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As a manager, you are responsible for maintaining work relationships with a wide array of personality types and you might find yourself playing favorites at work. It is only natural that you might have more in common with, or feel personally drawn to, some of your employees more than others. On top of that, some of your employees will simply perform better on the job, making them a more valuable asset to the team. There is some debate over how these inequalities should be handled in the work place, and it might be time for you to put some serious thought into how you approach your own similar situation.

Are you playing favorites at work? Here are some things to consider:

Fair but not equal. It is quite unlikely that every employee on your team will be as productive or successful as the next. Simply put, some of your employees are bound to be star players. It may be that they consistently break sales records, come in early and stay late, or brainstorm the most effective marketing campaigns. Whatever the case may be, it is unavoidable that these types of inequalities will exist in the workplace. Your goal is to treat your employees with fairness, relative to these inequalities. For example, the employee who volunteers to stay late every time a task requires unforeseen work is naturally the employee who will be given first choice for day off requests.

The benefits of playing favorites at work. When you show preferential treatment on the grounds of merit, you may actually be doing a positive thing for your employees. A recent study by the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business found that employees who feel that they receive preferential treatment by their bosses have a higher degree of work-related self esteem and are more willing to volunteer for tasks that will benefit the entire work team; therefore, the entire team does better because of the preferential treatment showed to one person.

Exhibiting prudence. Although it is clear that preferential treatment can be of benefit in the workplace, it is impossible to identify exactly how much should be given, and in what ways. One thing the previously mentioned study did show was that playing favorites at work functioned best in environments where all of the employees–favorites or not–were treated well, and with respect. Therefore, it seems the most important thing is that all your employees feel valued, and that you go above and beyond for those who go above and beyond, themselves.

As a manager, you shoulder a huge responsibility not only to your company, but to your individual employees. Playing favorites at work is a natural and understandable occurrence. Just make sure you understand why you are doing it, and how it may affect your team, so that you may use preferential treatment appropriately.

About the Author: August Baraw is a HR manager at Smart Recruiters, in charge of the company’s recruiting system. He’s also in charge of working with managers as they deal with employee disputes.