HR
April 2, 2014

The fallout of favouritism

Quote of the week

“…favoritism is contrary to the ideals of the Federal merit systems.”

— U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board report

Editor’s Corner

The merit principle is, of course, a critical component of public service organizations across Canada. A report from the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board discusses the phenomenon of favouritism, noting that the perception of it is almost as serious as the offence itself.

The report says that personal favouritism occurs when “a supervisor or selecting official grants an advantage to one employee or applicant but not another similarly situated employee or applicant based on friendship or other affinity rather than a legitimate merit-based reason.”

The report found that 25% of employees believed their boss practised favouritism. The boss could do so through social interactions (27% believed that happened), desirable work assignments (26%), and performance appraisals (21%), to name three areas.

The report notes that these numbers could reflect intentional favouritism, unintentional favouritism or employee misperception. Regardless, the results are a dispirited and unproductive workplace.

The authors suggest that leaders strongly and openly support the principles of merit and hire managers who can “manage employees fairly and effectively.” They should be held accountable for their actions in this area.

Managers themselves are encouraged to focus on competencies, provide ongoing feedback to all employees, be open and transparent in order to avoid the perception of favouritism, and, in sum, treat “all employees with respect.”

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