Anna was frustrated and discouraged that her boss had a clear favorite in the department and it wasn’t her. It seemed not only unfair, but unjustified to Anna. There are no private offices in the financial services firm where Anna works and the entire team shares an open space with their boss. He sits next to his “favorite” and laughs and carries on private conversations during the day. There is no question that this person is in favor despite the fact she is not the top performer on the team.
We know that favoritism is part of human nature. We want to work with those individuals that we like and with whom we feel comfortable. We choose certain friends based on commonality and chemistry and this plays out in the workplace every day. Senior executives are not immune to this behavior.
Apparently, favoritism is also a reality in the C-suite. A survey on this topic by Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business polled senior executives at large U.S. corporations found that 92% have recognized favoritism at play in employee promotions. 84% have seen it at their companies and 23% said they have practiced favoritism themselves. What’s particularly troubling is that 56% said that when considering candidates for promotion, they knew before any deliberations who they wanted to promote and 96% said they promoted the pre-selected individual. 29% said that they only considered one candidate in their most recent promotion.
So how do you overcome the reality that your boss has a favorite and it’s not you?
In above mentioned situation, Anna contacted me because she realized that her frustration was affecting her performance. I coached her that her best approach was to improve her own relationship with her boss, build a supportive network, as well as maintain her excellent performance.
Here are 5 things to do when you’re not the boss’s favorite.
Understand your value proposition and how your work contributes to positive business outcomes. It’s important for you to know how you add value to the organization and how you can potentially help your boss succeed. This helps you build influence and credibility not only with your boss but with the entire organization.
Figure out how you can help your boss succeed. What’s important to them? What are their goals? Do they currently have initiatives that need support? How are they incentivized? What are their business objectives? If you don’t already have this information, do your homework and ask. Offering to help based on the value you add is a powerful way to strengthen a relationship and supersedes a “favorite” relationship that’s not based on performance. You can vastly improve your relationship this way.
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