Ask the Experts: What Should I Do If My Boss Plays Favorites?

February 7, 2018

Advice from our leadership experts on what you should do if your boss plays favorites.

Again this month, we asked our readers the biggest work challenges they're currently facing. And we got back a truckload of responses.

Here are three of the most difficult challenges mentioned (edited slightly for length and grammar), followed by our advice on how to overcome them:

1. What should I do if my boss plays favorites?

Be the favorite. A lot of times when people complain about favoritism it means the boss is showing preference to who they perceive to be a top performer. Look at the criteria and try to determine why someone is a favorite.

If you’re in a more qualitative field, unlike sales, the criteria can be a little fuzzier, like being collaborative or always being on time. The more you can identify out what it takes to be the favorite, the easier it will be to become one. Favoritism is not a positive work environment, but the only behavior you can control is your own.

Look at what the criteria is and remember, the favorite isn’t always the person that gets promoted.

2. My company doesn’t invest anything in my personal development. What should I do?

Don’t wait. Take charge of your own development. The people who get promoted and do well are those who prioritize their own development

That said, if there is something you want to do, ask. Spell out the value case of why a certain book or seminar will make you more effective in your role and add value to the company. Investing in learning can be your competitive advantage. 

3. Everyone wants everything ASAP. How do you tell someone they have to wait?

Tell them they have to wait. So many miscommunications can be traced back to a lack of clear expectations. Avoiding conflict leads to greater conflict down the line.

Be clear about what you are capable of delivering and be clear about the time frame. We had a client who use to write “first thing” on orders. To some people that means 7 a.m. and to some people it meant before noon. The more clear you can be on timelines and delivery, the greater likelihood expectations will be met.

Do you have a question for Lisa and Elizabeth on a work challenge you are facing? Email it to them at

Or, if you are looking for help right now, check out one of Lisa and Elizabeth's LinkedIn Learning courses: