"My manager has favorites" is a common concern. It is demoralizing to watch a co-employee be showered with special treatment when you know the individual spends more time on Facebook than on workbook.
Favoritism has a bad reputation. Every workplace would be better off if managers had more favorites. Here's why.
Too much of the time, managers spend their day dealing with the 5 percent or 10 percent of their staff that cause problems, have problems or are problems. Performance issues, abuse of time off, interpersonal conflicts, time wasting, repeated instructions, petty complaints and so on make for a hard day and waste a lot of time. In a way, these are really a manager's set of favorites if you judge favoritism by time spent.
Why not look at favoritism as building, rewarding and mentoring the top 25 percent of the workforce? Yes, I mean the people who show each day that they are there for the right reasons and, given a moderate amount of help to understand their role and how to grow, they learn and perform.
I am suggesting that managers make a list of their favorites and develop individual plans to reward and grow these favorites. Special employees should be treated in special ways. These are the ones that deserve your flexibility and advocacy for pay raises. Most important, they are the ones that truly deserve your TIME.
There is nothing more important you can give rising stars or high performers than your time. Do you know their career goals? Do they know what options are open internally? Do both of you have a plan to get them there? Do you even know why they stay with the organization and how to keep that glue sticky? Ask. Set aside time just for these conversations.
A good way to start is the one question meeting. "Tell me how I can help you get to where you want to be in this role and in future roles here at MegaCompany." Let the conversation go where it needs to go. This is the employee's meeting. Some will quickly tell you a specific plan or maybe they have considered leaving to reach that plan elsewhere. You will obtain a wealth of good information for your plan to make them the right kind of favorite.
Employees: if your manager is too busy on the wrong favorites, set up a time to meet for the purpose of discussing your role and your growth in the workplace. Make it very positive and focused on both better results for your team and better results for you. Develop a regular conversation with your manager around proactive problem prevention, efficiency and results.
I have to bring up this last point. Somebody is thinking, "But I have to treat every one the same, right?" Wrong. You must avoid discrimination for unlawful reasons, but you are a malpracticing manager if you treat every employee the same regardless of his or her contribution and effort. Your best employees deserve your best, and that means special treatment in pay, smart policy exceptions and your TIME.
What's the worst that can happen? Maybe other employees will see how to become your favorite and deserve the same special status!