Wisdom//

4 Ways to Deal With Favoritism at Work — When You Aren’t the “Favorite”

You have more control over the situation than you might think.

Courtesy of chatiyanon / Shutterstock
Courtesy of chatiyanon / Shutterstock

Sometimes no matter what you do to win over your boss, there’s someone else on the team who always seems to get the “star child” treatment. Unfortunately, favoritism in the office is real — and it can be a tricky situation to navigate. 

Ignoring it may seem like a good idea at first, but doing so could cause your morale to take a hit. Research from The Journal of Values-Based Leadership shows that favoritism at work is linked with lower job satisfaction and long-term goal achievement, as well as higher rates of stress and frustration. Not only that, but you may be more prone to burnout if you’re anxious and stressed all the time.

Instead of feeling helpless if you’re the victim of favoritism, follow these expert-backed tips to turn the situation around:

Be honest with yourself 

While favoritism is often out of your control, it’s helpful to take a step back and assess the situation. “Look objectively at your performance. Is your manager really playing favorites, or are you being overly sensitive? If you haven’t been in the job for very long, it’s probably not realistic to expect being the favorite employee,” Hannah Morgan, a career strategist and consultant, tells Thrive. Being honest with yourself can help you avoid unnecessary angst. 

Speak up — tactfully

If you’re clearly the victim of favoritism — and circumstances don’t seem to improve — it might be time to sit down with your manager to talk about your working dynamic. The key, though, is to choose your words wisely. “Using the term ‘favoritism’ or ‘teacher’s pet’ isn’t productive,” Hana Ayoub, a career and executive coach, tells Thrive. “Instead, shift your focus away from the ‘favorite employee’ and simply use the conversation to be your own advocate. Get feedback about your performance and the expectations of your boss, and express your interest in growth opportunities and building your skills.”

Shift your focus

It’s not unusual to feel a bit resentful toward a colleague who is receiving special treatment — but this is unproductive. “Remember that it is not the employee’s fault if they are favored,” says Lynn Taylor, a workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant. Instead of stewing in how wronged you might feel, try to remain focused on your work and let your skills speak for themselves. “Ultimately, results matter. No matter how chummy the favorite employee is, those who produce the best results have the real staying power. What’s more, if you’re consumed by the unfavorable dynamics, you will by definition hurt your performance,” Taylor adds. That said, don’t tip to the other extreme: Overworking can lead to dissatisfaction, and over time, result in burnout, Ronald Riggio, Ph.D., a professor of leadership and organizational psychology at Claremont McKenna College, tells Thrive. 

Look inward for validation

It’s normal to want approval or praise from your manager, but if you’re not getting that pat on the back, give it to yourself. Each day, try to recognize your successes (and celebrate them, too). Realizing your own worth is one of the best ways to combat the sting of favoritism. “And don’t forget to take inventory of others within your organization who can support you,” Ayoub says. “Oftentimes our biggest career champions aren’t our managers. Invest time in cultivating those relationships.”

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