Managing People – The Dangers of Having Favorites!

Managing People – The Dangers of Having Favorites!

Many, many years moons ago, I worked with children.  They were boys between the ages of seven and eleven and, for me, at the most interesting stage in their development.  I saw them gaining in awareness and personality with views of their own pretty much everything.  It was tempting to spend time with a particular child that you liked, at the expense of a child that really needed your attention. Sometime later I found the same thing could happen in nursing – that patient who was so appealing might be lavished with greater care. Favoring a particular patient or a particular child would have been, at the very least, unprofessional and if you think about it could lead to harm.

As a manager showing that you have favorites can also have quite disastrous consequences. Now, I don’t mean that excellence, high performance and value to the organization should not be recognized and rewarded.  But as valuable as one person might be, an organization cannot succeed in meeting its goals without the full cooperation and collaboration of all its members. Taken to extremes a manager who falls in to the favorites’ trap can be accused not of favoritism, but of discrimination between employees with potential legal consequences.  If people believe they do not all have the same chance of gaining a reward, they switch off and become de-motivated.  They need to know that everyone plays by the same rules and is judged in the same way.

There may be particular risks when a manger is newly promoted from within a work group.  Friendships can be maintained but they need to be kept for outside the workplace.  It is a good idea to discuss this with the friend and agree from the outset that you will both make it clear that, in fairness to others, no special benefits come from the friendship. The same thing goes for people that you did not get on with particularly well. It may be worth having a conversation to clear the air and to make sure that people understand you will be making a fresh start.

Wendy Mason is a career coach.  She helps people reach their goals and aspirations, without sacrificing their home and personal life.  Before working as a coach, Wendy had a long career in both the public and private sectors in general management and consultancy as well as spells in HR.  She now divides her time between coaching and writing. You can contact Wendy at and find out more at

  • Stress and the HR Professional
  • Managing People – Dealing With Difficult Employees
  • Make a Change: Champions of Change: Entrepreneurship Mentors

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