Peggy Drexler discussed this in a 2013 Wall Street Journal article, “The Upside of Favoritism.” Drexler gives examples of two types of “favoritism”. One type is simply treating people equitably based on their performance. As one manager stated, “I rewarded good work on its own . . .” You do better work than your peers, you reap greater rewards, or should. This is not favoritism. Just good management. The caveat is the manager needs to be sure everyone who wants opportunities to excel have them, that is, equal opportunities.
But Drexler’s other type is clearly favoritism and not good. She described a manager who did not use work-related criteria for rewarding subordinates. Rather the manager rewarded based on friendship, common interests, etc. Drexler noted that this type of favoritism can “be damaging to morale and productivity."
In some cases favoritism may be illegal. Lisa Guerin, J.D., in an online article states, “If favoritism is rooted in discrimination, harassment, or retaliation, however, it crosses the line from poor management to illegal behavior”(para 2).
In 2012 Forbes article Jacquelyn Smith cited several consultants who indicated favoritism was common in the workplace. However they differentiated the “teacher’s pet” syndrome from “performance recognition." But one source suggested not treating people equally could sow seeds of unrest and demotivate. So how to resolve?
I think the key is transparency. How can one be a transparent leader? According to Collen Payne-Nabors:
- Share information
- Convey your principles and belief
- Be trustworthy and reliable
- Listen to your inner voice
- Admit when you are wrong and learn from it
For a discussion of these suggestions, see an earlier blog.
Favoritism? Be transparent, treat people fairly, provide equal opportunities
Image by geralt. Obtained from https://pixabay.com/illustrations/woman-stairs-career-business-woman-6583628/
Modified from my blog, 6/10/2013. © John Ballard, PhD, 2023. All rights reserved.
Decoding the Workplace “Is this a must-have for managers and would-be managers? Yes.” Academy of Management Learning & Education, June, 2018. Available as ebook, hardback, paperback, audiobook, and audio CD. The best-selling audiobook, and CD, are narrated by Timothy Andrés Pabon.