Fairness, favoritism and the removal of guilt.
There is a taboo subject floating around the workplace, that of favoritism. I spent a great deal of my career working hard to ensure everyone was, or felt they were, treated the same. However a wise and experienced leader helped me see that in treating everyone the same I was being unfair to the high-performers. When low performers are treated the same as high performers, the high performers lose their drive because there is no payoff for that work.
I consider myself a high-performer and I saw and felt the disparate way in which I was treated compared to those who did the least amount of work. I ended up doing what I suspect every manager does, I followed suit and provided equal treatment for unequal work. Above all else I operated under the standard that everyone was to be treated the same.
I was enrolled in a leadership training program and on the first day of class someone mentioned favoritism and it was then that the instructor pointed out that treating non-performers the same as high-performers is a demotivator. This act alone will cause your team’s performance to go backward and you end up creating fewer high-performers.
I spent a great deal of time trying to reconcile this in my head. A few weeks later I was confronted by several staff members who boldly brought up the subject. That particular team had a person who was constantly away from her area. They point-blank asked why she was allowed to get away with that while others were not especially since she wasn’t meeting her numbers. It was then that I realized I had to push myself out of my comfort zone and address the issue. The first time was exhilarating and each subsequent time made it easier for the next. Now instead of just being harder on those that perform well I am also harder on those that don’t. My team is happier and more engaged as a result. While the performance plan process can sometimes be lengthy it is a process that we regularly visit and use to make the right decisions – without the guilt.
There is a difference in treating everyone fairly and treating everyone the same. Everyone gets my fairness but the high-performers get the rewards and recognition. Favoritism isn’t about treating people unfairly, though I am sure many take it to that dark and evil place. Favoritism is about choosing and rewarding those who continuously go above and beyond in their work and do the right thing for you, the team and the business.
Hopefully after reading this you can begin to let go of the stigma and guilt of favoritism.
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