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Careers - Workplace favouritism and what to do about it

Published:Sunday | November 21, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Glenford Smith

Glenford Smith, Career Writer

One of the things I get asked most frequently by readers of the 'Careers' section is how to deal with being treated unfairly. Readers have asked what they can do not to let resentment and bitterness adversely affect their productivity or destroy important relationships at work.

Out of fear of being identified, most have asked that their letters not be published, a request which, by the way, is always honoured. I have personally responded to many readers, but have not been able to address all. I realise, however, that the problem of workplace injustice is a widespread one that many people are facing, and which they are uncertain about how to deal with.

Consequently, this column is to help you if you are silently seething with anger and aggrievement at some wrong done to you by a manager, supervisor or director who you secretly wish would just drop dead.

First of all, realise that life isn't fair. This can be hard to accept but resistance of this basic fact of life is a source of much unhappiness, anxiety and torment. Accept that bad things happen to good people all the time - including you.

This is not to condone any wrong to you, please, understand.

Many times it is blatantly clear that favouritism is at work when someone less qualified and capable than you for a position is promoted. It may really be unjust for you to be the only one punished for something that you either didn't do, or wasn't the only one guilty of.

It really may be wrong for you to get suspended for something that wasn't your responsibility. However, in a corporate environment, these things will happen, even though they are unfair.

While you cannot prevent injustice from taking place as long as you are working for someone else, it is totally up to you how you respond. This is one of the most important lessons to learn in life, yet one that people resist the most.

Changing the situation

Many people argue strenuously that it is nonsense to tell them about taking charge of their response.

Rather, they keep insisting that "he shouldn't have done or said that", "they shouldn't treat me like this", "they need to change".

This thinking isn't helping you or changing the situation. You can't control what other people do or say, but it's up to what you do.

Report the matter to your human-resource manager or the company board, explaining your side in a letter. Try to resolve the disagreement with the person who has treated you wrongly, if possible. Don't forget, you can always leave.

Whatever you do, though, refuse to complain, badmouth or criticise your superiors and co-workers behind their backs. Your confidant may betray your trust.

Don't write slanderous and angry emails. They will come back to haunt you, I promise. Do everything to perform at your best and, if it is impossible, to build a warm relationship, at least be cordial and professional.

Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and personal-achievement strategist. E-mail: