9 in 10 staff face favouritism: Poll

Do you have a colleague who seems to be the chosen one by the boss and seems to enjoy special treatment, making her a much disliked person at work? Does the boss always heap all the praises on one individual during official meetings, lunches and very much reflecting it during the annual appraisal time? Or are you always on cloud nine due to the fact that you are that ‘someone special’ at work?

It’s no secret that life is not fair – neither is the workplace. According to experts, a strictly level playing field among all employees is possible only in utopia and while favouritism at workplace might not be rampant or starkly obvious, it does exist in every office at some level and at some point in time.

Favouritism in the workplace can be defined as giving preferential treatment to one or more employees. It could be both intentional – an example assigning the choicest responsibilities to the chosen one – or it could be subconscious; for example, an older male supervisor treating young female workers with friendly smiles and encouragement while happily ignoring male workers.

And while it can be both harmless and very harmful, it is indeed very prevalent. And so confirm an astounding 91 per cent of respondents to an Emirates 24|7 poll on the issue. These employees claim to have faced favouritism – both positive and negative – at their workplaces, which means that while most of them have been at the receiving end of favouritism, some of them also enjoy being the boss’ favourite.

A majority (63 per cent) of respondents who participated in the online poll run by this website claim that favouritism at work makes them feel undervalued and upset at being treated unfairly.

Then there is another quarter of respondents (23 per cent) who believe that it may not be a menace to deal with day in and day out, but that favouritism raises its ugly head when it matters the most – during annual appraisals.

“This is nothing new that happens in office. We are used to it but greatly affects the morale of the team,” said an employee working in the private sector in the country.

On the other end of the spectrum are those who are blessed by the boss. “I’m the office angel, and it works for me,” said 6 per cent of the respondents.

“Does favouritism exist – ‘yes’. Should it exist – ‘no,” says Debbie Nicol, Managing Director, Business En Motion in the UAE.

“Favouritism breeds differentiation through inequity. It disconnects leadership from the people, people from people themselves and people from the organisation’s goals. Favouritism becomes a cancer which erodes workplace productivity and effectiveness,” she told Emirates 24|7.

An HR professional, creator and author, Nicol has a piece of advice for those who believe that favouritism at the workplace is a toxic thing to deal with. The so-called victims can deal with this issue at work.

“It is refreshing to consider that a victim of favouritism is wishing to return to balance and equity. Unfortunately, there may still be some who relish in this state,” she says.

But even while a majority believe that all’s not well when it comes to their bosses picking up somebody else and not them, there are a few, in minority though, who believe they do not face any such issues at their workplace.

A small percentage (8 per cent) of respondents said that everyone in their office is treated fairly, whereas 1 per cent said that their office has a strict policy against favouritism, making it virtually impossible for anyone to side with anyone else.


For those who wish to deal with this problem, Nicol lists some easy steps.

#1: Acknowledge it: “Reflect on the ‘favouritism’ situation. Feelings and emotions are a great indicator of the reality of the situation. Spend time with them to get a barometer check on the core situation before taking any action.”

#2 Communicate it: “Communicate with the source of the favouritism. To return to balance and equity, facts need to be shared openly. What specifically is happening that makes you feel uncomfortable? What effect is this having on the team? What alternative would you request? Whilst communicating this message, know that your intention is credible, regardless of the reaction received. Be assertive whilst clearly stating what will and can no longer be accepted and why? Be clear, listing the example of what you can’t accept, the negative effect it has had on you and the environment around you, whilst also the specific change required.”

#3 Participate in the solution: Be a part of the solution. Solutions must match the problem. If favouritism is with scheduling for example (and let’s face it, we all hate the night shift!), offer to be the person who writes the schedule. In doing so, set up a fair and transparent system that will allow equity. This will send clear messages to both colleagues and leaders that inequity is not desired, nor productive.”

#4 Demonstrate the benefits: “Gently demonstrate the benefits that are now influencing the workplace from the newly-equitable workplace. With trust at the core of the change, find ways to reinforce its priority through other systems, awards, presentations etc.”


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