Thursday, September 13, 2018

Can leaders have favorites?

Each week, I pose a question to our Women in Education Leadership Voxer group. This summer, we discussed the question, Can leaders have favorites?

The question was prompted from a session I attended on Crisis Management Training, where the presenter asked us to think about a person who - when we seen them coming - makes us happy. Someone we look forward to interacting with. Someone who makes us smile when we see them. (Are you thinking of that person now?)

As humans, we experience this. There are people with whom we naturally get along better than others. There are people who share our beliefs, values, and experiences that create bonds with us. 

As leaders, it is important that we recognize these tendencies in ourselves so that we don't extend privileges to those who are our favorites. 

In a study done by Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business and research firm Penn Schoen Berland, they interviewed 303 senior business executives at U.S. companies with at least 1,000 employees.  A whopping 84% of those surveyed said favoritism takes place at their organizations, while only 23% admitted that they practice favoritism. 

What does showing favoritism look like?

--When a person is selected for a task, committee, or award because of anything other than the fact that he or she is the best person for the job or acknowledgement

--Spending more time with certain people at functions, during meetings and breaks, and after hours

--Giving better schedules to some employees than others

--Overlooking mistakes or rule-bending for some employees and not others

How does showing favoritism affect culture?

--Career Coach Ryan Kahn of The Hired Group  told Forbes, "By not treating everyone equally, a manager is fostering a sense of resentment and separation that can de-motivate employees and damage team unity. Also, by focusing attention on particular employees, it’s easy to overlook growth opportunities and unique skill sets offered by others."

--When employees don't believe that their work will be recognized and valued, it will cause them to feel resentful and unmotivated to achieve excellence.  At the end of the day, everyone in the organization must be working towards a common goal. Favoritism by a leader is a quick way to derail employees from their mission.

How do we keep from showing favoritism?

--Use meetings as an opportunity to be transparent about why certain employees are chosen for certain responsibilities. Talk openly about decisions and the criteria for selection. 

--Hold all employees accountable to the same standards. Keep track of leave, absenteeism, tardiness, and share these with employees frequently so that everyone knows where he or she stands. 

--See the good in everyone, and don't avoid employees who don't perform or who are not "favorites." As the leader, take the responsibility for reaching out and going more than halfway to make a connection with each employee. 

--To minimize perceived favoritism, create a feedback loop where employees can share situations where they perceive that favoritism is shown.

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