Your Office Coach: How to defeat favoritism

Q: Two years ago, our department got a new director who came from another business. “Rick” gradually brought in more employees from his previous company, and they now make up a rather large group. These people all enjoy socializing and often attend parties and ballgames together.

After awhile, I began to notice that Rick’s friends seemed to be taking over. He frequently spends time chatting with them and listens to their opinions on work issues. Many lower-level members of this clique know more about what’s going on than their supervisors do. How can we fight this blatant favoritism?

A: When faced with favoritism, the wisest strategy is to do the exact opposite of what you would like to do. People who feel like second-class citizens naturally want to complain about unfair treatment and retaliate against the in-crowd. Unfortunately, this understandable reaction has a tendency to backfire.

Managers who play favorites typically make decisions based on personal feelings and reactions. Employees who trigger positive emotions often have more access and get more consideration. This may not be fair, but unless you can prove illegal discrimination, complaining about it just sounds like whining.

If you become resentful and angry, you will only succeed in making the favored folks look better by comparison. Therefore, a better response to favoritism is to become a favorite yourself. To accomplish this, you must understand your manager’s preferences, relate to him accordingly, and make every effort to get along with his pals.

So if Rick enjoys talking, drop by his office. If he likes frequent updates, give him information. Since he seems to be a socializer, consider asking him to lunch. If you continue to be smart about “managing up”, you may find that your influence will greatly increase.

Q: I don’t understand why intelligent, professional people cannot fill out a simple form. As the person responsible for payroll, I have to keep track of timesheets. At the end of each day, everyone is supposed to input hours worked, but some employees put this off for weeks.

I can’t find any way to get these slackers to spend two minutes a day entering their data. Our CFO has toyed with the idea of withholding paychecks until timesheets are complete, but he hasn’t gotten serious about it. Do you have any suggestions?

A: Getting people to fill out forms is the bane of every administrator’s existence. Without a specific consequence, employees find it all too easy to overlook established deadlines. Therefore, as your CFO suspects, the key to solving this problem is to stop paying people whose timesheets are incomplete.

To implement such a policy, which is a common practice in many firms, you must announce the change well in advance, then follow up with several reminders. When the designated date arrives, top management must stick to their guns and refuse to pay the inevitable stragglers.

As long as your bosses stand firm, this strategy is guaranteed to work. But if they wimp out and begin making exceptions, you will soon be right back where you started.

About The Writer

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.” Send in questions and get free coaching tips at, or follow her on Twitter @officecoach.

(c)2015 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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