Favouring an employee above others is a common occurrence in the workplace; it can start out innocently when a boss sees potential in an employee, giving them opportunities to reflect their talent, but this can easily turn into favouritism when that employee is given preferential treatment based on no other criteria. Many companies aim to avoid the controversial issue of favouritism in order to maintain a level merit-based playing field, where all employees are treated fairly and are given access to the same opportunities based on their individual performance.
Playing favourites in the workplace is typically defined as misconduct due to its ethical ramifications where fairness is undervalued, and where employees are given greater opportunities based on factors outside of their performance. A typical example of this is promoting someone based on personal preference or gut instinct, rather than making an informed decision based on the performance records of every potential candidate equally. Such situations show a disregard of professional standards and can even cross legal boundaries if it takes the form of discrimination, harassment or retaliation. If an employer, for example, gives special assignments to an employee, or favours them in other ways, based on religion or sex for example, it can constitute discrimination and it could end up in court if it is reported.
The motivations for favouritism can come about through a variety of reasons. Most forms of favouritism come about naturally through human bias or personal attachment. A typical example is when an employer offers a nicer office to someone they prefer on a personal level, or like having around. An employer may also do such things out of self-interest; for example, if an employee happens to have a close relation with a key supplier then they may receive special treatment for that. In most cases, employers may not even notice their own bias.
The reality is that the workplace can sometimes be like a school playground and not everyone is going to be treated fairly. In order to minimalize favouritism in the workplace, it is up to employers to be more aware of their decisions, and to listen to the voices of employees if they feel they are being treated unfairly.
Furthermore, the quality of work at a company is likely to suffer if promotions are given out based on favours instead of merit. Employees could be discouraged from working hard and the work culture of a company could suffer as a result. Not only can favouritism damage productivity in the long run, it may even force talented employees to go elsewhere to find better appreciation for their efforts.
In addition, favouritism can break the team unity within a company, and worker morale is also likely to suffer. Employees may even grow to resent their management, affecting the mood and performance of employees in their everyday duties and responsibilities. This can break the trust between bosses and employees and can create a toxic and unpleasant working environment. This is why some companies opt to create policies that ensure equal opportunity and treatment for all employees in order to maintain the trust and effort of all their employees.
Favouritism can potentially damage a company’s potential, which is why it is important for employers to make the best effort to eliminate favouritism within a company. In the long, run this can help to incentivise hard work and to maintain a cooperative and productive working environment. Ensuring equal treatment also means avoiding potential ethical and legal issues within a company and encourages employees to realise their maximum potential.