The Ineffectiveness of Favoritism

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Children's jealousy

If you analyze most family structures, especially ones with multiple children, there is a tendency for the “baby” of the family to be treated differently. It doesn’t always have to be the youngest in the bunch, but anyone who is treated “extra special.”

There have been numerous movies made on this topic; you know that plot. Divorcees with kids from previous relationships meet, fall in love, get married and merge their families. Conflict arises when the new step-siblings don’t get along with each other or with their new stepparent; arguments and strife take place, and so on. “Hollywood-ized” tensions mount, building from every type of unfairness, favoritism and jealousy imaginable. But then all the characters involved have an epiphany. So, we see an arc in all the characters, change happens for the better, and everyone learns to live happily ever after or learn that the family is better off before the marriage.

Peter_Paul_Rubens_-_Cain_slaying_Abel,_1608-1609We see this in fairy tales, too. Cinderella had her evil stepmother, a story that has been redone over and over with different names and slightly different characters and an altered plot. Essentially the same story has been recycled over the years, many stories deriving from the Bible. Cain is jealous of his “perfect” brother Abel, the family’s favorite. In a jealous rage, Cain kills Abel, and then he’s punished for it in the end. Everyone always looks at the story in the vein of Cain being evil for murdering his brother. There is the moral about how negative jealousy and a covetous heart can be. However, what is not said or scrutinized enough is how wrong it is to play favorites. Another biblical story depicts how Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery because they were jealous he was dad’s favorite. But later, Joseph gets his day when he winds up in charge as the ruler of Egypt.

Once again, the moral is that jealousy is punished in the end. It’s rarely analyzed how negative of an effect parents playing favorites with their children can have lasting ramifications on siblings. Favoritism causes sibling rivalry, as siblings work extra hard to outdo the favorite child, trying hard to catch their parent’s attention. Though, regardless of what they do, how much they achieve and all that they’ve gained, they can never quite measure up to daddy’s or mommy’s favorite. This sort of rivalry can go on well into adult years, even after the game of favorites has stopped. The rivalry has gone on for so long, that the siblings continue to harbor subconscious resentment that oozes out in constant battle to somehow outdo and outshine. Favoritism, according to a Forbes article How To Deal With Favoritism At Work, is human nature and inevitable.

unnamedJust because something is human nature doesn’t make it right, whether at work or in your personal life. Anger is a human emotion, yet we must all demonstrate self-control. I am sure you’ve said or heard someone say, “I’m so pissed; I can strangle him/her.” Yeah, maybe you could, but what separates us from the animals, or the criminally insane, is the conscious decision to not put our hands on someone else in a vicious manner. That’s where taking ownership over our actions comes into play. We must be accountable for how we respond to injustice, perceived or otherwise. We should be in control of how we respond to everything, from flawed corporate structuring and poor management to family favoritism, rather than to lash out and create more problems. Instead, we should strive to calmly and logically be a part of the solution.

If you have children who feel that you’re mistreating them by playing favorites, taking a look at your actions is a step in the right direction rather than living in denial. The Forbes article suggests that, likewise, in the workplace speaking to your boss or to HR about the issue is a good step. But sometimes, that can actually make things worse, and often times, culture in the work place can get worse. It’s favoritism that has fostered this hostile environment, and the behavior becomes ingrained. It’s the same way with family.

Co-workers as well as siblings resent you, even though you might not have any control over how the powers that be are behaving. No one benefits from inequality. This, of course, is most often seen with race, gender, sexual preference, disability and on. There’s no worse feeling then having to deal with favoritism in professional and personal lives. Sibling rivalry is a terrible and under-addressed issue that causes so much discord and dysfunction.

paygap-istockLikewise, favoritism in the workplace is an equally unfortunate problem because it can magnify the wrong individuals that really don’t deserve to shine as much as they should while overlooking workers that deserve the spot light from time to time. Women especially deal with unequal pay because of gender. President Obama has attempted to address this, most recently on April 8 in a press release calling for equality in the workplace. The salary gap between men and women shows favoritism, gender discrimination and sexism. Women have to pay their bills just like men have to. We have to eat, buy clothes, feed our children and pay the rent in this slowly recovering economy, where cost of living continues to rise but our salaries do not.

The best and only advice I have is that, as with sibling rivalry, it can be so tiring and draining that you sometimes need to distance yourself, especially with competitive, overachieving siblings. And if a work environment sucks, look elsewhere for employment. If it’s gender inequality, sexism, racism, or just plain poor management then you need to find another job as soon as possible. The bottom line is that your happiness is at stake, and whatever gets in the way of that needs to change.

Your sanity, joy and positive energy must remain intact. If someone is sucking the light right out of you, you need to cut them out or find a way out. It doesn’t matter if its family. Cut them out, too. It doesn’t matter if you’ve devoted a lot of time to a particular company, regardless of how long or short you’ve been there. There are plenty of loved ones in your life who will and do treat you right. There are also plenty of employers out there that will and do treat everyone equally.

If they’re not treating you right, it’s time to move on where you will be treated with respect and shown some equality.




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