Is Your Boss Playing Favorites?

10 Oct

Does your boss have a favorite at work… that isn’t you? You know what I’m talking about. Your boss makes “googly” eyes at the favorite. The two are routinely spotted whispering together, plotting. And when the time comes to choose someone for one of the better tasks, you know who your boss is going to pick and it won’t be you.

Here’s the most frightening element about favorites at work, they wield more power today than ever before. Why you might ask? Simple. Leaders (and organizations for that matter) are avoiding any and all risk at every turn. They don’t want to take a chance on anything and anyone who is “unknown.” Our friends in the job market will attest to that. Consider the following recent survey that was conducted by researchers at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. In polling senior executives at large U.S. corporations they found:

  • 92% have seen favoritism at play in employee promotions.
  • 84% have seen it at their own companies.
  • 23% said they practiced favoritism themselves.
  • 29% said their most recent promotion considered only a single candidate.
  • 56% said when more than one candidate was considered, they already knew who they wanted to promote before deliberations.
  • 96% report promoting the pre-selected individual.

Are you getting this? If there’s an open job, over half the time the boss has picked a favorite, and if they have, it’s a virtual lock that the favorite is gonna get it. So what can we do? Simple. Become the favorite.

Steps to Becoming the Favorite:

  1. Let your boss know what you are up to – Part of becoming the favorite is keeping yourself “front and center” in your boss’ mind AND not a source of worry or frustration. How do you do that? A simple way is to provide your boss a quick status update at the end of every week on how things are progressing. If they know what you are up to, they are more likely to trust you.
  2. Make your boss’ life easier – Anticipate what your boss needs and try to meet those needs without being asked. Be proactive in putting out your boss’ fires and they will love you for it.
  3. Make your boss look good – Get kudos and recognition and then pull your boss into the spotlight. Making your boss look like he or she is doing a great job is a fantastic way to get in his or her good graces.

So, what should you not do? Pretty simple, the opposite of everything I mentioned above. In addition, keeping quiet and silent, hoping to be discovered is a sure-fire way to get lost at work. We wouldn’t want that.

Today’s guest post comes to us from Brandon Smith. Therapist, professor, consultant and radio host, Brandon brings an upbeat, witty approach to the challenges of workplace health and dysfunction. Brandon is the founder of – a resource dedicated to eliminating dysfunction at work, improving workplace health and restoring optimism and focus in the workplace. Brandon also currently serves as faculty at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School where he teaches and researches on topics related to leadership, communication and healthy workplace dynamics.

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