Favoritism at work: ethics in the workplace

favoritism at work We all have been a victim to favoritism at work.

Sometimes we are not aware when work favoritism happens to us.

Most times we are not aware.  Sometimes people do not care.

There is a famous phrase that permeates throughout the workplace and in our everyday lives.   The phrase is “It is not what you know, but who you know.”

People should base your ability to do the job on your qualifications.

We were taught to get educated, volunteer, give to charities.

Does building up your resume mean anything anymore?

What happened to promotion by merit?

As a young man I refused to believe favoritism at work happens.   I did not know I was naive. I think most people would say I was dumb to expect more.

Maybe I was, but I refuse to give up on humanity.

I quickly learned that favoritism is rampant in some work environments and easily disguised.

Words related to favoritism.

Cronyism and Nepotism are more specialized terms.

While cronyism and nepotism are closely related to favoritism.



cronyism=refers to showing favoritism to friends or acquaintances.

I know you have heard of  the phrase Good Ol’ Boys.  The term cronyism  derives from this behavior.  It has gone on for centuries.

A good example of this behavior is when politicians return favors to those who helped them get elected.  The politician offers a position to one of his friends or he relaxes laws to help his colleagues.

Politicians have been getting away with this tactic for years.

Do you think cronyism is ethical?

Would you continue to support a politician if they were found guilty of cronyism?

Do you believe cronyism is the way things get done in Washington D.C.?



nepotism=refers to the favor shown  to relatives.  The term comes from the Latin word nepos meaning nephew.

It may not be fair but employers are smart enough not to show they hired a person because of nepotism.

On the other hand, I would report favoritism at work if it was obvious.   I would hate to work for the boss’s son or close relative.  I could never really trust him.

Most of the time it will be you who gets reassigned to another job if a problem arises.

Have you ever worked for a boss’s son?

If a relative were hired instead of you, would you make noise or continue to be a loyal employee?

Can you name another environment where favoritism happens?

How can we fight favoritism at work?

Do you believe there are good reasons for showing favoritism?

If you were the benefactor of favoritism at work, how would you feel ethically?

The bottom-line is that no matter what level of  favoritismif it’s based on race, gender, religion it is illegal.  The EEOC has laws protecting us against workplace favoritism.

If you feel you are a victim of workplace favoritism, you should file a grievance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The E.E.O.C. is responsible for all discrimination in the workplace.  Make sure you check with your job to see if you have a local representative.

The representative can help walk you through the grievance process or help you resolve the problem.

Keep in mind that nobody can stop you from filing a grievance with the EEOC.  If you are discouraged from filing, then you may have another lawsuit.

If you are uncomfortable speaking to a co-worker you can contact an EEOC counselor.

Your employer has violated your rights if they retaliate against you for filing.

Do we expect  favoritism at work?

I hope this article helps someone and informs you that you have rights even at work.


  1. Hi Michael, I am late replying on this, but the topic is really of my interest and I could resist writing,
    Firstly disclaimer: This is my personal opinion.
    Favoritism is good so long as the person who replaces the other can really be a value addition in achieving the organisation’s objective. If he or she cannot, then he is more of a liability and can really lower the motivation level of the co-workers. It can really kick-start politics in the organisation. Management should be very careful in doing that.
    The very great example recently in US was Ex-CEO of Citibank “Vikram Pandit” who was a clear victim of cronyism.

    • Sapna, in that case it would be really hard to prove favoritism. You can like someone else, but if the other person has more experience then I am not sure you can get mad.

      I know about Citibank but I did not hear about Mr. Pandit, what happen to him? Cronyism is the worst kind of favoritism because you only have to be in a group.

  2. You really have good points when it comes to working ethics. This only shows how unfair some working environment can be. Before when I am still studying favoritism can be really seen a lot especially to those who are so called teacher’s pet and it irritates the heck out of me because I am still seeing it now that I am working. I feel frustrated sometimes because some are being hired and promoted just because they are related to the boss and not because of their performance.

    • Thanks first of all Genevieve, those are kind words. Favoritism exist in all environments. It occurs a lot a work, but I saw it in school as well. This is a topic many people can identify with and the issue will not go away. As long as we have people this will always be a problem. The more real problems are nepotism and cronyism.

      • Yes, I do agree that this issue is never ending. This is the first time I encountered the word Cronyism by the way. I guess it really is hard to work for someone who would always and forever consider his friends or peers or someone they feel indebted to compared to other employees. I think it is part of American culture or even other cultures that they feel they are obliged to take care and give special treatments to their love ones always even though it is being unfair to others.

        • Thanks Genevieve, your words mean a lot, you are the type of reader that I like to learn from the EEOC website to inform my readers about issues that effect them. I hope I can continue to be informative to my readers. Cronyism is more famous in the political arena, when elected officials got elected they paid off their debts by appointing their “cronies” to positions.

  3. Most of the time we can not prove it, so we suspect it but it is not worth making accusations. Favoritism is a broad word for Cronyism and Nepotism, these are tow more realistic forms at work. The article describes those two terms.

  4. Favouritism is one thing that bugs me the most. Combine that with nepotism, then you have a lethal combination. Unfortunately this happens all the time and is every where.

    • Shalu favoritism has been going on for years, In politics it is almost excepted. In America Cronyism is used as a buddy term. Many people refer to your inner circle as cronies.

  5. Hi,
    Thanks for sharing this wonderful article. It helped me gain a lot of info.

  6. What makes me even madder are people who do this and act as though it’s “how the game is played.” Favoritism is for kindergarten, not a legitimate workplace.

    • You are sure right, they tell you to get educated and then you passed up because of who you did not know. At work we called them cronies.

  7. Favoritism at work, at home or at school is truly unfair. As a father, I see to it that it is not being practiced at home.


  8. Unfortunately, favouritism does exist. But those practising it do not realise that its so morally wrong. They always have some excuse up their sleeve and ways to justify it. Most of us suffer this at some time or the other.

    • Those that practicing favoritism do not care about our feelings on this issue because we usually can not prove it. I really hate the version of nepotism because is more likely going to happen. Many people do not report to the EEOC because it is really hard to prove. Thanks for commenting

  9. In the beginning, I was being told that she was using me. My reply was how is she using me for work related stuff that we all need to know. (she just chose to come to me and I had to update everyone else). As I told them, you can’t control ignorance and you can’t teach stupid :). It was a terrible, immature way to manage.

  10. Do you feel like telling them to stop or you think nobody is getting hurt? Do you think that is a good way to manage?

  11. These stuffs has been going on for years and its quite tough to control this.

  12. This is a sad truth of the way we work and the way we function also. I mean, we are ready to overlook justice once we know who is involved and that makes the reasoning and logical person within us quiet somehow. We need to be a little objective when things has serious consequences. We need to understand things from the point of the view of the person who is being wronged.

    • Yes Hajra, it is a guilty first society. We have found a lot of people innocent because of this system. I hate it when people do this at work. Thanks for commenting.