What to do when your boss plays favourites

Source: BBC

By Elizabeth Garone

Karl Moore remembers the moment he fell out of favour with his boss.

He was working as a manager at IBM in Toronto when a new person joined his department. Up until then Moore had been part of his boss’s “favoured inside circle” — but suddenly everything changed. The transferred employee became his boss’s new right-hand person, the outcome of brutal office politics.

“Good news for the team but I was soon put on the bench,” said Moore, now a professor at McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management in Montreal, Canada. It certainly wasn’t a fun experience — and it definitely made his job harder, he said.

If your boss plays favourites — but you’re not one of them — is there anything you can do about it? And should you even care if you’re never flavour of the month? After all, nobody likes a sycophant.

After about a year, once again the sun shone upon me.

Moore eventually made it back to being one of the favoured few. But it took some time waiting for “the new person’s halo to diminish a bit”. More importantly, Moore was able to change the tide after he delivered on a couple of key agenda items for his boss that were central to his success. “After about a year, once again the sun shone upon me,” he said.

Falling out of favour for no good reason is a difficult turn to take. But, it doesn’t have to be permanent. Here’s what you can do.

(Credit: Thinkstock)

Office politics can lead one person to get most-favoured status. (Credit: Thinkstock)

Deliver

Think about exactly what your boss needs to succeed and look good to his bosses. Find a way to help make it happen.

“One of the things that makes virtually all bosses smile on us is if we help them deliver on one of the top items on their agenda for the year,” said Moore. “If you can better understand your boss’s top three agenda items and help them achieve one of those, they will tend to nudge you toward the favourites category.”

Sometimes it can be as simple as asking about priorities and then helping to make sure that at least one of them comes to fruition, said Moore.

Boss as customer

For Andrew Wittman, a former marine, police officer, and federal agent, the solution is to change your perspective.

 It’s important not to start feeling bad about yourself.

“No matter where you work or for whom, when you approach work from the perspective that says, ‘My boss is not my boss; he or she is my customer or client’, everything changes,” said Wittman, managing partner of South Carolina-based leadership consultancy Mental Toughness Training Center. “You’ll instantly have all the power and control. You are merely leasing your services to the company. They are your client and you give them great customer service.”

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