Sunday, October 31, 2010

Favoritism in the workplace

Sue has been assigned to two jobs as part of a recent downsizing initiative implemented by my company. In the mornings she assists the administrative team, while afternoons are spent performing her old job in the sales department. Sue has become obsessed with Amy, another member of the administrative staff. Amy is a single mom rumored to be dating her boss. In Sue’s eyes, Amy receives favoritism: she comes and goes as she pleases without repercussion, has a more favorable work schedule, is allowed to run errands with the company vehicle, takes too many smoking breaks, refuses to assist with the phones and so on.

Amy is an average worker who is unable to multitask, but is organized. Her inability to multitask along with her organizational rules leads others to believe she is inflexible and many have labeled her a Prima Donna. Her work is highly regarded by her immediate supervisor (duh! he’s dating her)* and our VP of Operations. She does complete the small amount of work she is assigned at a high level. The VP of Operations has made it clear he doesn’t see a problem with favoritism and considers Sue to be a petty complainer with a chip on her shoulder.

Sue made the mistake of becoming so upset with Amy’s perceived favoritism she now performs her own job at a lower level and is rude towards anyone in the Amy camp. She was even rude with me. When I asked her what was wrong (thinking she had a problem with her work load) she complained Amy and her boss were on another smoke break.

The answer to Sue’s problem can be found in Marie G. McIntyre’s Your Office Coach column "Workload Inequity isn't co-worker's fault" in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.**  If I apply Marie’s answer to Sue’s problem it would read:

Instead of continuing to complain about Amy, talk to your manager the VP of Sales about correcting the work imbalance. You perform two jobs while Amy is performing half a job. If you do manage to get the work reallocated, then Amy will be busy and your problem will be solved. But if this proves to be impossible, try to remember that Amy’s relaxed working conditions have been created by her managers. As long as they are pleased with her performance she is doing nothing wrong. Continuing to dwell on this inequity will only make you increasingly unhappy and will affect your own job performance.

*Amy's supervisor denies he is dating Amy.

** I can't locate the actual column on the web.


  1. Sue also needs to work on her attitude, and her inflexibility. Co-workers will put up with a lot from someone who is friendly and in a good mood most of the time, but someone who is snappy and demanding wears on the soul! And, it's easy to get so wrapped up in one's own work that one is not treating others well.

    Sue needs to decide that she will do her job (rebalanced work load or not) the best she can while still treating her co-workers better. She won't have much support if she is short with folks, and if she is letting her animus harm her work, she loses credibility.

    It's still not a pretty picture, but there are things that Sue can do to improve the overall situation - but s lot of them start with changing her attitude.

  2. Webb,
    Do you work at my company? Your assessment of Sue is 100% right on. Too bad I write this blog anonymously Sue needs to read your comments. Thanks for the input.