Favoritism in the Workplace and its Effect on Employees

Do you feel like you’re not being given a fair chance at work? If yes, you might be experiencing favoritism in the workplace. It’s no secret some people sometimes receive preferential treatment at work, whether because of personal relationships or simply because they are seen as more valuable. Either way, favoritism has been a long-standing issue for generations. 

So what are the consequences of favoritism, and how can you protect yourself from being mistreated at work? In this article, we’ll look at some potential outcomes of this type of discrimination and offer advice on how to handle it.

The Effects of Favoritism in the Workplace

It is important to remember that everyone is different and that we all have our preferences. For example, it is perfectly natural for a manager to have a favorite employee or two. However, the key is to ensure that favoritism is not based on personal factors such as race, gender, or religion and doesn’t affect anyone’s work performance. 

If done properly, on the other hand, special treatment at work can inspire employees to follow norms and engage in activities that benefit the rest of the group, which means non-favored employees also profit.

Positive Effects of Favoritism

Employee favoritism may be beneficial — it can lead to a greater sense of self-worth in the workplace and higher motivation. In addition, it makes employees stay at the company longer and eventually develop into effective leaders.

The Best Way to Treat Employees

  • Show preference toward employees based on their effort, performance, and results.
  • Reward individuals who are cooperative and compromise with one another.
  • Offer opportunities when someone does above and beyond the assigned tasks.

Negative Effects of Favoritism

There are many reasons why favoritism and nepotism are bad in the workplace, but the biggest one might be misplaced priorities. Besides being unethical, selecting people based on similar interests or personalities rather than talent or skill leads can also harm your business. 

Rather than encourage all workers to strive for greater heights, favoritism in the workplace often does the opposite and incites jealousy, discontent, and a sense of bitterness among co-workers. It may also cause morale to plummet, resulting in lower performance output and a higher turnover rate.

Showing favoritism in the workplace is followed by several other negative consequences: unfavorable emotions for the company, decreased job satisfaction and motivation, stronger intentions to leave the job, and emotional exhaustion.

How NOT to Treat Employees

  • Don’t give preference to the workers you recruited over those you took over.
  • Don’t hire, promote, or favor people based on irrelevant qualities such as friendship or common interests.
  • In general, it’s not a good idea to compare one worker to another.

Creating a Better Environment in the Workplace by Avoiding Favoritism

When employee morale is low, dissatisfaction grows, and untapped potential is neglected. In addition, management favoritism toward one employee unjustly denigrates the company as a whole, preventing future development.

Treating employees equally, respectfully, and fairly is crucial for building a healthier, favoritism-free workplace. On the other hand, lack of recognition, unfair treatment, and overworking can result in employee burnout.

It is in human nature to favor someone unconsciously. Managers may be oblivious of the number of times they have offered a great project to a specific staff member. One way to avoid this is to keep track of your personnel and the favors you’ve done for them so you can regularly check if you’ve overlooked anybody.

When Favoritism is Considered as Discrimination

Workplace favoritism can be considered harassment if it’s discriminatory or vindictive in nature. However, leaders can still treat people differently without being malicious toward them. Therefore, it is essential to understand that prejudice can occur intentionally and with no desire to discriminate.

Disparate treatment

When an employer treats a candidate or employee less favorably than others because of their race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, or disability, it’s known as disparate treatment.

Disparate impact

When an employer has rules or practices that appear fair and are applied reasonably yet negatively influence members of a particular sex, race, or ethnic group, disabled individuals, or other protected groups, disparate impact occurs.

How Favoritism in the Workplace Can Affect Productivity

As a manager, it’s important to avoid showing favoritism at work and be aware of its effects. Strong leaders should ensure the rewards go to those who contribute to the company’s productivity and success. 

It’s aggravating for employees to put in a lot of effort and be overlooked by their employer while a colleague gets praise or special perks for what you see as less work. As a result, some workers may lose interest in their jobs.

If employees feel their employers are not judging them objectively, their productivity may suffer. Therefore, leaders must evaluate their workers as objectively as possible and openly discuss what they are doing well and what areas need improvements.

Conversely, job favoritism can also create a sense of loyalty and secure commitment in employees. Additionally, treating employees fairly shows appreciation and motivates them to work harder, resulting in increased productivity.

Leaders and Their Role in Favoritism

Business leaders must be conscious of how their personal connections influence their opinions. For example, when making a decision regarding a direct report from an employee they are close to, it’s good practice to seek an outside opinion on how to avoid favoritism in the workplace.

People who don’t respect any kind of manager favoritism may also demonstrate antipathy in the workplace. Once these friendships turn into potential harassment, the worst-case scenario is not just uncomfortable working conditions but also legal trouble. 

Therefore, HR professionals should educate staff to recognize their preferences and the potential detrimental impact they may have on their organization.

Favoritism in the Workplace — Conclusion

In today’s competitive market, things like preferential treatment in the workplace are very probable, and you should do your utmost to rise above it. If you allow pessimism to get to you, both your mind and body can come to harm. On the other hand, if you do what you feel is correct and show results, your efforts will see merit regardless of the type of favoritism present at your workplace.

FAQ on Favoritism at Work