Favouritism is holding back career development

Workplace favouritism is holding back career development, with just 53 per cent of UK employees believing that everyone in their organisation is given a fair opportunity to develop and grow, not just the favourites. These are the findings of O.C. Tanner’s 2021 Global Culture Report which surveyed 40,000 employees and leaders across the world including over 1,600 from the UK.

The research also reveals that almost half of UK employees feel that favouritism impacts their organisation’s recognition and reward programmes, with 45 per cent stating that their company consistently rewards high performers.

“It’s all too easy for managerial favouritism to creep into everyday working life, with those identified as ‘high fliers’ being given preferential treatment” says Robert Ordever, Managing Director of workplace culture expert, O.C. Tanner Europe. “The issue is that favouritism is rarely acknowledged and is often brushed under the carpet if broached. It occurs discretely and often with no intention of causing harm, but can do a great deal of damage to employee engagement and development.”

O.C. Tanner recommends that businesses implement fair and transparent processes; managers are trained on how to spot and avoid favouritism; opportunities for growth and development are inclusive; and staff recognition is built into the company‘s everyday culture. A recognition-led workplace culture in which appreciation takes place daily, and both managers and peers can recognise and reward employees, helps to avoid a culture of ‘favourites’.

Currently, only 38 per cent of organisations incorporate recognition into everyday culture and less than half of UK employees (47 per cent) admit that their efforts or accomplishments were recognised within the past month.

Ordever adds, “At its worst, favouritism can lead to toxic relationships, a culture of resentment and barriers to career progression. Leaders must therefore acknowledge that favouritism may be an issue and start conversations with managers on how to avoid it. And by prioritising inclusivity, this ensures that everyone is given the same opportunities, not just those who flatter the managers and talk the loudest!”