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Favoritism – 10 Lessons to Build an Efficient Organization #5

Introduction to the 10 Lessons to Build an Efficient Organization series

My series of Sun Tzu (who one of the most influential Chinese philosophers) is focused on the topic of how to develop an efficient organization. You might think that these are trivial things and they should be. However, I see that even these trivial things are not working in many organizations. I had to conclude that the fundamental rules of leadership are non-trivial as ego, pride, emotions and thought patterns come in the way.

Manager’s commentary: People must be selected for a task on the basis of their ability – not on nepotism or favoritism.


For a task desired by many, the team should be carefully selected. If the reason is not clear behind selecting the team members, this leads to alienation. The talents who are not selected will start complaining about the situation. It might be a question of communication, if the reason behind selecting the specific members is not clear. A solution is to assign the team based on their expertise and results and communicate accordingly.

The distribution if interesting and non-interesting tasks could be also switched up regularly, making sure that each of the team members gets to work on innovative projects.

It’s toxic if leaders are selected based on unknown criteria rather than on their experience. The non selected talents will not accept the choice, specially if the favored person has less experience than them.

I’ve heard of an employee who recently joined a huge technological company. He was selected for a new, interesting position. Another team member serving the company well for years was also applying, but he was not selected. The team member who was not selected stood up to leave the company. This is not surpising. Why was a new employee with a similar skillset favored compared to someone already knowing the ins and outs of the organization?

Many people leave an organization if they are not appreciated. It leads to a toxic environment if team members are rewarded based on favoritism and not based on performance.


Both cases might lead to alienation of the team members and will weaken the team. Team members might start to feel that they need to compete against each other.

The situation will weaken the trust of team members in the skills of the management. They might question if the management is acting in the best interest of the organization or they put themselves first. Furthermore if people without enough experience get into leadership positions the team productivity and moral might go down quickly.

Getting the experience of a leader and finding the best ways to manage people will not happen overnight. It requires a lot of effort of learning, testing, discussing and thinking.

If leaders on multiple levels lack the experience and leadership skills the results will be shown rather soon. Lack of motivation, low morale, high turnover and bad performance. 

A people hire A people. B people hire C people.

This is an oversimplification, however, shows the basic problem well. Toxic leadership leads to more toxic leadership and spreads like a plague. There is always a way out, however, the later it happens the more painful it is.

The leaders need to take responsibility and hold others accountible as well. This develops a no-blame culture, where an integrated team is built up.

The lesson learned

Choose people based on their experience and ability. If there are reasons behind selecting specific individuals, communicate these openly to the team. Share the work using a fair method.

Have a clear and objective view on employee performance and satisfaction as well.

Appreciating the high-performing employees could reduce the turnover of the organization by a significant amount.

How do you avoid favoritism and track employee performance? Does your organization track employee satisfaction?

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