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How to Handle Favoritism at Work

by Ashley Miller

Favoritism in the workplace is not all in your head -- it is a well-documented occurrence. In a 2011 joint study by researchers from Georgetown University and the research firm Penn Schoen Berland, 92 percent of executives surveyed said they had witnessed favoritism and its effects on employee promotions, often at their workplace. Although favoritism can have detrimental effects on morale and motivation, you don't have to become its victim.

Evaluate the Situation

Whether you're passed over for a promotion or a co-worker receives recognition for accomplishments while yours are overlooked, it often can seem as though favoritism is at play. However, in order to effectively overcome the effects of favoritism, you first must figure out if you're really a victim, says workplace coach Marsha Egan in an interview with "Forbes." Evaluate the situation from as objective a viewpoint as possible. Talk to trusted family and friends to gain insight and help you determine whether it's truly favoritism or your colleague simply is receiving due recognition and praise.

Avoid Gossip

You might feel frustrated, aggravated or angry, but it's important to avoid gossiping about the favored co-worker. Bad-mouthing the boss's favorite can make the situation even more difficult and make you look like a sore loser. In a blog for "The Huffington Post," psychologist Ellen Libby suggests maintaining conscious awareness of the ways you convey your disgruntled feelings. Gossiping might feel good in the short term and help you vent steam, but it's advisable to channel your energies into other, more productive avenues, such as exercise, hard work or talking to trusted friends.

Talk to Your Boss

Talking to your boss and agreeing on a firm, specific job description can help you deal with favoritism at work, says Damian Birkel, founder of the nonprofit Professionals in Transition in Winston-Salem, N.C. in an interview with "U.S. News & World Report." You don't want to come across as complaining or whining -- try to remain professional and focused on your job responsibilities. Ask your boss if there are any areas that need improving or if there are other skills or tasks you can learn to help develop your career.

Focus on Your Job

It's too easy to get caught up in office politics, especially in cases of favoritism. But spending your energy on drama and personal issues can be detrimental to your career goals. Teri Hockett, CEO of the women's career site What’s For Work?, advises hard work, being a team player and never allowing favoritism to affect your performance. Focus on fulfilling your responsibilities to the best of your abilities, maintaining integrity and respect for your co-workers. At the very least, you'll feel confident that you acted professionally and with dignity.

About the Author

Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.

Photo Credits

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