By Jean Roque, Trupp HR.

When it comes to playing favorites, I believe managers tend to fall into one of three camps: (1) they work hard to treat their employees fairly; (2) they don’t really think about it much; or, (3) they don’t care what people think because they are “the boss.” Whether you fall into one of the first two camps or are skeptically considering why you should abandon the third, it may be helpful to consider some reasons why your employees believe you play favorites.

  • You spend more quality time with your favorite employees. In fact, you’re likely to make time for your favorites—including for impromptu discussions—while finding it hard to carve out time for the rest of the team.
  • You enjoy spending time with your favorite employees. You have more in common with them, you tend to invite them to grab coffee or lunch with you, and it wouldn’t be surprising if you consider those favorites your friends outside of work.
  • You share more with your favorite employees. You trust your favorites and enjoy discussing both personal and professional topics with them and you likely share more information with them than others. In fact, you may even be revealing to your favorites too much information about their peers.

We all have favorites. Right?

What sets strong leaders apart is that rather than forming and holding onto favorites based primarily on personal preferences, a strong leader develops each of their employees while recognizing that additional time and resources may be dedicated toward “top performers” based on criteria such as:

  • The employee’s proven ability to be a top performer;
  • Evidence that the employee has significant potential for increased contribution with continued development and empowerment;
  • The employee’s alignment with company culture, mission, and values; and,
  • Your ability to consistently rely on this employee to deliver on their commitments.

So, why does it matter?

When your employees perceive you are playing favorites, their ability to trust and respect your leadership is compromised. Eventually, this translates into decreased employee engagement, which reveals itself in areas such as decreased productivity, creativity, collaboration, morale, and employee retention. To make sure that your employees do not perceive you are playing favorites (rightfully or not), consider these helpful tips:

  • Establish a rhythm for consistently meeting with each of your employees to provide performance feedback, define goals and establish development plans.
  • Communicate the reasoning for decisions related to employee assignments and promotions—keeping in mind the appropriate level of transparency for the team.
  • Hold each of your employees to the same level of accountability—enforcing policies, behavior standards, and performance expectations consistently.
  • Be friendly with your employees but stop short of becoming friends.