How to Deal With a Boss Showing Favoritism

Three Methods:Analysing the SituationTaking ActionHandling Being the Favourite

What happens when you see someone at work getting special treatment over and above the rest of you? When the boss seems to make a big deal of everything good this colleague does and systematically ignores any of their faults? If this is happening in your workplace, it is important to deal with it before others become demoralized and disinterested. It's very tricky, so requires patience, tact and careful diplomacy. If you are the favourite this comes with its own difficulties.

Method 1
Analysing the Situation

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    Decide if action is required. The first thing to do is calmly and rationally think through the whole situation. Is your boss really favouring somebody unfairly? Is it proving detrimental to the morale and productivity of you and your colleagues? You have to be completely honest with yourself and be certain that it's not just because the favourite is the best at her job.[1] It's not unusual to feel jealous of someone who is having more success, so be sure you are not projecting your concerns about your slow professional progress onto someone else.[2]
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    Talk to colleagues. One good way to try to get some perspective on the issue is to talk it over with some colleagues to see if they share your perception of events. If you do this, it's very important that you tread carefully.[3] Don't go throwing accusations around and don't try to convince other members of your team of your interpretation of the situation. Just ask for honest appraisals to better inform your judgement.
    • It's important that you don't try and turn the rest of your team against the person you believe is being shown unfair favouritism. This will not endear you to anyone or help your case.[4]
    • Avoid turning it into a topic for office gossip or rumour and maintain your professionalism.[5]
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    Keep a record. To help you get a clear picture of what is going on, it's a good idea to keep a record of instances where you think you have been treated unfairly, or there has been unwarranted favouritism shown. This could include examples of the other person consistently receiving more interesting and engaging jobs to do, or a significant imbalance in the rewards for similar work.[6]
    • You may need this evidence later, but first of all think of it as a way to carefully analyse the situation and gain objective information.
    • You need to be exceptionally honest and rigorous when you record such incidents.[7]
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    Consider your options. Once you have fully taken stock of the situation you should think carefully about what options are available to you, and what the likely consequences of any action would be. You should try to clearly envision what outcome you wish to achieve before you go any further.[8] Keep in mind that it's important not to allow a toxic situation to fester.

Method 2
Taking Action

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    Prepare to speak to your boss. If you decide to speak to your boss about the situation, you should thoroughly prepare yourself before you approach her. If you feel like you are not being assigned tasks appropriate for your job, look through your job description and be ready to point out the discrepancies.[9] Have some examples in mind, but think twice about bringing in your record in the first meeting, try to be more informal.
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    Approach your boss. Sooner or later you will feel you need to speak to your boss about the situation. Once you are fully prepared, and confident you have a clear view of the situation, ask to meet with your boss for a chat. When you go to talk to them, try to be very diplomatic and don't accuse them of favouritism.[10] If you feel like you are being constantly overlooked, it's immeasurably better to ask what you can do to contribute more and get more of these assignments.[11]
    • It is better to take a positive approach, making the situation about you and not the person you perceive to be treated as the favourite.
    • You could ask "what can I do to gain more responsibilities?"
    • Keep your cool and hold back any emotions when talking to the boss.[12]
    • Identify changes you can make in the first instance.
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    Be patient and keep trying. After you have spoken to your boss hopefully you will see things begin to change. Try to maintain objectivity while making yourself available to meet your boss half-way. It can be difficult to change a work culture, and it takes effort from everyone. Be sure to put in lots of effort to engage with your boss and the rest of your team.[13] Favouritism can develop through habit so it's important that you help create the conditions for new habits to develop.[14]
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    Get yourself a mentor or champion. One way to take positive action that isn't just tackling the issue with favouritism, is to find someone you like and respect in the company to act as a mentor or champion. Having someone support you and be happy to talk up your skills will help you counteract the negativity you get from your boss.[15]
    • A mentor can give you an advice and an essential second opinion. They can also act as an advocate if necessary.[16]
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    Consider speaking to HR. If there has been little or no noticeable improvement and you have given your boss every chance to improve the situation, it may be time to approach HR.[17] For this, you will need to produce evidence to support your complaint, so bring the record you have kept. You may also consider asking a colleague, who is sympathetic to your concerns, to join you in the meeting.

Method 3
Handling Being the Favourite

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    Maintain your professionalism. It's one thing if you perceive your boss to have an unfair favourite in the company, but it can be an equally difficult situation to deal with if you find yourself being treated as the favourite. Becoming too close with your boss can lead to numerous problems and it is important to maintain your professionalism at all times. Avoid becoming too familiar and remember that she is your boss first and foremost.[18]
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    Stay humble and professional with colleagues. Being the favourite can provoke negative feelings from your colleagues, and can strain relationships. Combat this by making every effort to involve your colleagues and praise them to your boss. Doing this will gently encourage her to show appreciation to more people in your team than just you. By doing this you are showing your colleagues that you are still part of the team, while also demonstrating humility and appreciation of the work of others.[19]
    • Making a point of highlighting the skills and potentials of colleagues can also be a good way to help develop a better functioning work environment.
    • You're helping your boss manage the workload, but also helping your colleagues have the opportunity to prove themselves.[20]
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    Avoid the benefits of being the favourite. If you are the favourite it's important you do not in any way take advantage of, or abuse, this situation. In fact, you should be wary of potentially undeserved benefits. If you're given a big office ahead of more senior colleagues don't be afraid to mention to your boss that you're not sure if you have earned it. Casually saying "what did I do to deserve this?" can encourage your boss to re-evaluate her approach.[21]
    • Clear signs of favouritism and undue benefits are likely to prompt suspicion and even gossip amongst your colleagues.


  • If the favouritism comes from discrimination, harassment or retaliation it is no longer merely bad management, but illegal practice.[22]


  • Show good faith to this person and approach the whole situation as one in need of a team remedy and a team cohesiveness.
  • Don't ostracize the colleague at the receiving end of the favouritism.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Interacting with Bosses