Favoritism… Toxic

By Nancy Fredericks


Nancy Fredericks pens Women Lead Change's "Mindful Mondays" column, appearing the second Monday of every month. Fredericks is a preeminent Business Executive Strategist, Author and Thought Leader. Corporations like Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, Adobe, Allergan and Transamerica have retained her to optimize individual and organizational performance. You can find her at www.thrivewithnancy.com. The views of Nancy Frederick's blogs represent her own and not necessarily the views of Women Lead Change.

Creating a vibrant and inclusive workplace absent favoritism should be the desire of any leader.

But why is this so crucial…?

Research of senior executives from Penn Schoen Berland and Georgetown University found that 75 percent of the survey respondents say they have witnessed favoritism, while 23 percent admit they practice it.

It’s one of the most destructive problems for any organization. Favoritism breeds employee discontent, disengagement, and sows seeds of discord that can permeate the entire department or organization.

When individuals perceive unequal treatment, it erodes trust and morale, hinders productivity and innovation, and negatively impacts profitability.

What exactly constitutes favoritism, and what attitude continues it…?

Favoritism shows its ugly face when leaders exhibit a bias toward certain employees, often at the expense of others. This attitude becomes evident in various ways, from spending disproportionate time with specific employees to selectively offering opportunities for growth and advancement to these favored workers or allowing preferred employees to get away with actions where others receive a

The “one” versus “everyone” attitude is particularly insidious, leading to exclusionary actions that undermine a cohesive and trusting workplace. Whether assigning coveted projects to a favored few, overlooking deserving individuals for promotions, or offering development opportunities to the preferred, such behavior erodes engagement and fosters a sense of injustice.

What mental shift should leaders and managers undertake to combat favoritism…?

It starts with embracing a mindset that values fairness and equity for all employees. Leaders must recognize that fostering an environment where everyone feels valued and respected is morally right and strategically vital. This attitude shift involves a leader or manager consciously evaluating and challenging their decisions and behaviors to ensure they are inclusive and impartial.

What “Magnificent 7 Actions” can employees take if they find themselves subjected to favoritism…?

1. Speak Up: If you sense or observe favoritism, address it delicately and respectfully with your boss. Open communication is key to addressing issues immediately before they escalate.
2. Stay Engaged: While dropping out may be tempting, it’s a career killer. Maintaining your commitment to excellence is crucial. Let your work speak for itself and reaffirm your value to the organization.
3. Seek Feedback: Constructive dialogue with your boss can clarify expectations and address concerns. Be open to feedback and receptive to your manager’s perspective.
4. Advocate For Yourself: Continue to tactfully assert your ideas and aspirations while linking to adding value to the company’s bottom line. Don’t let perceived favoritism deter you from pursuing opportunities for growth and development.
5. Document Your Experiences: Record interactions and efforts, including dates and outcomes. This documentation will provide valuable evidence if you need to raise your concerns upward.
6. Escalate When Necessary: If attempts to address favoritism with your boss prove unproductive, don’t hesitate to bring the matter to higher authorities, such as your boss’s boss or Human Resources.
7. Consider Your Options: Ultimately, this is your career, and if the culture of favoritism persists despite your best efforts, it may be time to explore opportunities elsewhere. Your well-being and professional growth deserve a supportive and equitable work environment.

By collectively—leaders and employees—rejecting favoritism and embracing inclusivity, the organization cultivates an environment where every individual thrives, driving success and fulfillment for all.

Share this article

Back to Blog

Sign up for Insights!

Subscribe to our email list and stay updated on everything Women Lead Change.

Enewsletter Sign up
A group of hands all in for unity

Become a Sponsor

Corporate support spurs gender equity. Professional development for your teams.

Learn More


Sign up for Insights

Get our latest leadership development and insights delivered to your inbox.