Favoritism in the Workplace (TI)

This pages contains a selection of advice from The Ethics Office at Texas Instruments Corporation.

Article Number 295: Playing Favorites

Displays of favoritism, or even its perception, can destroy relationships, initiative and trust. We must always be alert to its presence and suppress it.

We recently received the following message in the Ethic office.

Is it proper for a supervisor to become close friends with his employee? I suspect favoritism. My supervisor appears to be playing favorites. There are a couple of employees that he eats lunch with everyday. These employees seem to get more information about what is going on. I get the feeling that because they have become close with the supervisor, less is required of them.

It is important that each of us has a relationship with our supervisor or manager that is built on trust, candor, and fairness. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Some supervisors have compromised their authority and the respect they could command by allowing favoritism, real or perceived.

It is natural for a supervisor or manager to trust, respect, and depend upon one employee more than another -- a result of experience, common interests, goals or backgrounds, or simply the longevity of their successful relationship. However, each of us, regardless of our position within TI, is expected to work to create an environment where people are valued as individuals and treated with respect and dignity, fairness and equality. That leaves no room for displays of favoritism.

I am reminded of a story that a TIer told me of an experience he had while in military service years earlier. His combat unit worked hard and played harder. And their commander was at every event, every party, every baseball game. Any time his unit socialized, "the old man" was there, but he was always the first one to leave. He did enjoy the camaraderie, but he understood his position of being boss. He knew that he was different, that he was not "one of the boys," even if he had preferred to be. It was to his benefit (and to his unit's) to be close, but not too close. He needed to be approachable and trusted, but he also needed to remain at a distance. After all, he was the one responsible for duty assignments, recognition, promotion, and reward, and for the discipline.

Favoritism is insidious. It creeps into the workplace and shows itself when we least expect it. It destroys relationships and trusts. It feeds on our initiative. It lives in the shadows and is often perceived by some and not others, even when it is not real. We must always be alert to its presence and suppress it.

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Article Number 300: My Boss Doesn't Like Me

Consider the pain of being in a job where you think the boss doesn't like you. What can you do?

One of the saddest calls we receive in the Ethics Office is from that TIer who feels that permanent damage has been done to their relationship with the supervisor or manager. Sometimes it takes the form of a failure to receive an expected or promised promotion or raise. Sometimes it centers around not being treated fairly. Maybe it deals with perceived favoritism. It can take on many forms, but the central message and perception is that the boss just doesn't like the TIer. And the individual feels trapped, not being able to move up or even having someone to talk with about it.

Consider the pressure that this TIer must feel. How could this individual feel valued? How could this TIer feel respect and respected? How could personal and professional goals ever be reached? Enthusiasm and spirit die along with candor and trust.

When this TIer calls on us for help, we try to communicate these recommendations and message

  1. It is our objective to create an environment where people are valued as individuals.
  2. For whatever reason you are now in this situation, you may not perceive that this is the case. But it is important to understand that you are a key to the solution. It is through your actions and involvement that you will improve your conditions.
  3. First of all, determine whether this is reality or just your perception. And the best way to determine this is from a conversation with your boss. If it is at all possible, tell your boss how you are feeling and ask for comments. This can be a challenge to many of us, but many have tried and met with excellent results.
  4. Then try to determine if perhaps you are actually part of the problem. This may be difficult for some of us to admit. Maybe you are contributing to the breakdown in the relationship. Be honest with yourself. Ask your co-workers how they see it. Don't just ask your friends who might be too ready to agree with you, but ask others whom you trust to give you an honest opinion.
  5. Schedule a discussion on these feelings and issues with your HR Administrator at your site Human Resources office. If appropriate, invite your boss.

It is imperative to get these feelings out and deal with them. If you don't, they will tend to fester and grow. Talk with your co-workers, your management, HR or the TI Ethics Office. But remember, you are a key to the solution. Nobody is closer to the situation and has more to win or to lose.


  • Advice from the Texas Instruments Ethics Office These pages contain a selection of advice from The Ethics Office at Texas Instruments Corporation. The advice is that of either TI Ethics Director Carl Skooglund, or Glenn Coleman, Manager of Ethics Communication and Education. The articles are distributed among TI employees via TNEWS. Each of the links on this page takes you to several related TI Ethics Office articles.
Cite this page: "Favoritism in the Workplace (TI)" Online Ethics Center for Engineering 2/16/2006 National Academy of Engineering Accessed: Wednesday, April 01, 2015 <onlineethics.org/Resources/Cases/favoritism.aspx>