Diversity Diva

Managers: Fight workplace favoritism in the new year

Diversity Diva columnist Michelle T. Johnson writes: New year. Same workplace. But what can be new goals? One goal could be to eliminate favoritism in the workplace if you are a manager. Actually, eliminating it may be impossible since so much of it is subconscious and unconscious.
Diversity Diva columnist Michelle T. Johnson writes: New year. Same workplace. But what can be new goals? One goal could be to eliminate favoritism in the workplace if you are a manager. Actually, eliminating it may be impossible since so much of it is subconscious and unconscious. The Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel

New year. Same workplace. But what can be new goals?

One goal could be to eliminate favoritism in the workplace if you are a manager. Actually, eliminating it may be impossible since so much of it is subconscious and unconscious.

What does favoritism even look like? Favoritism is usually about choice. In some workplaces, the work and the people who do it don’t have much variance in how the work is done and who does it. However, in other workplaces, work decisions are made frequently — assignments, shifts, territories, days off. With most decisions come subjective judgments. Every industry and workplace is so different, yet everyone can probably relate to some area of the job that bosses influence at least weekly.

As a leader, you should be constantly examining why you make the personnel decisions you do. People are quick to defend their decisions, saying they base them on the best person to do the job. But over time, what conditions have you created to allow, for example, one person to inevitably do the job better than another? And if that has happened, what is the reason? Is it that the person reminds you of yourself or has similar interests or because the person has a personality you find easier to get along with?

Also, ask yourself whom you just like more. Yes, favoritism can be just that simple. Some people make you spontaneously smile when they walk through the door. Others make you instinctively come up with an exit plan out of a conversation. Know who those people are and go from there.

Even if you find yourself truly making fair and impartial decisions, how does favoritism help you communicate that to the people you work with? Do you spread deserved praise around evenly or find yourself holding back with some people over others? With whom do you rush to criticize when there is a problem and with whom do you gently find excuses for when a mistake is made?

From a diversity and inclusion standpoint, is there a pattern to the people you favor over others? Is it cultural? Is it based on gender? Look at your pattern over time. If you give written evaluations, pull out your copies over the years and see whether there is commonality in how you rate people. Are there buzz words you use for some employees versus others? Have an honest conversation with yourself about this.

The benefit to nipping favoritism in the bud is that it improves your personal credibility over time, as well as that of the organization. A fair, credible boss over time makes for better and more trusting employees.

Send questions for Michelle T. Johnson on Facebook at Facebook.com/diversitydiva.

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