Playing favorites hurts morale Managers may not be aware of the staff's perception of favoritism.

Managing JtB

August 05, 1991|By Gerald Graham | Gerald Graham,Knight-Ridder

"Hey, I'm the manager," he said, shrugging, "I don't see that as a problem." However, most employees disagree. Favoritism, according to some studies, is a major reason managers fail to gain their employees' respect.

Managers may show favoritism in varied ways. For example, I have heard the following: "Her favorites get the best assignments although many others are just as good."

"Whenever we get a new piece of equipment, we know who is going to get it."

"Some people get privileges far beyond what they deserve."

"He asks the same people to go to lunch with him most of the time."

"A few people are always first to hear the latest."

It is, of course, normal for managers to like some of their subordinates more than others. And many managers may not even be aware that they are perceived as showing favoritism.

However, favoritism can devastate a department. Morale is likely to suffer and resentment is sure to increase when managers subjectively favor a few. But cooperation and teamwork suffer even more. Cliques and divided departments are almost always harmful side effects of favoritism.

Even in departments where people previously worked well together as a team, management favoritism can shatter essential teamwork in a matter of weeks. Some very good employees typically will quit or leave the department.

"Why should I work so hard when someone else works half as hard and gets more appreciation?" one employee said after quitting.

Because favoritism is such a personal act, few employees will actually communicate with their managers about it. Yet, employees will gripe to one another.

It is a manager's responsibility to be sensitive to the need for objectivity. This does not mean that all employees should be treated exactly equally. Rather, objectivity means that, when managers allocate scarce resources to their departments, they should allocate on the basis of performance rather than personal likes or dislikes.

Managers get very little help in detecting "favoritism" as a source of problems. However, because the potential harm is so great, effective managers guard against this natural human tendency.

Gerald Graham is a professor at Wichita State University and TC management consultant. Send questions to The Wichita Eagle, P.O. Box 820, Wichita, Kan. 67201.

He will answer representative questions in this column but cannot respond to every request.

Playing favorites

During the past year, I have:

(Check all that apply.)

* Frequently gone to lunch with the same small group of employees.

* Asked the same few employees to be in charge when I am gone.

* Allocated travel budget to one or two favored employees.

* Given special training on new equipment to a few, select employees.

* Granted special privileges to a few.

* Granted favored scheduling to some but not others.

* Shared grapevine information with the same few employees.

* Failed to reprimand a "friend" when I should have.

* Allowed a select few to be "in on things."

* Given excessive public praise to a few.

(Three or more checks may indicate a tendency to show favoritism.)

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