How to Avoid Playing Favorites on Your Team

Back in grade school, the teacher’s pet was the kid who got all kinds of special privileges like being line leader, getting called on first, or delivering a message for the teacher. Now as grown adults, bosses often do the same with their favorite employees, offering them extra projects or face time that can be a boost to their career. It’s natural for us to connect more with certain people than others and lean on a favorite student or employee. Managers may easily fall into this common trap because they have connected with and built trust with certain people over others. Choosing a favorite employee in the workplace can have the same effect as it did back in school. Feelings of jealousy or resentment can arise among those not chosen and the morale and productivity of the entire group tends to suffer. The other employees may begin to believe that the only way to move up is to be close with the boss, rather than be good at their jobs. When a company leader favors one employee over the others, it’s detrimental to the entire business in the long run. What can you do to avoid this common misstep and create a fair workplace environment for everyone?

Be mindful
Examine your day-to-day practices and think about how you can incorporate more fair practices into your everyday leadership. For example, you can set up a rotation for who leads meetings, or take each employee out for coffee on a monthly basis to socialize and strengthen your relationships. Lots of small efforts can add up when you are looking to develop the reputation as a boss who does not play favorites. 

Boost the lower performers
Some of your team members who want better assignments may not be getting them for a particular reason. To avoid playing favorites, give them the opportunity to improve their skills and earn a spot on a committee or project they would like to participate in.

Find some common ground
You may need to make an extra effort to connect with some of your team members. Figure out a way to bond with those with whom you aren’t very close. Even if someone gets under your skin, there must be something that you both have in common. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to strike up a conversation and break down some of the barriers to connection.  When you only socialize with certain employees, you can make others feel excluded.

Be transparent
When you make a decision about who to promote or who gets to work on a high profile project, pick the person who has the best skillset for the task but be sure to explain to everyone how you came to that decision and what factors led to that employee being chosen. Transparency will be appreciated by the rest of team and can eliminate employees wondering why they weren’t chosen. 

Consult an outsider
Ask another colleague to review your actions and give feedback if you are playing favorites. Sometimes, we are blind to seeing our own biases. A neutral party may be better able to communicate feedback and offer input. 

Think long term
Taking the easy road and always going to your favorite star employee for assistance can put your business at risk down the road. You are missing the opportunity to train and grow the overall strength of the entire team. Playing favorites puts a limit on the potential of the team’s performance as well as on the career track of certain individuals.

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