Why You Absolutely Must Avoid Employee Favoritism at Work

By February 20, 2020 September 27th, 2023 Learning From Mistakes

Last Updated on September 27, 2023 by Dave Schoenbeck

Many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of relying on a few key employees to tackle the most critical tasks. While these employees might be competent and loyal, it’s a type of favoritism to repeatedly give opportunities to the same few employees. Employee favoritism is a corrosive force that can damage your team and jeopardize your future. Here’s how to avoid employee favoritism. 

A young student handing an apple to a teacher which signifies avoid employee favoritism at work

Signs of Favoritism at Work

Favoritism at work changes the dynamic of a team. It causes tension between employees, lowers morale, and can even drive good employees to quit—not to mention putting you at risk for a discrimination lawsuit if things go south. Worst of all, it’s nearly impossible for a manager to regain the respect of their employees once it’s been lost due to employee favoritism.

The danger is that we might not realize we’re showing favoritism until it’s too late. Here are a few examples of what favoritism at work might look like:

  • Excessive praise
  • Consistently assigning high-profile assignments
  • Inclusion of certain employees in key meetings
  • Overly friendly relationships
  • Additional access to the boss
  • Special accommodations
  • Special perks
  • Different scales of performance measurement
  • Difference in compensation

While there are many reasons that these things might happen in the workplace, it’s essential to monitor them to make sure you’re not playing favorites accidentally. If one employee constantly receives praise and handles new opportunities, other employees will correctly identify this as a type of favoritism. 

Managing Favoritism in the Workplace

Even the best managers can occasionally slip into employee favoritism from time to time. The key is to develop an awareness system for managing favoritism at work that all of your employees are aware of. 

First of all, be sure to create an open office culture that fosters communication. Ensuring every employee has equal access to your time and energy will reduce the perception of employee favoritism. 

Spend time with each employee to learn about their personalities and professional goals, then assign tasks to help them succeed.

Be aware of any preferences or biases you might have that could be interpreted as employee favoritism. Try to embrace employees different from you and avoid becoming too friendly with any single employee. As a manager, you must remain impartial and appear so to your team as a whole. 

If potential favoritism is brought to your attention, communicate with your employees. Let them know your reasoning, and if it is a case of favoritism, take decisive steps to combat it. Make sure your team knows that every employee is equally valued, and take the time to express your appreciation individually.

At one point, you likely will exhibit behaviors that could be seen as favoritism. However, if you develop an open and honest culture where every employee feels equally valued, you can rest assured that they will work with you to move past it.  

As I have thought about perceived favoritism within our businesses, I have settled into the idea that we can never really treat everyone equally, but we can and should treat all of our teammates equitably.  Keeping this in mind will help tamp down the negative energy of favoritism.

Avoiding employee favoritism at work is a critical component of being a leader. If you’re worried about expressing an unconscious bias, I can help. Please fill out my contact form to schedule a complimentary coaching call, and let’s talk about the effects of favoritism in the workplace.

Coach Dave


Dave Schoenbeck
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