Employees are not your children – you will have favorites. Whether it’s because of personality, similar interests or work ethic, you will connect with some employees better than others. Because of this you may find yourself talking with one employee more than another, or speaking differently to them. Your team will see this and any promotion or favoritism will always be suspect.
Also, those employees that you don’t bond with as well still need your interaction, possibly more so. Actively reach out to them. Ask them questions about hobbies, interest, latest movies, etc. Wait for the answer and be interested. I thought about saying, “act interested”, but unless you are Tom Hanks, they will see it as just that – acting. So be interested.
If you notice a team member that is not actively engaging in the discussion or the team activity, reach out and draw them in. If there is a discussion on a new policy or procedure, ask the silent or disengaged employees, “what do you think?” This will force them to engage, but will also show them that you value their opinion and not just that of the usual, vocal team members.
Regardless of personality or level of friendliness with an employee, always treat everyone the same. Don’t show favoritism to one employee by always approving their time off, while denying others. Don’t always give the “big projects” to the same person or people over and over. Give it to someone new, so they can be tested and have the opportunity to shine.
The biggest pitfall of favoritism comes in the form of giving more work to your top performers. This isn’t fair for anyone, especially to your “favorite” employee. If they are successful, the reward shouldn’t be increased workload. Allow them to take on the project, but delegate their smaller tasks to others. If an employee was unsuccessful in their last project, this doesn’t mean you should never give them another project again. This will eventually limit your pool of potential project owners. Instead, give them a project, but actively engage in supporting them in the project.
Also be fair in your vacation schedules. If 2 people ask for the same time off, don’t always give it to the same person. You may be tempted to deny time off from your “favorite” employee because you rely too heavily on them to keep the team running smoothly. This is a clear sign that you have imbalance in your team and should be addressed.
Not only should you support time off requests, you should actively promote a work-life balance. Encourage team members who haven’t taken time off in a while to take a vacation. You can also encourage work-life balance by stepping away from the cubicle and participating in a fun activity or even team walks.