Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about supervisor’s favoritism:I want to speak up, but every time I do it seems like I’m showing off or I’m trying to be a superstar

What type of evidence could I use against my supervisor who is showing favoritism to others at work without sounding like a drama queen/troublemaker? Just a little history: my supervisor was a former peer and then became a lead and afterwards became my supervisor. When she was my lead, she took on the role of a supervisor/manager with my group because the current supervisor suddenly left the company. During that time I brought up a concern about another group member and within the week she didn’t realize I could hear her from my cubicle, but I heard her telling that team member what I had said, but converted it into gossip rather than helping resolve the issues. Since then, I didn’t trust her very much and have been careful about my concerns with others in the group. Now she’s’ my supervisor and what the new director of my department thinks of me is filtered through what she tells him.

I finish my work faster than others so she gives me special projects to help her with. I do most of the work, but then she’ll have another team member (her friend) help towards the end of the project and when she records the results, she will only mention that the other team member helped with the project but she won’t mention my name at all. the supervisor will also give 2 of the team members (again, her friend’s) the easiest projects or team them up with others and have them do he easier portions, and then gives them full credit for the work. I feel like I have to work extra hard to get any kind of recognition.

I create my own projects based on my findings whereas the other two team members are handed projects and at the end of the day they are the only ones who get their names on paper. It makes me wonder if the supervisor is telling the director a different version of what she is telling me in private. At the end of the year, in my review, she will just say that I met expectations, which is an average rating, when in reality I do so much more than the other 2 co-workers. I am not only not handed down projects to do, but the projects I create for myself I share with others and then she gives the credit to the entire group rather than recognizing that I found it and included others to help with it. It’s like she is able to communicate things so well her way. Did the team complete the project? Yes, but she didn’t mention that I created the opportunity or found the issue to begin with. Did the co-worker in the previous scenario help with the project towards the end? Yes, but all she did was double check my work and saved the files under its acct number instead of the different name I had given it.

I want to speak up, but every time I do it seems like I’m showing off or I’m trying to be a superstar. For example, today in a group meeting that involved our director they asked what seems to be working in our group. I said, “Cross training everyone so that we could be a stronger group. When other departments request something, then more of us will have the capability of doing it.” I mentioned that if we all had the training and knowledge on doing things we can all help with the projects/requests asked of our group. It was kind of awkward and I’m not sure that I communicated that most effectively. I don’t know how to approach this situation without sounding like a drama queen or a troublemaker. I just feel a huge sense of injustice and favoritism in the work place.

Signed, Feel Huge Injustice

DearĀ Feel Huge Injustice:

You raise a deeply felt concern that is not far beneath the surface in almost all workplaces. Your feeling of unfair treatment is apparently attributed to a boss treating some more favorably than others. Often such a feeling is expressed in gossip about favoritism and festers into seeing the boss as an enemy. The problem is complex. It encompasses a mix of superior-subordinate authority and work group interaction; of organizational and group dynamics. How to resolve such a problem, therefore, is no quick fix.

No advice from the Workplace Doctors can translate into resolving your feeling of injustice. There may be no “the answer” to what you perceive as injustice. And an answer will ultimately hinge on not just what advice you might get from an outside source, even one with years of study and training superiors and those they supervise, but also on the organizational culture of your company. This is to suggest that knowledge of the dynamics at play within a boss-bossed and work group should help you cope if not contribute to resolution of your frustrating relationship, but it is also to say that knowledge has limits when applied to different contexts.

In short, even a lengthy response to your concern may not be enough. But here are many factors that you may mull over and hopefully discussion of one of more of them will apply to what you might do. The situation you detail entails a series of C-words: complaint, compliance, competence, and credit. And, if there is to be a resolution, it will involve a number of other C-words such as conscience, commitment, consensus, collaboration, cooperation, customer and communication– all must be e within a particular context.

Let’s begin with the interaction of four C-words implied throughout your story of frustration: complaint, compliance, competence, and credit. You complained about a coworker and then overheard your boss break a confidence by disclosing your complaint to that individual. Doing that, you say you caused you to distrust in your boss. You didn’t confront your boss about that, and you complied with her assignments and saw them loaded heavily on you because you say you were more competent and worked harder and faster than coworkers. Yet your boss has seemed to favor and give credit to her favorites and not to you. The one constructive suggestion you’ve made in hopes of achieving a fair allocation of work load is cross-training. As of now, you don’t know if that suggestion will bear fruit. It might.

Righting an unjust boss-bossed relationship can sometimes be corrected indirectly such as by training; however, rarely so without a transformation in the workplace culture. The micro- culture of boss-bossed you describe strikes me as one in which cooperation is linked with compliance with authority, not with confrontation. You appear to think that the boss is boss and her way of making assignments rules; to contest them would be seen as you are a self-centered drama queen and/or trouble maker. And your analysis probably is correct.

Therefore, you seem to pose the options: grin and bear it and hope cross training will make the work load fairer or think of some way to challenge the boss. That is signaled in your sentence: “I don’t know how to approach this situation without sounding like a drama queen or a troublemaker.” With this in mind, we encounter the second series of C-words: conscience, commitment, consensus, collaboration, cooperation, customer and communication. To make some measure of improving in how your boss sees you, probably will require you risking that they might be worse. This is to say she might retaliate if you candidly confronted her about a long-past sore; her revealing what you said about a coworker; and also about her playing favorites in assignments and crediting your work to others. Is there a way to help your boss walk in your shoes and see through your eyes? Not likely, but possibly she might.

My associate workplace doctor Tina Lewis Rowe is especially good at suggesting wording for such an eye-to-eye meeting. I recommend that you scan our Q&As to see how she puts things. For now, I suggest that you begin by walking in your boss’ shoes and seeing things through her eyes. What does she do well and why did she manage to rise from a peer to a lead and a boss? Surely she must have exhibited some measure of competence and ability to take responsibility. Moreover some of your coworkers apparently have won her friendship. Rather than approaching her as someone who does wrong, if you see her through her eyes, you will want to make her job easier and more effective.

If in good conscience you can approach confronting her with this as at least half of what you want to talk about, might not the chances of connecting constructively with her be enhanced? So let’s suppose you ask for a meeting. You’ll have to choose what you want as the agenda and in what order, such as: feelings I don’t get credit for what I do, not trusting that you will keep in confidence what I tell you, wanting a good working relationship with you, wanting your advice and support in my career, and ways my work and our work group might be more effective. You might frankly first talk about wanting her evaluation of your work and support of career direction. Broaching that should evolve to affirming your commitment to making her look good, rather than bad, and to wanting your work to merit her praise. Bosses like to hear about commitment and ideas of how to make the work in their area look good; ways to cut wasted supplies, wasted time, wasted energy, and wasted money. Coming with that kind of talk rather than criticism almost always is welcome.

So you should have consensus on making your own work of high performance–to quality that pleases internal and external customers. Have you ever sincerely ask your boss for her support in your career direction? If not, you might be surprised in how she gradually shifts in action and your own mind from an enemy to something better. During such a meeting you can also ask if you might discuss a lingering feeling you have that she might not keep in confidence what you say. These are enough ideas for now. Do any of them make sense to you? If not, do they spark others? Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. By that, I mean if you focus on the whole operation, as your cross training proposal suggests, the payoff can free you from ego concerns to the good of your workplace.

William Gorden