By favorites, I mean giving specific employees preferential treatment. It is human nature to like some employees more than others. Many lifelong friendships began as manager and subordinate.

By favorites, I mean giving specific employees preferential treatment. It is human nature to like some employees more than others. Many lifelong friendships began as manager and subordinate. Personal friendship between a manager and a subordinate only becomes a problem when:




The manager openly and clearly has one set of rules for his/her friends and another set of rules for everyone else.

The manager’s friends take advantage of this friendship in front of other team members.

The manager provides quality projects and assignments based on friendship, not skill or merit.

The manager gives salary raises and bonuses that are based on friendship, not merit, skill or accomplishments.

As the manager, you must treat all your subordinates fairly and equally. If you don’t:




Other members of your team will resent it.

This resentment has potential to hurt team productivity and create infighting.

May cause your group to lose respect and confidence in you.

May cause people to leave.

It may be harder for you to hire internal candidates because they know they will be treated as a second-class citizen within the department.

Over the years I have met a few managers that seemed to be more interested in their personal agenda and taking care of their friends than doing what was best for the company. Their few favorite employees did quite well, but the majority of their staffs felt neglected, treated unfairly and underappreciated. These staff members never stayed long and, generally speaking, had to be replaced by people outside the company. This was the case because unless people were sure they would be on the inside track, no one would take the chance of being treated poorly.


Another thing that tends to happen to these managers over the years is that it’s a small world. There is an old expression that friends come and go out of your life, but enemies accumulate. Because their departments tend to be revolving doors, they accumulate many enemies. They’re fine as long as they stay in current position. But should these managers have the need or want to find a new job, the people they have ignored over the years have most likely been promoted to more senior positions in other companies and become major obstacles to him/her in finding new work.


As a final point, when senior executives are looking across their management team in search of future senior executives, they tend to look for people with strong leadership skills, company-compatible management styles, and respected internal reputations. Managers that blatantly pick favorites and ignore other staff members don’t generally fit into this category.


Interestingly enough, there is actually also a small upside to playing favorites. The people who are treated like favorites tend to be very loyal and work for these managers for many years. As a result, if you do pick favorites, have them drive your department’s most important processes and they will most likely run smoothly for years.


That said, in the long run, picking favorites can drastically reduce your effectiveness as a manager and slow your growth to more senior managerial ranks. When you are in the office, business is business and all staff should be treated equally, based on their skills, abilities, level of effort, and other business related factors. Remember, ultimately it’s your career that will suffer the most.


The primary advice and takeaways from today’s column is to know that:




Giving preferential treatment to some staff members over others can cause morale, productivity and turnover problems within your department.

If seen by your company’s executive management, blatantly favoring some employees over others can slow or stop your professional growth within the company.

Many of the employees you neglected over the years will in time become senior managers in other companies. Because of how you treated them when they worked for you, it may be difficult for you to change jobs if needed.

Until next time, manage well, manage smart and continue to grow.


Eric P. Bloom, based in Ashland, Mass., is the president and founder of Manager Mechanics LLC. He is also a nationally syndicated columnist, keynote speaker and author of the award-winning book “Manager Mechanics: Tips and Advice for First-Time Managers.” Contact him at eric@ManagerMechanics.com, follow him on Twitter at @EricPBloom, or visit www.ManagerMechanics.com.