Help Me Fix My Boss – My Manager Plays Favorites

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You’re familiar with the story. You see your boss and a co-worker continually hanging out in his office, in conference rooms, and maybe frequently lunching together. Your boss excludes you from secret meetings and brainstorming sessions. Your attempts to join their inner social circle fails. It seems like the high-profile, skill stretching assignments always seem to go to a particular co-worker. And, instead of being celebrated, you are tolerated.

Yep, your boss has a favorite, and it isn’t you. While it is natural to have preferences, at work, it can become toxic when preferential treatment comes from the boss.

According to a recent survey of more than 800 employees conducted by, says a boss playing favorites as the most sinful of bad boss behavior. How can you thrive under a boss who plays favorites, when you aren’t a favorite?


These tips can help you navigate the super sticky situation of having a manager who plays favorites, which will help you keep your career moving forward.

Get a Reality Check to Validate Your Boss Plays Favorites

Favoritism is frustrating, but before you convince yourself you have a boss that plays favorites, get honest with yourself. As a result of being more experienced or highly skilled, some colleagues will be given more facetime with the boss. And this is a harsh reality of business.

The three areas to conduct a reality check on are: your performance, your relationships, and your technical skills. Talk to someone outside of the situation to gather their honest and confidential feedback.


Take Control

Keep in mind that being the boss’s favorite will only get someone so far. Eventually, they will have to stand on their work. Being friended by the boss isn’t required for you to excel.

Take control by making sure your boss knows you are completing your tasks, being accountable, and serving your team to the best of your ability. To do this, regularly report on your accomplishments. Stop approaching your boss with nothing but problems. People are most successful when they make their boss look good. As a result, showcase your successes and how they are helping your boss realize their vision.

Double Down on Performance

You can’t control if your boss plays favorites. Focusing on it will undoubtedly lead to your failure and leave you feeling defeated. Instead, put that energy into producing the best work possible.


Put your all into your work. Become a first in, last out kind of person. Over-deliver and be loud about it. Try to figure out what makes the boss’s favorite a favorite and learn from them.

Improve Yourself

Clarify expectations, deliver on those expectations, and solicit feedback. Find outside sources to strengthen your technical skills. The worst thing you can do is to withdraw and become stagnate.

Bad boss behaviors eventually will be noticed by others. Spending this difficult time improving yourself will cause others to see you for the asset you are.


Self-Promote to Overcome a Boss Who Plays Favorites

You play a unique role on the team. As a result, become your most prominent advocate.

Schedule skip-level meetings to get more face time with other leaders. Maintain a high standard for thoroughness and timely completion of tasks. Participate in meetings by answering tough questions, proposing new ideas, and highlighting how recent changes are improving things. Strategic self-promoting can help you overcome a boss who plays favorites.

Manage/Coach Up

When all else fails, coaching up a boss who plays favorites may be your only option. Managing up requires a working relationship because managing up requires telling them like it is. Let them know you feel excluded and provide specific examples. Ask what more you can do to position yourself for special projects.


Asking for advice will demonstrate you acknowledge their expertise and lets them know you are on the same team. Make it known that you want opportunities to stretch your skillset and expand your responsibilities.

Build a Relationship with A Boss Who Plays Favorites

To build a relationship with your boss, continue to deliver excellent high-quality work. Leverage your successes to build rapport. Remain confident in your abilities.

Play on any shared mutual outside interests such as movies, books, sports, etc.


Know When to Quit

If, despite your best efforts to shine in their eyes, they are still dismissive to your goals and uninterested in helping you move forward, update your resume. Find a manager who will celebrate you rather than tolerate you.

Staying with a manager who plays favorites, when you aren’t one, will leave you feeling bored and unchallenged, unwanted and unwelcomed. Doing so will stall your career and rob you of your self-confidence. You can find a manager who has your interests in mind. While every manager will have favorites, the best leaders show all of her team are her favorites.


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Jason Cortel is currently the Director of Global Workforce Management for a leading technology company. He has been in customer service, marketing, and sales services for over 20 years. In addition, he has extensive experience in offshore and nearshore outsourcing. Jason is an avid Star Trek fan and is on a mission to change the universe by helping people develop professionally. He is driven to help managers and leaders lead their teams better. Jason is also a veteran in creating talent and office cultures.

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