It’s fun being a boss’s favorite. But what if your boss has a favorite, and it’s not you? More than once, I’ve spoken with clients who feel left out because they see others getting all the attention. And, as a result, these coworkers seem to get clued into important information before they do.
Being out of the loop is not a great feeling for anyone. Especially if you see one or two of your coworkers who are always in the “inner circle.” So is there anything you can do about it? Maybe. Let’s look at some possible approaches.
First things first. Why does it bother you so much?
Before we look at what to do when your boss has a favorite who is NOT you, take a moment to think about what bugs you most. It will help you to plan your next steps — including how to look at the situation as a whole in a way that helps you most.
Some examples of why it’s so annoying:
- You see someone else getting all your boss’s attention.
- The other person gets better assignments.
- If you both offer suggestions, your boss uses the other person’s ideas.
- The boss’s favorite lords it over you. Or at least it feels that way.
- You get left out of meetings, but the favorite is always included.
- When your boss’s favorite asks for something they get it.
- You sometimes feel like you don’t exist!
EXTRA: Something to think about is that very often feelings that arise in the workplace relate to childhood relationships. Did a parent or teacher favor another child instead of you? Did it hurt?
Those feelings get triggered even in adulthood, where the boss-employee relationship can wind up feeling very much like a parent-child relationship. Not that we always recognize it in the moment.
The upside of being a boss’s favorite
There is no doubt that when a boss has a favorite, that person gets some distinct benefits.
- They know they can get the boss to listen to them pretty easily.
- The workplace feels more enjoyable when you’re “the star.”
- As mentioned above, their ideas get more attention, and they often get more interesting assignments.
- They are noticed more frequently and get more praise for their contributions.
- Other people start to look to them for advice and leadership.
The downside of being a boss’s favorite
But wait … it’s not all fun and games.
- Your actions are watched by more people, including your boss.
- People are looking to bring you down a notch or two.
- A boss who plays obvious favorites can also judge a favorite’s mistakes more harshly.
- You feel the pressure to always do everything right for fear of disappointing your boss.
- When you do make a mistake, you worry even more that you’ll lose your favorite status.
So what can you do if your boss has a favorite?
The power of perspective
How much time do you spend thinking about it? While the circumstances may be very real, letting it become a big part of your day gives more power to the situation. The more you focus on it, the unhappier YOU get.
And thinking about it — and stewing about it — does nothing to change things for yourself in the workplace. Plus, odds are the more you think about it at work, the more you carry it home with you.
Some more thoughts on the power of perspective:
Putting attitude to work
We hear a lot of talk about “attitude.” And for god reason. Along with perspective (how you look at things), a slight shift in attitude can help lessen the intensity of feelings about someone else getting all the attention.
In other words, when you can’t change the circumstances, you can learn to notice what’s happening and let that be a first step toward decreasing the intensity of what you feel. Just pause your reaction and observe your own feelings. And then you can choose to “dial down the volume.”
After a while, with a little mindful practice, the circumstance just doesn’t have the power it once did to take over your brain and make you unhappy. For more on learning how to shift your attitude:
Taking action that shows!
One great way to feel less powerless is to take positive action. So along with a shift in perspective and attitude, (which can help lower the volume), let’s look at some concrete steps you can take.
Again, I can’t guarantee that this particular boss in this situation will respond well. But they might. And, at the very least, you can feel good about yourself for having given it your best shot.
Some things you might try to help you stand out more. And to help you be recognized in a good way:
- Make an appointment to speak to your boss about ways you can improve your performance. Listen carefully to what your boss says. (Don’t worry that you may think your performance is already good. This is about learning how to look good in your boss’s eyes.)
- Look for things that your boss compliments in others and make a note of it. Then create projects / process improvements that are in line with their agenda.
- Be proud of your accomplishments and let your coworkers & boss know about them — but without obnoxious bragging. Simply let them in conversationally about something that worked well. And SHARE THE CREDIT where possible.
- Ask your boss for a small special project to take the lead on. And then give it your all.
- In general, be supportive of others and let them know when they’ve done a good job.
- Observe the relationships and daily goings on as if you were an outside consultant. then give yourself advice as to anything else you might do to be seen as essential, trustworthy, and someone people can count on.
- Check in with your boss every now and then, giving them a progress report on the improvements you discussed together. And offer thanks for any ideas / advice that helped.
NOTE: More possible helpful actions welcome from readers!
Final option — if all else fails
If you’ve tried your best and still get the cold shoulder, it may be time to look for another job. One where you can play a more integral role. But the reason this isn’t always the best first choice is that we often recreate things we haven’t yet learned how to handle better.
So if your boss has a favorite who isn’t you — you don’t need to fight to be the favorite in your current job. In fact, it may be that your boss likes to play head games. Just use your current position to practice ways to stand out. If this gets you noticed where you are and that works for you, great.
But if not, it will help you learn how to build an even stronger position for yourself the next time. You can’t always be a prophet in your own land. But you can learn and grow and then move on to a new land where people are ready to welcome you.
More posts to help
And just in case you do need to leave