeling that, once acknowledged, can quickly crescendo into an all-encompassing, attitude-wrecking narrative.

If you believe you’re being left out, give yourself a reality check. Why is your colleague receiving preferential treatment? Does he or she have a prior relationship with your supervisor? Is your colleague a star performer? Consider consulting a trusted and objective confidante, preferably outside the office, who can shoot you straight. In this excerpt from Rising Strong, author Brené Brown explores the concept of determining what story you're telling yourself. It's important to figure out whether you're letting emotion or insecurity cloud your judgment. Is it possible you’re jealous of your colleague's accomplishments? Take a step back, and try to look at the situation objectively.

If you determine you have a valid concern, it might be time to approach your supervisor—but with extreme care. Don't go into your manager’s office and tell her to stop playing favorites. You’ll only look petty and childish. Frame your conversation in terms of your own professional growth. Instead of saying "You always pick Dave for projects," say, "I'm interested in growing professionally, and I’d like to be considered for opportunities like the project Dave is working on. What advice do you have for me?" It's possible your supervisor simply hasn't viewed your work in this context before.

Above all, work hard to stay positive and focused, and try not to get mad at the boss's pet. That person may not be comfortable with the situation, either. The favoritism might not go away—and it might become necessary for you to seek employment elsewhere. But that will be a much easier task if you’ve carefully guarded your headspace.

How To Deal When You're The Boss's Favorite

Being the "chosen one" has plusses and minuses. On the one hand, plum assignments come your way; on the other, your colleagues might be suspicious of you. If you suspect or know you're the boss's favorite, it's up to you to court your colleagues for the good of the team. Here are some tips:

  • Keep working hard. Don't rest on your laurels. You probably worked hard to earn your boss's respect and esteem; work equally hard to keep it. If your colleagues see and appreciate your conscientiousness, they’re more likely to understand why your boss does, too.
  • Stay humble. An ounce of humility goes a long way in the workplace. Even if you suspect you're No. 1 in your boss's eyes, don't act like it or abuse the privilege. Follow the same policies and procedures as everyone else, and meet your deadlines.
  • Give credit where it's due. It's possible your supervisor hasn't taken the time to notice the great efforts of your colleagues. Make a concerted effort to point out examples of teamwork and your coworkers' contributions. Even if your boss doesn't get the hint, your colleagues will notice your team-player attitude.

No matter which side you're on, it's uncomfortable to deal with bosses who play favorites. Keep that in mind when the day comes for you to be in charge.

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