Playing Favourites — Bias in the workplace

Nov 21, 2023

Playing Favourites... Blog @ TeamUltim

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Does your colleague get better treatment from the manager? Do you see opportunities going to certain employees based on their personal bonds and relationships rather than merit? These are all examples of favouritism in the workplace. Favouritism, although inevitable, as it is something often done unconsciously, can have disastrous effects on other workers and the business itself.

Is favouritism human nature?
People feel naturally drawn to those who are similar to them; those similarities can include looks, beliefs and opinions, or even work ethic. It is easier to want to spend more time with those we feel better connected to. It is something we do involuntarily.

However, in a professional context, this can be dangerous if not controlled. Employees receiving special treatment should never become a norm in the workplace. Many times, the root to preferential treatment is due to the employees’ personal relationship with the person in charge and not exclusively based on their performance at work.

Favouritism among the boss and employees — why it can be dangerous.

“A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected.” — Anonymous.

Favouritism in the workplace can manifest in several ways; whether it’s the manager rewarding the same employee on numerous occasions whilst others remain overlooked or them simply engaging with one employee more than another. Human beings are tribal beings and tribalism is another common factor which contributes to favouritism in the work environment. You can check out our article on tribalism in the workplace here.

However, the person in charge’s priority should always be making all employees feel equally recognized for their efforts. After all, your business is only as strong as your team, not your favourite player. Showing bias toward one employee also leaves room for jealousy to be created and proliferated among the rest. If division and hostility run rampant among the team which should be the foundation of the company, what would the result be? Favouritism in the workplace definitely doesn’t go unnoticed by other workers and can have crucial effects, not only on the employee being favoured but the company itself.

Firstly, the boss is no longer viewed as objective and loses some credibility and respect. Employees will feel less inclined to wanting to prove themselves if they feel like their boss is playing favourites. There would be a lot of reluctance among workers to carry out tasks or even take initiative. All these things result in less productivity and a bitter work environment.

According to a 2018 Fisher College report, “employees not only saw favouritism as unfair, but that they also had negative attitudes about their job, company, and boss as a result.” The employees reported feeling “ less motivated at work” and even feeling “ less loyal to their employers.”

Favouritism among employees — why it can be dangerous

Favouritism does not exclusively exist among the boss and other employees. It is also a common issue between colleagues as well. Work relationships are fundamental for many reasons.When you go to work, you spend more time with your peers than the manager. As previously mentioned, when the boss gives special treatment to a specific individual, division is created. Other colleagues view the employee being favoured differently. They may even harbour some resentment towards the person. Other examples of favouritism among colleagues include the exclusion of other workers, whether they are being favoured or not. The formation of cliques and people missing out on opportunities because they did not have the friendly connections to get recommended for a role. It is no surprise that people are more likely to choose their friend over a coworker but it is indispensable that people put their feelings aside when it comes to work.

As previously stated, favouritism is something inevitable in the workplace. As human beings, we tend to gravitate more toward certain people. However, when not controlled, favouritism can have toxic consequences on a business and its team. Objectivity in the workplace becomes obscured,fairness is questioned and overall teamwork plummets. Favouritism must be dealt with as soon as possible as it can create chaos.

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