My Boss Plays Favorites

February 10, 2020

My Boss Plays Favorites

What it is

As I mentioned in other posts, your boss creating an in-group is not unusual and even to be expected. Except when he plays favorites. He:

  • Gives plum assignments only to them
  • Re-assigns a project if a favorite wants it
  • Gossips, you suspect, with the favorites about other employees
  • Allows the favorites leeway no one else is given, like getting in late, slacking off, ‘business’ trips.

What it looks like when he plays favorites

You: Tony, Hiro [Tony’s favorite] asked me about my surgery. I told you that in confidence.
Tony (boss): I’m sure he was just being sympathetic—it’s a big deal.
You: That’s not the point—I told you that in confidence.
Tony: I had to. He’s taking over when you’re off.
You: Hiro! But he doesn’t have the background—he’s never done high level strategy.
Tony: Good chance to learn.
You: But so many files are at crucial points. Wouldn’t Rebecca be better—
Tony: You just need to make sure you brief Hiro well.

If you are hoping that Tony will slap his forehead and say, “Oh, my god, I have been playing favorites,” you’re going to wait a long time.

What to do

One option is to try to get into his in-group. I’ve discussed how in other posts. But as I have also discussed, sometimes you don’t want to be associated with this type of in-group. Then, the objective is to minimize the damage Tony can do to your work and career.

In this particular case, you want to up the chances you have the same job after your surgery, given Tony plan to put Hiro in your place.

An example

You want to look as if you are good with the plan while trying to maintain your position.

Hiro: Tony said you’d brief me on your files. Be friendly.
You: Sure, I’ve put them together. I’ll walk you through. You can inundate him with data.
Hiro: Wow, there’s a lot.
You: Well, yeah, some issues are quite complex. But you won’t have any problem. Make sure Hiro doesn’t think you are resisting.
Hiro: But, there are a lot of files for each project.
You: Yeah, I thought you’d want all the background.
Hiro: Do I have to read them all?
You: Honestly, it won’t take you that long. You’ll be up to speed in no time. Honestly, you know that’s not true.
Hiro: Can I call you if I get stuck? Don’t say no.
You: Hmmm—not sure. Depends how the surgery goes. You can leave a message and I’ll try to get back to you but I just don’t know when I’ll be up to it. You can only get back to him in a week. But be as helpful as you can when you return the call.

With luck, Hiro can’t find what’s needed in the files and he isn’t able to give Tony the right answers. When you return, Tony hopefully will quietly reassign Hiro so that you are back in your position.

Okay, this is not in the spirit of teamwork—but then, it’s not a team. But you might try to protect yourself as best you can. Nasty. Might consider looking for another job.

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