Is playing favorites ever a good idea?
There are always two sides (or more) to a story and in each situation we may not have the whole picture. Short answer – playing favorites is never a good idea. True answer – someone will play favorites and it will impact the team dynamic. The question “How to handle this?’
- Give Up Figuring Out Why. You will probably never know why certain people are treated as a favorite. It’s a waste of time and energy to dwell on it. Once designated a favorite, it’s an uphill battle to dethrone them. It doesn’t really matter how they are connected, prior work, school, church, family, community or serendipitously (route to work, lunch place, etc.). It may be a moment in time connection, the boss was impressed by them or they may have had an opportunity to be useful on a professional or personal level and it’s being rewarded. They may also just know the right way to manage up and be noticed. It doesn’t matter. Acceptance is the answer.
- Determine if its Righteous Indignation. Being treated with fairness and equity is a basic human driver. Everyone wants to be noticed and appreciated. The team leader should be brutally honest and ask, does it just bother me or are other people truly aware and annoyed or aggravated by it. Do I notice it more as the manager or is it that obvious to everyone?
- Use Tangible Evidence at Your Own Peril. – if this situation is truly impacting team productivity and effectiveness, the work product and the bottom line, document tangible evidence. Show the quality of their work, such as a poorly written report to the senior manager and let him/her know that the way this individual is treated by them, particularly in front of their peers makes them unmanageable. Explain how this compromises the work quality and your ability to lead the team. And make the direct link, if possible quantified, that it’s hurting the company. You do this at your own peril, even with the best intention and documented proof, it may not change the situation.
Actions to take as a Manager:
- Ask Sr. Management if you as team leader can have input into special assignments since it’s your job to know the strengths of your team members. Be prepared to provide insight into good project fits as well as address any cascading impact of workflow and schedules.
- Find out what went into a decision that seemed like a favorites situation. Have a conversation with your manager to better understand Sr. Management’s needs and skill set being pulled out for special projects.
- On a day-to-day basis, as the manager, continue to support your whole group, not hold grudges against the “favorites” (especially if they are doing a good job) and find ways (projects, reports, briefings, face time) to support those you feel are overlooked by Sr. Management.
Do you read Kathleen Driscoll’s column in the Rochester Business Journal? You should. I have a huge affinity for Rochester NY. Home of the lilac festival; the Center for Governmental Research (GCR), whose Board of Directors I sat on for years; two of my nephews attended RIT; friends, Patty, Marianne and Rich who did or do call Rochester home; and creator of the “garbage plate” (if you are a foodie and don’t know just ask!). Rochester truly is a microcasim of any city USA – so pay attention. The business cycle has a tendency to repeat itself.
Do you have a story about a time that Sr. Management played favorites? Please share — now it’s all about you!