My boss plays favorites. Help!
The ideal work environment includes a level playing field for you and your professional peers. However, the ideal work environment is about as common as a unicorn sighting, so get used to working for a boss that plays favorites. It’s one of the three facts of life, along with death and taxes. “Favoritism is absolutely seen in most offices, big or small,” says Ryan Kahn, a career coach and author of Hired! The Guide for the Recent Grad. According to a research study released by Georgetown University, 92% of business executives polled stated they play favorites at work.
Workplace favoritism plays a huge role in lowering employee moral, which in turn significantly reduces productivity. Victims of workplace favoritism feel their contributions no longer matter, so they choose not to contribute anything at all. Beneficiaries of workplace favoritism use their new status to dog it at work. When you see workplace favoritism, you need to be proactive and address it in the infant stages of development.
One-on-One with the Boss
The most effective way to deal with a boss that plays favorites involves discussing the problem with the boss. You ask for a short meeting after work or speak up during a regularly scheduled employee performance review. The question is not whether you take the initiative to address favoritism, but how you do it in a professional manner. When people say, “my boss plays favorites,” we can’t help but feel a pang of sympathy for them. We’ve all been there.
Clearly Define the Ideal Outcome
Get right to the point and describe how you want the boss to level the playing field. The purpose of the one-on-one meeting is not to complain about how favoritism affects you, but to lay out a plan that eradicates it from the workplace. Despite what you think, your boss most likely appreciates candor. Your boss might even informally welcome you into his or her tight knit circle of professionals. Remember to stay calm and present your solution to the favoritism problem by displaying confidence.
The importance of Body Language
Actions speak louder than words. The timeless axiom has special relevance during a one-on-one meeting with your boss to discuss workplace favoritism. Make direct eye contact, but make sure to glance away a few times to prevent staring. Keep your head level and your arms extended. Limit hand gestures to the ones that emphasize your main points. Speak in an even tone, at a low volume. Above all, keep your body still. Fidgeting reveals a lack of confidence that most managers immediately notice and when you say my boss plays favorites, you will want to make sure they understand the severity and importance of your grievance.
If You Can’t Beat Them…
…join them. Although the urge to isolate yourself grows in a workplace environment polluted by favoritism, you need to remain in the social and professional loop by interacting with your peers. The urge to feel that you have no chance to move into your boss’s inner circle only exacerbates your position as an outside. Develop personal and professional relationships with your peers, especially the ones that receive preferential treatment from your boss.
Look Elsewhere to Avoid Workplace Favoritism
You don’t have to take workplace favoritism. If you exhaust other options, the last option requires you to find another job. Yet, you don’t flip a coin and take the first job offer that comes your way. During the first interview, ask the hiring manager if your new boss plays favorites. Explain how playing favorites dampens moral and hurts a company by lowering productivity. The hiring manager should appreciate your confident candor, as well as your grasp of what it takes to run a highly productive workplace.
Successful managers recruit high achievers that they have worked with in the past. Just make sure your boss never places his team of high achievers on a workplace pedestal. When possible, calling out a boss who plays favorites can cut the problem off at the pass.