How do you deal when a supervisor shows favoritism toward one particular employee? Favoritism has created a strain within the office. This staff member feeds on it and tends to feel she is above the rest. She snaps and raises her voice to co-workers and takes credit for completion of tasks to supervisors when she did not do it. Over we have discovered her underhanded ways of trying to make herself look good in front of supervisors. Supervisors are clueless to the way she acts when they are not around. We coworkers think her behavior stems from the special treatment she receives from management. It has been brought to management’s attention, but nothing has changed. It still continues. This is why we don’ go to management with these types of issues.


Not Favored


Dear Not Favored:

You state three problems: 1. Supervisor(s) who give favored treatment, 2. One coworker, who communicates abrasively and takes undeserved credit and 3. Management that has failed to address this concern.

And you ask how do you deal with these overlapping problems with this woman, I’m naming Maryann. You don’t say what complaints were made to management; what favors given, what nasty speech of this woman was reported, and for what specifically she took unearned credit. If you are serious about “dealing” with this, now is the time to get specific. You need to put in writing exactly what you see as favored treatment; what, when and where. You also need to be specific about Maryann’s snapping and raised voice; instances of when, to whom and over what. You need to note for what she took undeserved credit. You say management did nothing. Who made the complaint and how specific was it? Managers tend to ignore complaints unless they are clearly and forcefully, and repeatedly made.

Working on specifics should help you and your coworkers determine if favoritism for Maryann is a real problem or if she is just annoying. Once you and your coworkers, who don’t feel favored, have compiled such specifics, preferably in writing, you are ready to discuss your next steps. One of those steps might entail requesting a meeting with the supervisor or supervisors who favor Ms. Maryann and firmly spelling out what you non-favored think to be true, possibly going up the management ladder to voice your complaints. Or another step might be to schedule a meeting with Ms. Maryann and spill out forcefully past instances of what you find troubling about her. Yet another step might be to wait until the next instance of favoritism, sharp speech, and/or taking credit occurs and responding appropriately by voicing what you think to Maryann. You see your question of how to deal suggests a number of ways to confront what you find unfair and annoying. Each has its pros and cons and perhaps unintended consequences.

This is to recommend that careful thought should go into “dealing” with a supervisor playing favorites and a coworker’s mean and one-upmanship acts. I side on the side of thinking through and deliberate problem solving. However, it does not rule out responding intuitively and even angrily. Responding immediately, when mistreated by Maryann or a supervisor, might be even more effective.

Could it be wise to put Maryann on the hot seat; telling her how each of her feel about her behavior? Might it be that you could ask her to join your non-favored gang in creating an effective, supportive team-building effort?

A supervisor should be the one to initiate team building and that should be an on-going activity. Good coaches enjoin players to review what went well and what needs fixing after each game. In similar fashion, good supervisors do that in weekly staff sessions. Since apparently that is not a practice where you work, it might be that you and your non-favored coworkers need to prod your supervisor to make staff meetings work on what is going well and not so well. These thoughts are more than enough to spur you to action. Performance with a purpose sometimes demands confronting what is not liked. Please reflect on these thoughts and feel free to get back to me in a few weeks to say what you chose to do and what worked and what did not. Shaping one’s self to be the kind of person others respect is an on-going challenge. Reshaping patterns of dysfunctional working relationships is even more challenging. So I hope to hear from you as to what you think I mean when I conclude: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden