Practicing fairness in the workplace: Challenging manager favoritism

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Imagine you work for a company and you’re good at your job.

You do your work diligently, meet deadlines, and go the extra mile to help your team.

But then you realized something strange: your manager is paying more attention to a colleague who isn’t as qualified as you are and seems to be doing less work.

The more you pay attention, the more you realize that this colleague is getting preferential treatment. They’re always the first ones to get new projects, they’re being consulted on decisions that should be made by people with more experience, and they seem to have a personal relationship with your manager.

What do you do?

Signs of a manager practicing favoritism

For one, you feel like you’re being treated unfairly.

Additionally, if you see your manager socializing with specific employees outside of work, or if they’re constantly helping that same few with their work duties, that’s another sign of favoritism. If you suspect that your manager is playing favorites, speak up.

Challenging their behavior can be tough, but do what’s right for you and your career.

Discussing the issue with your boss
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If you’re feeling like you’re being unfairly treated at work, discuss the issue with your boss. But before you do, gather your evidence and plan out what you want to say.

When you bring the issue up, be sure to diplomatically state your case. It can be easy to come across as resentful but stay professional. And remember, you’re not accusing anyone of anything—you’re bringing up facts.

If your boss is receptive, he or she will be happy to discuss the issue with you and try to find a solution. However, if your boss is defensive or unwilling to listen, that’s a sign that you may need to plan your leave.

Taking action against biased decisions

If you’re the victim of your manager’s favoritism, it can be understandably difficult to take action. 

After all, this is the person who has the power to approve or deny your requests, and you don’t want to make things worse.

That said, you have a right to be treated fairly at work, and if you feel like you’re being discriminated against, there are steps you can take.

First, try to identify any unconscious biases that might be at play. These could be things like your manager favoring employees who share the same educational background or who share the same hobbies.

Once you’ve identified any possible biases, speak with your manager about your concerns. It’s possible that they’re not even aware of their bias, and a discussion could help to resolve the issue.

If speaking with your manager doesn’t lead to any changes, it might be time to escalate the issue to HR. Remember, you have a right to a fair and supportive workplace, and HR can help to ensure that you’re being treated fairly.

There’s no question that managers can wield a lot of power in the workplace. But what happens when they start playing favorites? If you feel like you’re being overlooked for promotions or assignments, and you know that it’s because your manager is playing favorites, take action. It’s not fair when someone abuses their power, and you don’t have to put up with a toxic work environment.

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