3 Tips to Eliminate Favoritism in the Workplace

If you are working to develop a top team, you probably recognize the danger of playing favorites. Favoritism disrupts workplace dynamics, kills morale and, ultimately, reduces productivity.  

However, being fair isn’t as easy as it looks. Use these three strategies to do a better job of treating all your employees equally.     

  1. Hold Yourself Accountable 
    According to Stanford University professor Robert Sutton, “When it comes to playing favorites, no matter how fair you think you’re being and no matter how high you think your EQ is, you’re probably guilty.” (Harvard Business Review, 2017) Most people don’t intend to be unfair, it’s simply human nature. We get along better with some people than others, and those are the people we gravitate toward. Being aware of this tendency is the first step in battling favoritism. Watch how you interact with others in meetings, in the break room or even on your way into work. Do you usually talk to the same people? If necessary, keep a running tally. This especially is helpful when dealing with work assignments. Who did you bring to the last high-level meeting? Who did you offer the lead on the last project? Who hasn’t had a turn in a while?  
  2. Ask for Feedback 
    Despite our best efforts, “Most of us are remarkably clueless about how we come across.” And, research on self-awareness backs up this theory. (Harvard Business Review, 2017) In other words, it’s almost impossible to evaluate yourself. One of the best ways to overcome this obstacle is to ask for a second opinion or for an outsider’s perspective. This may a colleague from another department, another manager who works with your team or even your supervisor. Feedback from your employees can be useful too. But, keep in mind, they may feel uncomfortable giving honest answers to blunt questions like, “Do you think I treat you fairly?” Anonymous surveys with more insightful inquiries, such as Google’s Manager Feedback Survey, prove far more useful.
  3. Try to Connect with Everyone 
    Sometimes you will have to work with an employee or coworker you just don’t like. You may have difficulty carrying on a conversation with this person, or their overall attitude may irritate you. Instead of wasting your energy avoiding or disliking them, attempt to form a bond by finding something you have in common. Maybe you are both Packers fans, maybe you both have children in the same school, or maybe you both enjoy racing radio control cars? Discussing topics of mutual interest can allow you to form a more genuine connection. You don’t need to be everyone’s best friend, but you should strive to have a good rapport with each employee. 

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