Are You Playing Favorites? Here's How to Stop

By Harvard Business Review
January 1, 2018

When you’re the boss, treating employees differently is unwise and unfair. What steps can you take to make sure you don’t show anyone special treatment?

It’s human nature to like some colleagues more than others. But when you’re the boss, treating employees differently — and especially playing favorites — is unwise and unfair. What steps can you take to make sure you don’t show anyone special treatment?

Keep track of who’s doing what: Make a conscious effort to divvy up assignments in an equitable way. Ask yourself, “Whose turn is it?” Simple things like rotating who leads the weekly team meeting can help project fairness.

Be inclusive: Another strategy is to think inclusively as you distribute assignments. Encourage all of your reports to speak up and have their say.

Get an outsider’s perspective: If you’re worried that you’re favoring certain employees over others, ask a colleague from another department or division to sit in on one of your team meetings and give you feedback on where you’re focusing your energy and attention.

Find something you have in common: If you know you have a tendency to play favorites, or at least avoid a certain team member because they aren’t your favorite, look for areas of common interest. By cultivating conversations around those areas, you can at least go from negative to neutral.

Be empathetic: If there’s a person on your team whom you just can’t stand, do the best you can to develop empathy for that person.

Realize it’s OK to give certain employees more attention at times: There’s a difference between having pet employees and making a strategic choice about where to expend your time and effort. Directing your managerial attention and energy toward employees who deserve the spotlight in certain situations is both logical and reasonable.

Copyright 2017 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

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