How to combat favoritism in the workplace

Jan 24, 2012 by

No matter how much it sucks to admit, but you know it’s true: favoritism and nepotism exist in nonprofits just the same way they exist in every other facet of life (you name it: high school, family, friends, etc. they are there). Maybe you’re one of the lucky few on the preferred list; if so, stop reading now (or keep reading to learn how the other half lives). But if you’re like most of us, you’ve existed on the outside more than once and you know how frustrating – and how simply devastating – it is to survive there. But survive it you can! Here’s how:

  1. Be perfectNo, its not impossible to be perfect. And when you’re up against someone who can do no wrong, you have to be better. You can’t slack or stop paying attention – ever. Work longer, work harder, work smarter. Do whatever you can to make sure you’re showing up well.
  2. Try not to work with the favorites – If at all possible, avoid the favorites in your office both personally and professionally. If you’re lucky, they work in another department and you won’t interact with them much. If you’re not lucky, they’ll be up in your business all the time. But if they’re incompetent (as so many favorites seem to be), they’ll forget about you quickly as long as you’re doing your work and probably theirs too.
  3. If you have to work with them you have a couple of options: get in and out quick, or separate the work into clear roles. If you can, finish whatever you have to with them very quickly – prioritize it above other work if you can. If you have to work with them on an extended project, draw some extremely bright lines between their work and your work so that you only have to interact at team meetings, etc.
  4. Clean up after them publicly – When they screw up (as they almost certainly will) be there to clean up the mess. I know how painful and frustrating it can be to fix other people’s messes, especially if they’ve already screwed it up completely, but if you do it really well and in plain view of all, people will notice.
  5. Get out – the final defense is actually a great offense. Get another job and step out of the realm of favorites. Hopefully karma will reward you by giving you a workplace where merit wins out, but even if it doesn’t, you’ll be ready to deal with it.
  • Good post Elisa, favoritism is a major problem for all aspects of society especially the workplace.  Employer will not call it favoritism but we all know what happens.

    • Thanks for your comment Michael. I agree – most employers refuse to recognize favoritism when it happens and so they do nothing to address it. This isn’t the ideal situation obviously, but I hope the post provided some ideas for those facing this at their workplace.

      • April

        It’s ma me actually hate my high paying good benefit having job. Especially since I put in a lot of years and have gotten lot of respect from fellow coworkers and administration. It ticks me off that my new boss and all his friends are in charge and jerking me and those on my shift around. What is worse is they cloke it in company policy changes and for me that is just doing too much. This job has cost me a apical life, physical problems and mental ones. You are dead to rights when you say employee moral is lowered. I am currently looking for another job because I see no room for growth here as long as nepotism rules the day.