Addressing Workplace Favoritism From the Top
Defining Favoritism

Workplace favoritism is defined as “a situation where someone in a leadership position demonstrates favor toward one employee over others. This is usually unrelated to their job performance and instead occurs due to a personal bond or friendship shared between the two. From this, the favored employee may receive more advanced projects or promotions than others who have better qualifications. They might also receive fewer or no repercussions for tardiness or inability to meet deadlines.”

Conflicts can manifest at any level. Favoritism is a category that can most certainly be left unaddressed if employees are too afraid to speak up or other management turns the other cheek. Many people fear repercussions for speaking out, therefore resulting in many disadvantages such as: 

  • Increased feelings of resentment
  • Loss of respect for company leadership
  • Decreased motivation and productivity
  • Higher employee turnover rates
  • Inability to advance within the company

No one wants to work in a team where there is no equal respect. So how does it get addressed?

Take It From the Top

As we know, implementing policies on how to handle workplace conflict can be a sticky subject. But, it starts at the top. Though there will never be a day when conflict won’t affect our lives in some manner, we can certainly implement procedures and training in the workplace to address these circumstances before they have the opportunity to become problematic.

So what’s the first step in the right direction? Every organization should be administering an annual engagement survey. Once all results are in from this survey, organizational leaders should pay very close attention to the comments. This will be the first place where themes of favoritism will show and help pinpoint how to move forward, indicating exactly which functional areas of management need the most focus.


The first intervention following the survey would be to initiate a round of listening sessions, via an internal or external facilitator. This will allow for an even deeper dive into the real issues employees face and pinpoint how favoritism might impact the workplace. After gathering a better understanding, the next intervention would be to customize anti-bias training and allow for pointed coaching.

Providing the opportunity to do leadership interventions and continuous coaching will bring a greater understanding of why workplace favoritism causes harm. Implementing these procedures will put you a step forward in building a better organization.