An offhand comment by a friend of mine this weekend reminded me about being the teacher’s pet in grade 5. I don’t know why this teacher bestowed such an honour on me but it was not pleasant and I had little choice in the matter.
Unfortunately the errors of the schoolyard are often repeated at work as few managers can totally avoid bias in attitude or treatment of people. The problem is that it poisons an environment, subtly at first but in the longer run it can be cancerous.
Think of how you feel when your boss obviously enjoys the company of a co-worker over you, favours that person with better work, laxer rules, better pay. It can be totally innocent but that oh-so closer relationship can rankle.
I must admit that I have been guilty of this in the past. The problem as I see it is that it’s hard to avoid. You more naturally gravitate to some people rather than others. You want to be authentic but not too much so. You want to connect with people and some connections are deeper than others.
I think avoiding bias is one of those leadership requirements that can never be fully achieved if you’re also trying to be a caring boss and connect with people.