Peggy Drexler discussed this in a recent 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. I do not see this really as favoritism. Just good management. The caveat is the manager needs to be sure everyone who wants opportunities to excel have them (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 agree with Drexler that the key is transparency. How can one be a transparent leader? According to Collen Payne-Nabors:
- Share information
- Convey your principles and beliefs
- Be trustworthy and reliable
- Listen to your inner voice
- Admit when you are wrong and learn from it
Favoritism? Be transparent, treat fairly, provide equal opportunities.
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