Favouritism in Business or How to Survive the Boss’s Largesse

Larger office, more weeks of leave, longer break… If you are unhappy with favouritism shown to your colleague, act with tact and diplomacy so that the workplace atmosphere remains calm and productivity returns to its previous levels.



Some small and trivial gestures with unfortunate consequences
Between being upset by Léon’s unjustified promotion and disheartened to find that Martha’s delays are ignored, nothing is going right in the company. So it’s not surprising that these little harmless gestures by the boss towards one and the other end up annoying you, creating a tense atmosphere in which you have lost the desire to engage yourself. You believed at one time that the boss was more friendly with Léon and Martha to facilitate their involvement, but this is too much. The result is a deplorable atmosphere – you and your colleagues seek to isolate these favourites or gang up against them. For the employer, the results are no better: the absenteeism is deplorable, productivity of the department is affected and some experienced managers have decided to resign. Does the favoured colleague win out in this situation? Not necessarily – for him the boss has higher expectations such as loyalty, and also submission… even silence. These situations are more common than we might think.  A study conducted by Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business indicates that 92% of senior executives have witnessed favouritism (using a criteria other than performance) to decide on an employee’s promotion.


Yes to intervention, but well thought out
The situation has become such that action is required. But how? With whom? To do what? First of all, you need to analyze the situation calmly and ensure that you are not just upset that Léon received a promotion faster than you did. What if the favouritism was just simply misplaced jealousy? Once this possibility has been dealt with, go and meet with your colleagues to find out what they think of Martha’s continuous delays, fully objectively and without trying to accuse her wrongly or to rally them to your cause. Also consider taking notes, which will serve as evidence if need be, and in the short term will also let you analyze the situation objectively, carefully and honestly. Once this phase of analysis is finished, the time for intervention has arrived. Go and see your boss once the situation has clarified, using a positive approach. In other words, ask “What can I do to reach such a pay level?”, rather than “Why did Léon get a raise and not me?” Be calm and unemotional and give yourself some time for the boss to rectify things. If nothing changes, then go to Human Resources to raise this delicate subject with your file supported by evidence. And if you are the Léon or Martha in question, remember to stay humble towards your colleagues, to congratulate them at meetings where your boss is involved and, finally, get in the habit of refusing the boss’s largesse by telling him that you don’t think you deserve such a position or so much vacation.


Whether voluntary or involuntary, favouritism can have detrimental consequences on workplace atmosphere and the company’s productivity. Without being jealous or paranoid, be careful about any situation that could tend towards favouritism in order to react diplomatically, if necessary and at the appropriate time.

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