THE BLOG

Dealing With Favoritism in the Work Place

09/06/2010 08:02 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

When the economy is down our jobs are vulnerable. However, our behavior at the workplace can keep us away from the unemployment line. We must show our best side at work and be mindful of the parts of our personalities that our families may find funny, cute or tolerable but our employers may not.

Behaviors we picked up as children (good or bad) are likely to be apparent in the workplace. As children, our relationships with our fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters teach us how to interact with the world. We instinctively pick up certain behaviors from these relationships, and in our relationships with supervisors and coworkers, we respond to them with those very same behaviors that we have learned since childhood.

Growing up as a favorite, overlooked, or unfavorite child has a strong influence on our personalities, and this shows in the workplace.

In an economic slump, every employee becomes vulnerable, even darlings of the company. People who reaped the benefits of favoritism as children are confronted with the troubling reality that they are not immune to life's harsh truths. People who grew up enjoying the safety of being overlooked children learn that being overlooked may lead to a greater likelihood of being laid off. People who grew up as unfavored children may find that their quirky personality traits may no longer be tolerated.

The Favorite
If we grew up as the favorite child, we grew to be confident and fearless in the face of obstacles. We are likely to be rewarded for outstanding achievement and tireless efforts at the workplace. A pat on the back from supervisors is probably important, and knowing the subtleties of how to get rewards from our important parent, we know how to get accolades from our supervisors.

In the workplace, our success may be linked to our skills in building relationships with bosses and mentors. However, to link our job security to a given person may be a risky move in an economy when corporate boards and governance committees are more prone to scrutinize CEOs and senior managers and advocate a company downsize. What's to be done?

  • Remember, all rules apply to you, even if you are your supervisor's protégé.
  • Don't expect special privileges. You're not the only one out there!
  • Don't count on being able to sweet talk your way out of every difficult situation.

The Overlooked
If we grew up as the overlooked child, the one who kept silent while getting things done, we are likely the person in the workplace who gets the job done without much fanfare. We feel secure in our relationship with our supervisors and are not consumed with seeking approval for everything we do. We have learned, as children, to trust that we will be rewarded for our efforts. We may not take on the hardest challenges, but we are reliable, steady and dependable.

In the workplace, we may not be disliked for our quiet and unassuming nature, but on the other hand, because our presence isn't very strong there may not be many people who would defend us in a pinch. In this job market, not having such allies can be dangerous. What is to be done?

  • Don't just have faith that you will be rewarded for your efforts.
  • Be your own spokesperson with supervisors and colleagues.
  • Take credit for what has been achieved from your hard work.
The Unfavored If we grew up as the unfavored child, we may harbor suspicion and bitterness in the workplace, believing that our hard work will go without notice. As kids we learned that no matter how hard we tried we could never gain parental approval. At the workplace, we may be burning the midnight oil, but we don't expect much acknowledgement beyond a paycheck. This may corrupt our drive and breed subtle displays of hostility.

In an economic slump, the number of applicants competing for the same job goes on the rise. Bosses are less likely to tolerate behaviors that bring down company morale or even just irritate coworkers. While it may be hard to change our character, we can make efforts to keep our attitudes in check in the interest of job security. What is to be done?

  • Be aware of how you convey your disgruntled feelings.
  • Take responsibility for your actions and don't place blame on others.
  • Take more initiative and push yourself to work a little harder than usual.

As adults, changing our behaviors is difficult, particularly those that have been ingrained in us since childhood. However, as we become more aware of who we are and how we behave, we gain self control and our actions become more deliberate. This may be the key that insures we stay hired instead of getting fired.