I have decided to write a series of articles based on the different issues faced by the human resources of today’s organisation. These are valid, burning issues that can plague any employee or employer whether at home ground or while working in a foreign land.
Today, I would like to take up the subject of “favouritism”, there is much to tell, much to understand and many studies to substantiate (or not) my words/view which I will be quoting. So here goes the first part of a series.
Have you ever felt that one of your colleague’s is always given special treatment by your manager/boss whereas you, with equal work responsibilities, have always been given the lower class treatment? Or, have you felt that you have always been the blue-eyed boy of your boss, in spite of someone else in your team, maybe performing better than you?
It is no secret that the playing field among workers isn’t level in most workplaces—and chances are you’ve been on one end of blatant favouritism at some point in your career.
Sadly enough, it turns out that favouritism indeed is a widespread practice and has significant impact on employee morale, wellbeing and therefore, their performance. According to a survey conducted by Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business in the year 2011, 92% of senior business executives have seen favouritism at play in employee promotions, including at their own companies (84%).
So, what is favouritism really?
Favouritism in the workplace is when a person (usually a manager) demonstrates preferential treatment to one person over all of the other employees for reasons unrelated to performance.
An example would be, if Employee A achieves 40% over and above his target, it is not favouritism if Employee A gets the promotion, praise, and special privileges. He has clearly outperformed his colleague—so that is not an example of favouritism.
Employee A has earned it through his high performance. But if Employee A and Employee B are equal performers or Employee B does a better job, and Employee A still gets the promotion, praise, and privileges, then that is an example of favouritism.
According to Ramanchander (2011), favouritism could be identified in one or more of the following ways:
- The superior spends too much time and socialises more with the favourite employee than any other employee in the organisation
- The superior confides in the favourite employee and discusses all the confidential issues
- The superior commends the favourite employee for even a small achievement that others are not praised for
- The superior overlooks even the mistakes made by the favourite employee
- The superior gives additional benefits and assistance for completion of the task to the favourite employee
- The superior takes advises of the favourite employee without gauging the pros and cons even in issues relating to emoluments of other employees
- Above all, the favourite employee enjoys more benefits like better office, added perquisites and benefits than others who are in the same position.
Can favouritism happen in groups too?
Favouritism may not be a towards just one person by another person, but can be a group affair too. According to Brewer M.B. (1999), group living represents the fundamental survival strategy that characterises the human species. When people from different groups interact, in-group favouritism and/or out-group discrimination often result. Evidence of this phenomenon is vast and comes from multiple experiments by different researchers around the world, using different types of social identities and different populations (for an extensive review see.
In a particular study conducted by Fehr E., Bernhard H. And Rockenbach B. (2008), it was seen that even young children exhibit greater generosity towards in-group members than out-group members across a series of economic games. Nevertheless, it is not always clear whether differential treatment of others on the grounds of group identity is an expression of a preference for the one’s own group or hostility against the out-group.
So, what generally causes favouritism?
To be continued…
Brewer M.B. (1999) “The psychology of prejudice: ingroup love and outgroup hate?” Journal of Social Psychology, 55, pp. 429–444
Fehr E., Bernhard H. And Rockenbach B. (2008). “Egalitarianism in young children”. Nature 454, 1079–1083
Ramachander, A. (2011). Dealing with favouritism at the workplace. Retrieved October 12, 2017, from http://www.deccanherald.com/content/173905/dealing-favouritism-workplace.html
After working extensively in India and abroad in various domains of Human resource management and development in MNCs belonging to different sectors, she decided to pursue the education industry. She did a second Masters upon returning to India in Psychology specialising in Organisational/Industrial Psychology as a value addition to her base degree, a Masters in Business Administration from Liverpool, United Kingdom. She is passionate about teaching, learning and skill transfer – she believes in enabling people for better performance and enhanced productivity. She is also passionate about travelling, food, and culture and runs a food group on Facebook called Foodie Universe.