QUESTION: Every manager has his own set of favorites.
REALITY: Managers depend upon these ‘favorites’ due to
their unique skill sets.
Frequently, managers are accused of indulging in favoritism. The truth is that even the most impartial manager will have his own set of favorites. The reasons can be multiple: a manager gives someone special attention because that person has great soft skills and so he is eminently likable%. or the person might have worked with the manager in the past, and so they know each other well; or it may be that the manager and the employee have a common hobby or belong to the same social organization. But usually, the reason someone becomes the favorite of a manager Is because of his subject- matter expertise; once the manager finds out that this person has skills that complement his own, then he seeks help and suggestions from him.
There is a very thin line between favorites and favoritism. A manager needs to walk this thin line carefully. Favoritism means that a person enjoys undue benefits, to the detriment of others. This can be in a tangible form—in terms of compensation, promotion, project allocation, role allocation; or in an intangible form—not acting tough, not facing consequences when a mistake is committed or a policy getting waived. Favoritism might make the person at the receiving end happy, but it leaves a very bad taste with the other team members and seriously impairs team spirit.
Honest assessment of each team member’s performance and capabilities is the key to good management. However, no manager can be a know-all—so, when it comes to certain aspects of a project, its natural for a manager to seek the help of the most competent employee in that particular area.
WHAT CAN YOU DO AS THE EMPLOYEE? Why are you not on the right side of your manager? Are you justified in thinking that the manager is playing favorites? If such questions are clouding your mind, then you should talk directly to the manager, citing clear examples. Probably, the manager has not thought about it that way, so it’s always better to talk it out. You could also introspect on what needs to be done to earn your manager’s confidence. Is it that your skills are not adequate enough for the manager to depend upon you, or is it that your soft skills are poor?
WHAT CAN YOU DO AS THE MANAGER? Promote transparency and ensure that the bugs of favoritism and preference do not plague the workplace. If some of your employees feel that you have been playing favorites, then you have to provide reasons that impelled your actions. Side-stepping the question will not help.