Let's talk about favoritism:
Yes, it's still out there and it's a lead and moral assassin. It is natural that leaders have people who enjoy working with more than others, but this can never be justified for special privileges or breakdowns according to accountability. It is a very sensitive employee concern when it is present in the culture and must be addressed and eradicated.
Unfairness is often unknown by a manager or misguided by employees. For example, differences in practices differ from policy. Shops have different expectations and policies than production groups do. Although unfairness and homosexuality are not synonymous, perception of unfair, even in these cases, is of the same cause – unequal distribution of freedom.
When people go to work, they give up a certain freedom and generally accept it without complaint. They can not leave their workstation if they want to walk or visit with friends, have lunch when they want to, maybe listen to music or participate in their children's schooling if they want, etc. These freedoms are given as part of the survival. However, if someone is asked to give freedom when others in the same workplace are allowed to hold them, it's injustice that people will rebel against and if the government allows it to become a favoritism.
In recent training, the problem experienced unfairly because office workers could come to work after a normal start-up period, but manufacturers were responsible for tardiness. We first learned that the practices were different and supported by these differences in policy. One leader expressed his dissatisfaction with how much concern and turmoil his production workers expressed about this and said, "What is the matter? If someone comes a few minutes later, let it go. Why is this a drama?" As a leader he was of course not expect to watch a clock and so did not experience what his manufacturing workers made this sensitive material for them – uneven loss of freedom in charge of the time period.
A legitimate difference in policy can be perceived as unfair and create the same upset that real injustice would be without the business reason for them being granted and repeated. The decision in this case was for the leader to explain to his employees the reasons behind the difference due to business operations and that all employees have the right to expect that employees within similar working groups be equally responsible for the policy best supported by work in this area.
Sometimes the leader does not recognize the unfair behavior when he allows them and would be surprised to hear his employees blame him for favoritism. In one case smoking was allowed more breaks than non smokers to take care of their physical cravings. This is actually unfair but the manager was conditional on smokers who needed more breaks to smoke as normal and did not think it was an act of favoritism that his non-smoking workers did well. As a result, he was unhappy and not responsive to complaints that smokers received more than twice as many breaches than others and thought they disagree with being a toddler. Favoritism may be invisible to us but enlighten the people who experience it.
Then, the manager has definitely favors that he allows to allow more privileges than others. This can be based on relationships that developed before being introduced to leadership or special friendship that grow as a leader. It can also lead the leader to avoid dealing with a worker who is threatening to allow behavior that he does not tolerate from workers with whom he is more comfortable. As a rule, I believe that deliberately unfair with the desire to be unfair for unfair employees is very rare.
When favoritism is available, I would suggest that employees need to have communication channels open to skip the management board and speak to HR or their boss's boss. Their credentials must be confidential from an accused supervisor, but they must be ready to identify themselves in their complaint so that leadership can control the use of this communication channel in which potential for false accusations may occur. Leaders must examine these reports carefully. If the evidence confirms favoritism, they must put clear expectations about ethical leadership behavior from the manager, then monitor both the Secretary and the employee of the report to ensure continued change. Of course, we must protect whistler blowers effortlessly from the consequences of any quarter.
Leaders can even be even when they do not mean. It would be so much easier if the executive executive was a snarling story book villain we could easily spot plowing to provide outstanding gifts on his favorite while breaking hearts and wanting the others. We must all be careful to watch unfairly in our own actions because what we see as fair on our side can certainly be unfair to others. Let us make sure that lack of awareness does not allow favoritism to exist, which we never intentionally want to come to our employees.
Exercise: Ask for feedback from reliable employees who are both close and not so close to you. Ask about your experience of your leadership and, in this case, about some signs of favoritism. Do not respond immediately to their comments or explain any of your behavior. No matter what they say, be receptive, curiously, have questions to understand, take notes and thank them. Take time to digest their words and consider their authenticity that could not be obvious. Report them back to those who define the area of change you commit to their feedback. Be brave, what you can learn through this kind of humility will be rumored in your honesty.
Copyright 2008 Rick Piraino