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Workplace VIP or Victim? Coming To Grips With Office Favoritism

It’s a common scenario in a lot of offices: for some reason or another, the boss has befriended one person at the office and has decided to provide that individual with preferential treatment – the best projects, promotions and raises. Meanwhile, another person gets the shaft from the boss and generally feels worthless or unappreciated.

In other words, if the workplace VIP makes a mistake it’s OK; if the workplace victim makes the same error then they will be reprimanded and torn to shreds almost immediately.

Despite the hiring manager or the small business owner claiming to operate an egalitarian workforce where everyone is treated fairly and given the same amount of scrutiny or praise, the fact is that there will always be one supervisor, manager, executive or owner who will select one person out of the bunch to be their VIP.

There have been many theories as to why this transpires: are the superiors still immature and treat the office like a playground? Does the boss want to be accepted by the “cool” people of the office like in high school? Perhaps the supervisor shares many things in common with a colleague. Who knows?

One thing is for sure is that it’s toxic to the rest of the office as it can prompt the staff to reduce their productivity levels and maybe even quit the company to seek greater pastures elsewhere.

“Favoritism is absolutely seen in most offices, big or small,” said Ryan Kahn, a career coach and author of "Hired! The Guide for the Recent Grad," in an interview with Forbes. “People enjoy working with friends, which often inadvertently turns into favoritism. It can start as something as simple as being included on a lunch outing where business is discussed and may lead to something much more substantial, like getting salary and promotional benefits. Wanting to work with people you like is fine, as long as it is fair to other employees.”

It’s very rare that the human resources department or the company itself addresses this facet. If that’s the case in your enterprise then here are three tips to follow if you’re the victim of workplace favoritism (tips for workplace VIPs will follow):

Air grievances

If you’re sick and tired of seeing others get promoted or gain special treatment then it’s best that you speak up about it. You should air your grievances with any type of people in management positions, whether it’s a professional in HR, the team of executives or the manager playing the favoritism game. If you don’t address it then perhaps the problem will never be solved.

A model employee

Even if you’re frustrated and disgruntled by the office nepotism, this shouldn’t mean that you should stop doing your job in the most professional and productive manner possible. Instead of slacking off out of irritation, do your job, come in on time, work well with others and be a model employee.


It is difficult to comprehend why certain people in your office are receiving preferable treatment – it could be because they share the same interests outside of work or their family members are friends – but it would be wise to try to understand the special relationship that the boss and subordinate share. It’s possible that there could actually be a rational unknown reason.

Here are three tips to follow if you’re the workplace VIP:

Address the issue

Although it may seem tempting to continue on receiving extra benefits and regular pay raises, it still doesn’t make it right to be the favorite of the office. Rather than maintaining the status quo and being in the ire of your colleagues, speak with your boss and try to find out why you’re receiving the VIP treatment and explain how it should stop.


The next time your boss recommends you for a promotion or to do special projects consider declining the invitation. It’s easy to be complacent and earning that extra money but you don’t want to be unfair to others or be the most hated person at work. You don’t have to go into any further explanation for your decision; just say no.


Remember, you’re not at work to make friends, find your one true love or correct the mistakes of your childhood. You’re at work to earn a living, improve the business and enhance your career. If you’re the life of the office and are the apple of your boss’s eye then tone it down. Be professional, continue to be trustworthy with your boss and colleagues and recommend others to complete certain projects or to receive other perks.

“Never discuss your health, wealth and other personal matters with anyone outside of your immediate family. Be very disciplined in this regard,” stated Robin Sharma, author of The Top 200 Secrets of Success and the Pillars of Self-Mastery,” in an interview with the Deccan Herald.

Workplace favoritism can be poisonous if it persists. Not only does it hurt the long-term success of the business, it also hurts the employees because they have to be on the receiving end of the boss’s dissatisfaction with work. It’s important to realize that it’s the boss that shouldn’t run a business if he wants to make friends. The office should be a meritocracy not a bar to mingle in.

Have you been the victim or VIP of workplace favoritism? Let us know in the comment section.

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