Businessman whispering in businesswoman's ear at officeAnne tells me that there are no private offices in her department at the bank. Everyone sits in an open area. The organization of the workspace, however, is indicative of certain dynamics. For instance, her boss sits next to a young woman and most of the day they are engaged in deep conversation. It is obvious to all the members of the team that they are sharing stories, laughing to the exclusion of everyone else. This woman is in “favor” with the boss. Anne doesn’t understand why she has this status, but the reality is clear. Her status gives her influence. She has the ear of management.

When I first started coaching Anne, she was obsessed with how unfair this was. After all, she was doing great work, but couldn’t get her boss’s attention. In this case, I coached Anne to change her focus from that relationship to the one she had with her boss. And I urged her to continue to build and nurture a relationship with him. Anne’s efforts to better understand what motivates her boss have helped her strengthen that bond. She is gaining more knowledge of what’s important to him and how to add value. As a result, her relationship with him has vastly improved despite his favoritism because he now sees how Anne can help the business and his career advancement.

People fall in and out of favor every day and it’s often beyond your control. What you can control is the quality of your own relationships. Take the time to understand what your boss wants and needs to be successful and let him/her know that you want to help them reach their business goals. Over time, the trust will grow and so will mutual respect.

Make sure that you build a wide network across the organization to give you visibility and credibility beyond your team and your immediate boss. The more people who understand how you add value to the business, the more influence you have.

When there are obvious allegiances and favoritism in the organization, it may be an indication of deeper more involved connections, but expanding your network and building your own allies helps protect you.