Today I am going to be controversial! As a business and executive coach, we hear recurring complaints about favouritism and inequality from employees. However, on further investigation, it appears that complaints of favouritism and unequal treatment are often from the under-achievers and under-performers in the business. You heard me!

Let me back-track…

Before I continue being controversial, let me quickly clarify something. I certainly do not endorse favouritism in the true definition of the word. This is especially true when it is rooted in racial, gender or any other discrimination, harassment or retaliation. Nor is favouritism appropriate when employees get preferential treatment due to reasons outside of job performance. Appearance, relationships or blackmail have no place in business.


It appears to me that people misuse the term “favouritism and inequality”. I suspect complainants don’t understand the true definition of the terms. Or perhaps they are looking for an excuse as to why they are being overlooked.

Equality in the workplace can only be about opportunity. Everyone needs to have the same access to resources, training, promotion, incentives, etc. They need access to the same opportunities to grow, learn, earn and advance their careers. But that is where it stops. If all employees get the same increases every year, are paid the same and get the same treatment, regardless of their performance, the business owners are destined to create a team of mediocre workers who do the bare minimum.

With so much emphasis and focus on employees’ rights and employers’ responsibilities, we seem to have lost focus on employers’ rights and employees’ responsibilities. It’s about give and take and it is needs to be quid pro quo… the more you put in, the more you get out.

Sometimes employees go the extra mile and do tasks beyond his or her job description. They might demonstrate a visible interest in the strategy of the business, volunteer new ideas and suggestions or inspire the rest of the team to perform. In this case, is it favouritism or inequality to promote that individual, pay a higher bonus or grant them a few extra days’ leave for their efforts? No!

I truly believe that disgruntled workers use “favouritism” as an excuse. Furthermore, employees expect “equality” output, when their input is by no means equal to their results-driven peers. And while I am being controversial, long service is not a justification for increases or promotion!

With this realisation, how do we eliminate accusations of favouritism and inequality in the workplace?

Company values

People do business with people and it is natural for certain people to connect with some and not others. That is why the company culture and values are so important. When employees share a value system, a work ethic and similar attitudes towards work, issues of favouritism and inequality become irrelevant. Businesses need to hire people with the right attitudes, work ethic and values. Personality profiling and assessments are valuable tools to use in the hiring process.

Key Performance Indicators

It is important to agree to and communicate job descriptions, roles, responsibilities, expectations, targets and objectives. This removes ambiguity about rating performance. Furthermore, these KPIs and documented job descriptions need to be seen as the minimum requirements for the job. Encourage employees to push the envelope and go above and beyond the scope of work. That’s how you identify future leaders.

If incentives, increases, bonuses, perks and promotions can be justified on the basis of performance and contribution to the success of the company, accusations of favouritism and inequality can’t be entertained.

Whether you are an employee or an employer, I hope I’ve given you food for thought. Have a great weekend.

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