Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2018 10 Favoritism 1

Favoritism in the dental workplace: Is it on the rise?

Oct. 17, 2018
Favoritism is very real, and could be happening in your dental practice. It's not fair to those who are not being favored, it's not good for patient relations, and it may even put the practice in a bad light with others.

This article originally appeared in Dental Assisting Digest e-newsletter. Subscribe to this informative monthly ENL designed specifically for the dental assistant here.

Let’s face it. While dental assisting is a rewarding career choice, it comes with a set of difficulties. We deal with a variety of patients, a diversity of teammate personalities, and the stress of always being on our A-game, whether we feel it or not. After more than 25 years in dental assisting, I have witnessed a lot, some good and some detrimental to dental assistants, both mentally and physically.

It’s interesting what people can learn on social media. As an active participant in several professional groups, a common thread lately has dealt with favoritism. As if our work environments aren’t toxic enough! I didn’t see just one or two threads over a span of a few weeks, but many threads, and by different dental professionals. It is disheartening to see that so many people are experiencing this in their careers to the point that it is making them question their career choice.

Favoritism happens any time one person in a group receives special treatment or benefits that the person has not earned. Most people display favoritism in at least a few settings.

Examples of favoritism in society include but are not limited to:

• A family member’s choice of one child over another for whom the family member shows more affection, offers more gifts and rewards, or provides fewer punishments. The child experiencing the effects of his or her “favorite” sibling’s treatment may be constantly criticized, given more chores to do, and given second choice for everything.

• A faculty member’s interest in a student that seems excessive compared to the other students, and is noticed by more than one person in the class. This may include calling on the person more frequently in class, rescheduling the person’s deadlines, and allowing the person’s absenteeism.

• An individual’s partiality toward someone’s particular race, educational level, or economic situation.

• A manager with two sets of rules and policies for subordinates, who then constantly reprimands those not “favored” for any improper behavior.

• An employer offering an employee additional time off (in excess of earned time off), extra time to accomplish tasks, or shielding the person from termination procedures.

• A company treating team members who are single differently than team members with dependents, which leads to longer shifts, less time off, and unfair situations for single employees.

Psychology tells us that many people display favoritism toward people they believe are like them in character and personality. A family member might be more sympathetic toward a child who is most like that family member. A faculty member who singles out a student may be doing so without realizing the effect such an action has on the rest of the class. Employers who treat team members differently are setting themselves up for a toxic environment and possible ethical and liability issues.

Preference in the workplace is ineffective and, in some instances, prohibited. When human resources assigns responsibility or gives advancements based on favoritism, the organization is not always getting the most qualified person in a position. Certain forms of favoritism in the workplace, such as soliciting sexual favors for career progression, are illegal throughout the United States. Being familiar with the different types of favoritism will help you recognize the signs, and help develop effective policies to battle them.

There are several types of favoritism that can surface in dental practices—favoritism, nepotism, cronyism, patronage, and sexual favors. Favoritism is the broadest of these terms, and is just what it sounds like—favoring a person not because he or she is doing a stellar job but because of some unimportant characteristic such as membership in a particular group, graduate of a specific program, and so on. Favoritism can be demonstrated in appointments, hiring, honoring, or awarding tasks.


This is a narrower form of favoritism. Deriving from the Italian word for nephew, it encompasses favoritism to family members, such as hiring family members regardless of their qualifications. In some cases, the relative of an organization’s top dog may be perfectly qualified to perform the job for which he or she is hired, but the fact that he or she is a relative gives the individual an edge over other applicants.


This is the act of hiring friends regardless of their qualifications. One of the main problems with cronyism, which is also found in nepotism, is the feeling of entitlement that team members hired under these conditions display. Since they know or are related to the top dog in the organization, they feel they merit promotions and advancements that should be going to more qualified team members. This y creates conflict in the workplace and can result in losing qualified and competent personnel.


This is a roundabout means for a high-up individual to participate in nepotism or cronyism. This is when a manager promotes employees he or she trusts into administrative positions, and then asks them to hire the boss’s colleagues and relatives. This kind of favoritism has the potential to spread through the company like wildfire as the boss brings more of his or her favorite employees into positions of authority.

Sexual favors

Sexual favors and affairs are inevitably messy. When such situations occur in dental settings, another aspect is added to the mix. Patient care may be at risk, and the fiduciary relationship between the dental professional and society may suffer. Even if the situation is consensual, the exchange of sexual favors for career advancement is a form of discrimination and can be classified as sexual harassment. Team members who are denied promotions and raises in lieu of sexual favors being exchanged between a boss and subordinate can claim discrimination. As a result, many organizations discourage interoffice relationships and have a policy that states relationships between bosses and subordinates are grounds for termination.

Next time we will cover the effects favoritism has on an organization, individuals, and the team. Until next time, carry on!

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

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