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Most of us spend a lot of our waking hours at work..

so it’s only natural that we’ll gravitate towards the colleagues that we like and can rely upon to produce quality results. But when leaders play favourites – or appear to be doing so – the consequences for their team can be severe and far-reaching.

The Dominic Cummings debacle feels like a long time ago now, but the impact that the scandal had on the credibility of Boris Johnson’s leadership is still discussed to this day.

As a manager, demonstrating a preference for some employees over others is likely to result in feelings of exclusion among your staff members. This is not just a social issue; managers have the authority to influence their team’s quality of life at work and the direction of their professional growth.

Although it may make sense to you to always pick the high performers for important projects, giving the appearance of favouritism has lots of potential downsides for your business. Most obviously, if people feel that they are not being given the opportunity to grow, morale and engagement is likely to be negatively affected.

Even if you’re lucky enough to have a few rock stars among your reports, it’s important to remember that relying on a few key team members all the time poses an inherent risk to your organisation. If they leave the company, you’ll be left with a team composed of lower performers who feel that they are second-best in your eyes. Instead of placing some employees on a pedestal above their peers, it makes far more sense to raise everyone to the same high level.

This is where a combination of good communication and forward-thinking comes into play. If you need to push one employee forward frequently – because they have the right skills, experience or attributes to excel in the role – be transparent about that with their peers, so that everyone understands this is a business decision, not one based on personal opinion.

But at the same time, take a look at how you can help others to develop those skills too; perhaps some relevant training, mentoring or work shadowing could aid other team members to start raising their game.

At the end of the day, any good manager wants a team that is solid all-round, with lots of highly skilled, motivated and reliable staff. So, if you suspect you may have favourites, try to open your eyes to the potential of all your employees and you might just be surprised at what you find.

Looking to develop your leadership potential?

Leadership & management is about more than just decision-making. The best business leaders arm themselves with the information they need to make good decisions. Whether it’s meetings, interviews or team dynamics, there’s always something to learn, and somewhere to improve.

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Mark Fryer

1st September 2020