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How to Avoid Playing Favorites as a Manager

April 9th, 2020

Most managers have “favorites” – team members they get along with well, understand better, or are secretly rooting for.

As a human being, it’s natural to have preferences among other humans, especially when you work with them. As a manager, however, it’s important to avoid indulging your favorites while heaping thankless tasks onto their hapless colleagues.

Here’s how to ensure you’re treating your team fairly and leveraging everyone’s skills and talents:

1. Think “equitable,” not “equal.”

“Equal” treatment of your team focuses on giving everyone the same time, attention, or resources. “Equitable” treatment of your team focuses on giving each individual the time, attention, or resources they need for everyone to reach similar results.

When you focus on equity rather than equality, your treatment of individuals may change. But you’ll be able to point to concrete results in order to justify the differences. You’ll also challenge yourself to see every team member where they actually are and to allocate your own time, energy and resources to getting each one to the same point.

2. Focus on skills, not quirks.

When deciding which team member to promote, or who should receive a plum job assignment, it’s tempting to ask “Who would I want to work for?” or “Who do I want working with me on this task?”

Fight the temptation to make these questions the basis of your decision. While they indulge your preferences, they don’t address the needs of the team or task itself.

Instead, ask “What kind of leadership does the team need?” or “What skills are essential to success on this assignment?” Then, take an honest look at your team members. If your favorites don’t have the leadership or other skills required, they don’t get the gig.

3. Get a second opinion.

Finally, don’t hesitate to ask for additional perspectives. For instance, you might ask another supervisor to weigh in on your choice of promotion. If you’re looking for a project leader, you might ask your team for volunteers, or conduct an anonymous poll to see which co-worker they would trust to lead.

At THE RIGHT STAFF, LLC, we focus on helping our St. Paul business clients find the talent they need. For help building strong, stable teams, contact us today.

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