The Boss’s Pet – Making the Workplace not so Equal

Does anybody else compare a workplace environment with the storyline of NBC’s “The Office?” No? Just me? Regardless, ever notice how much Michael Scott hated Toby and loved Dwight? Of the two, who got the cool projects? Who was always the brunt of Michael’s criticism and last on the list for any opportunities?

We’ve all been there – an “equal workplace” that really wasn’t so equal. There’s always the one or two co-workers who get the special projects, that get away with a couple extra sick days, and seem to do no wrong; the boss’s pets. These are the one’s who seem to get preferential treatment from the boss over anybody else. Eventually, of course, as they do more advanced tasks and are first in the mind of the boss, these individuals are also first on the list for a promotion.

Barbara Moses notes in her post “Does your boss play favourites? “A recent survey of 300 executives at large U.S. corporations by Georgetown University researchers found that 92 per cent have seen [favouritism] influence promotions.” Startling isn’t it? Even if it is not the case, the fact that workers feel this way is a sign that management is not communicating clearly with their workers.

A boss may choose their “pet” for various different reasons – these may include past or current friendships, reminders of themselves, possible physical attraction, exchange of gifts/money; each as unethical as the previous. A boss may also do this without realizing. Perhaps they have noticed a strong work ethic, a consistent delivery of results, and an overall satisfaction with performance of a handful of employees. Or maybe, as Ellyn Spragins suggests, the boss is “oblivious to its existence.” In a situation that has too many possible factors, it is important to address it without causing the most damage.

An organization’s training program can help managers be more aware of this. It can include the consequences from a legal perspective, a company culture perspective, or a job performance perspective – basically scare the managers away from deliberate favouritism. Now of course, natural tendencies may kick in a managers might play favourites unknowingly. Strategies like transparencies in decisions, creative ways to distribute special projects, and clear criteria in selection strategy will help the manager avoid unknowingly play favourites. A manager also needs to be careful in drawing the line between friends and colleagues. When you spend so many hours per week at work, you likely make some friends. But friends should be friends outside of work.

Nobody ever said being a manager was easy. On top of delivering team results consistently, intangibles like culture, morale, and employee satisfaction play a huge role in success. Employees strive to be Dwight, and hate to be the Toby of your workplace.  A manager can be trained, however, to fairly find the happy middle – the “Jim.”







Moses, B. (2012, May 10). Does your boss play favourites?. Globe and Mail. Retrieved May 10, 2012, from

Spragins, E. (2003). Taming the Boss’s Pet. FSB: Fortune Small Business, 13(9), 30.



2 Responses to The Boss’s Pet – Making the Workplace not so Equal

  1. Well written Amaan. This can be very true in most workplaces. In fact I currently experience this at one of my current jobs although I’m not the victim I’m the “pet”. I don’t do anything extra special or in addition to the work that myself and my co-workers do on a nightly basis I just never seem to get reprimanded for anything that happens throughout the course of a shift.

    Let me explain further. I work in a restaurant as a server/bartender. I have been there for 6+ years. The owner is also the executive chef. I am often asked by customers outside of the restaurant whether he can be a “hardass” and I honestly can’t say a bad thing about him because we’ve always gotten along and have very rarely ever butted heads on matters or situations. The restaurant industry can be a very stressful environment and often requires a high level of accuracy. Not to toot my own horn, but I consider myself very calm and collected under stress and seem to be able to deal with it quite well. As for the accuracy aspect; having been there for so long I guess it just comes with the territory: constant repetition, general knowledge of the menu, products and system.

    Because it is a stressful environment if mistakes are made in the middle of service servers will typically get yelled at often this occurs due to lack of attention or forgetfulness on their part.
    However if I ever make a mistake I will not face the same fate. My coworkers have picked up on this and often bring it up that I can’t do anything wrong. They don’t resent me for it as I have done nothing to promote this favoritism and they understand that. I am lucky that we have a very close knit team and all get along very well.

    The only explanation for this favoritism is that being in school and having a second job my boss knows that I don’t have to be there. I currently only work 2 nights a week (Fridays and Saturdays) which are our busy nights and typically make all the drinks and serve the lounge area. This often isn’t a easy task. My theory is that my boss feels that if he isn’t nice to me I will just up and leave. He understands that I am a valuable asset to him and cannot afford to loose my services. This might cause him to let more slide in my favor in order to avoid loosing me. Those are just my personal thoughts and have never really discussed the matter with him. I would consider us friends as we will often have drinks together after work despite our difference in age. Needless to say I don’t oppose my current situation, but I am aware that my colleagues have acknowledged it as well.

    Because it is a smaller restaurant and he is also the owner I don’t see a organization training program or any management discipline would be viable. So for the mean time I guess things will continue as is.

    Mike Ames

  2. BB says:

    Absolutely correctly written………..could not agree more…….with you Amaan ali

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