The effects of favoritism are detrimental in the dental workplace

Favoritism is on the rise in dental practices. It's not good for staff morale, patient perception, or even for the person who's being favored. It's important to avoid it at all times.

Nov 20th, 2018
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Last month we discussed that favoritism in the dental workplace is on the rise. Many of my colleagues mentioned having encountered various examples of preferential treatment during their careers, with some still experiencing it firsthand. This month we’ll take a look at the effect such behavior has not only on the individual, but the dental team and the organization as well.

Favoritism is occurring frequently in the workforce today. It does not get a great deal of formal attention, but it is an important issue that exists in all organizations, across all industries. The following are considered to be the effects of favoritism in the workplace.

Performance, both personal and organizational

Damage to the organization’s operations can occur a variety of ways. First, by virtue of the negative connotation between favoritism and team member engagement, it can be concluded that the discretionary effort will also be weakened. Team members who believe that their supervisor or employer engaged in favoritism are less likely to be inspired to do their best work. Day after day of the same mentality, and dental professionals will lose sight of what their roles and importance to the organization actually is.

Subsequently, favoritism is discrimination against unfavored personnel, which disrupts employee trust in a merit-based process and results in selection on a basis other than merit. The organization ultimately suffers from not having the most capable person performing the work. Finally, this negative impact is compounded when selecting administrators because having a less capable office manager can also obstruct the effective performance of a broader group of team members in the same work environment.

Favoritism creates a wedge in the team. It breaks the sense of unity that most teams have. When one person is a favorite, the others will not take it lightly, and then the gossiping and unhealthy competition followa. There is no real winner in this scenario because the team loses, the organization loses, and patients lose too because they pick up on team disharmony.

Recruitment, retention, and high turnover rates

Employees who believe that their organization engages in favoritism are much less likely to recommend their organization as a place to work. Not only does this cynicism undermine recruitment and retention programs, it can also affect patient referrals if the message of favoritism gets out. Although rewarding work and recognition are important to recruitment and retention, fairness has a direct impact on team members’ work.

Even when staff are not officially involved in the hiring process, their opinions can be quite influential. Further, the detrimental effect of negative recommendations is likely to be greater on accomplished, highly-qualified applicants who are sought after and can choose among competing organizations. Many factors that impact an organization’s capability to attract high-quality applicants also influence team members’ interest in staying with their organizations long-term.

Favoritism will decrease team member morale, leadership, and initiative. Leaders who blatantly show favoritism show no respect for the people they work with. This will have a negative effect on everyone involved, so it’s best to treat everyone fairly and equally.

Interpersonal relationships

The harmful effects of perceptions of favoritism spread to teamwork and cooperation. Employees lose respect for employers who practice any form of favoritism. Additionally, an employee who believes that a new team member gained a position through connections rather than competence is less likely to work cooperatively with that individual or view the team member’s authority as legitimate.

Favoritism can also sabotage interpersonal dynamics in an organization. When employees are confident that they will be evaluated and rewarded based on their merits, they’re more likely to trust their colleagues. High trust fosters a pleasant work environment where everyone helps each other in a stress-free environment.

In contrast, when the organization creates a work culture where rewards are handed out based on non-work-related basis, such as personal relationships, ingratiation, or quid pro quo, then the work environment becomes counterproductive and toxic. Those team members who are viewed as favorites may face a retaliation from coworkers who seek to undermine their success.

Resentment, jealousy, disrespect, and unprofessionalism

While some people do not like to be favorites, most do not want to experience favoritism in any environment. Issues with emotions come to the forefront and this is not a good thing because everyone is expected to be professional. Resentful and jealous team members will not be productive, they will breed contempt, and this will affect more than just the bottom line. It’s hard to work with negativity all around as it kills motivation. One or two favorites may be motivated to do better, but the rest of the team may not feel the same way.

Let’s face it, the work we do is difficult enough without factoring in favoritism. Favoritism is a moral issue because it violates the basic standards of justice and fairness. Moral standards dictate justice and to be fair to all, and favoritism definitely violates such principles. Favoritism violates ethical principles due to the presence of discrimination. As we see the effects favoritism has, it’s obvious that it does not bring any good to an organization. Displays of favoritism can destroy relationships, initiative, and trust. We must always be alert to its presence and defeat it whenever possible.

Natalie Kaweckyj, LDARF, CDA, is past president of the American Dental Assistants Association.

ALSO BY NATALIE KAWECKYJ
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