How to Reduce Favoritism in the Workplace

Playing Favorites at Work

Whether you’re the boss playing favorites at work or it’s your boss, it can take a heavy toll on emotional wellbeing and productivity. As the boss, you might not even be aware you are doing it or if it’s happening to you, your morale might dwindle when you see an apparently less-deserving coworker receiving plum assignments and more desirable hours.

Ways to tell when there is favoritism going on at work.


  • Spends too much time with a particular employee
  • Praises that employee for little accomplishments
  • Let’s mistakes slide with that employee
  • Gives additional help during an assignment
  • Gets better desk space, added perks or more resources than others in that position

When You’re Playing Favorites

As the leader, if you see yourself in one of the scenarios above, take a step back and figure out why. Is it because they are a valued, productive member of your team and you want to make sure they stay on your team? Really figure out why you are playing favorites and then stop. Playing favorites is not a good leadership practice. It creates a toxic work environment, mistrust and leads to back stabbing and rumors. There are better ways to reward hard working team members without showing favoritism. Create as equal of a playing field as possible.

What to Do When You’re Not the Favorite

  1. Strengthen your skills. Focus on increasing your capacity. Put your heart into your work, regardless of whether your boss notices.
  2. Advocate for yourself. Open doors for yourself. Raise your visibility inside and outside of your company by participating in meetings, writing reports, and proposing new ideas.
  3. Stay neutral. Resist the urge to take rejection personally. Be friendly and helpful toward your boss.
  4. Talk with your boss. If possible, try to maintain effective communications with your supervisor. Ask for one-on-one meetings. Clarify their expectations so you know their priorities and can channel your time and resources accordingly.
  5. Build other relationships. While you’re trying to make progress with your boss, you can also cultivate other connections that will be beneficial to your career and your level of job satisfaction. Reach out to your peers at work and in other companies. Attend networking events. Find yourself a mentor.

What to Do When You’re the Favorite

  1. Challenge yourself. If your boss places few demands on you, create your own opportunities to learn and grow. Sign up for training courses and volunteer for tough assignments.
  2. Ask for feedback. While it’s pleasant to receive praise from your supervisor, you also need critical feedback to assess your performance and potential to continue growing. Let your boss know that you appreciate feedback and suggestions on areas where you need to grow. If your boss doesn’t, find colleagues you can trust, and ask them to tell you how you’re doing.
  3. Share the glory. Minimize conflicts and resentments by sharing your advantages with others. Divide up the credit for team victories. Strive to create an inclusive workplace.
  4. Encourage professionalism. You may even be able to use your position to help management reduce favoritism. Support trainings and other programs that support fair policies and practices. Be a positive role model for impartiality if you have employees who report to you.
  5. Look ahead. Keep in mind that your preferred status could change. Base your career path on your achievements instead of relying on being buddies with your boss.

Protect your career and peace of mind from the consequences of favoritism in the office. Maintain your own professional standards and team spirit, and focus on excelling as a leader or employee.

Please reach out if you would like help combating favoritism in your workplace, happy to help!