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The Problem with Favoritism

Favoritism. We’ve all heard of it or first-hand experienced it. Maybe, we’re at fault of participating in it too. It exists in the workplace, family, and many other relationship dynamics. However, the real problem isn’t that it happens. Rather, it’s that the person who is actually creating it (let’s call them the “favoritee”) has a lack of self-awareness and is creating a negative emotional environment for others. I recently started watching “The Flight Attendant” and there’s a part of the story that is rooted in favoritism that the main character unknowingly experiences from her father while growing up. The long-term impact that has on her transpires throughout the show.

What I have realized over time is that when someone builds a liking for another person, that adoration trumps all faults and weaknesses that person may have. It’s almost like their sense of reason and fairness turn to the lowest setting or turns off completely. Except, what they don’t realize is the hurt feelings and negativity that arises in others that are clearly noticing the favoritism patterns.

Whether it’s from a boss to a direct report, or a parent to one of their children — the animosity that grows between the coworkers or siblings when noticing these patterns creates long-term damage quick and makes it hard to repair. And yes, not everyone is manager material or a perfect parent. But as “leaders” in those settings it should be something they are willing to correct. And if they aren’t willing, then it’s up to the doted on party (said employee or child) to course correct and address it.

For that “favorite” employee/child, it’s almost an act of self-sacrifice. They would be willing to let go of everything that is beneficial to them, to bring a little bit of happiness and righteousness across the board. Sometimes just plain acknowledgment is the first step and just being open to their emotions and recognizing the validity in it.

If you find yourself as the unfavored party, it may help detaching yourself from the effects of favoritism. Speaking up or retaliating is unhealthy too. If it’s happening in the workplace, it may be best to look for another job or move to another department or team. With family, it may mean either creating some distance mentally or emotionally. You’ll need to almost make yourself immune to such favoritism behaviors. It may seem impossible for you to mend your relationship with the favored person and vice versa for the other side, however it may bring some relief just in plain acknowledgement.

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