published January 22, 2021

The Effects of Favoritism in a Law Firm

However, in a law firm or other professional environment, the biggest mistake you can make is showing favoritism. In particular, this is a bad thing to do if you are a law firm partner or office manager. Suppose you do show favoritism toward one of your associates. In that case, this will cause a lot of negative feelings that are going to affect how business is conducted.
This is not to say that associates that perform well at their job should not be praised and rewarded. Indeed, if you are working hard and achieving your goals, this should be acknowledged. However, favoritism is based on subjective factors that mean people are rewarded for being part of the ‘in-crowd’ and not always because of their achievements. This is when adverse outcomes result.
The Negatives Consequences of Favoritism
It is important to acknowledge the negative consequences that can result in a law firm due to favoritism. Indeed, they can have a detrimental effect on everything. Following are a few of the negative consequences that could possibly occur.
Lower Morale Levels
Keeping morale high in a law firm is very important. Associates have to work a lot of long hours and achieve targets and goals. Staying motivated and working in a healthy environment is essential to making sure this happens. However, favoritism can dismantle a team and send morale levels way down.
It means that associates can feel like they are being taken for granted and that their hard work is not appreciated. In particular, jealousy and resentment are just two negative emotions that can result from favoritism. This can be felt toward other colleagues and partners, creating a bad feeling with the law firm in general. Overall, associates will not be as productive as they could be if they felt appreciated, respected, and on a level footing with everyone else.
Creates Unhealthy Competition
A little competition in a law firm is normal. In fact, it can be useful and mean that associates want to perform at their best. However, too much competition can create a toxic work environment where associates no longer strive for excellence in their jobs or for their clients. Instead, they simply want to beat their colleagues.
Favoritism encourages this unhealthy competition in the office. If employees think that some are receiving bonuses or other benefits from their work, they will try to outdo them. They might not realize that the favoritism does not stem from their hard work but from merely getting along better with partners and managers. A working environment with overly competitive associates will not end well for anyone in the long term. Eventually, associates will get tired and leave. The only way to prevent this from happening is to stop favoritism.
Respect is Lost
One of the most important things you can have in a law firm is respect. This is necessary for every healthy working environment, whether it is between colleagues or toward managers and partners. When there is respect, a team will perform well together and work for each other. This increases productivity and motivation, making a law office efficient and a healthy place to be. Thus, this leads to a law firm having a lot of success.
However, the result of favoritism is often the loss of respect. When associates believe there is favoritism and that some colleagues receive favorable treatment, this starts to break the chain. While most people understand your performance will be highlighted and rewarded, personal favoritism is not accepted. Instead, associates will not have the same respect for someone that rewards someone else simply because they like them more. Therefore, the loss of respect will lead to unproductivity and inefficiency, leading to an overall lower performance for the law firm.
Accusations Can Fly Around the Office
Law partners and managers have to think about what can happen if they let favoritism creep into the office. Whether they are true or not, accusations can start to fly around the office to show them in a negative light.
For instance, imagine there is a case you are working on as a partner, and you have to choose associates to assist you. Without realizing it, you let favoritism dictate the associates you select. Instead of thinking about their performance, you choose them by selecting your friends and those you can have fun with. Thus, you get along with them better than other associates in the office. Without being aware, all of the associates you have chosen are male. Suddenly, you could have an incredibly difficult situation on your hands that could lead to damaging accusations. This is all because you let favoritism get in the way of your thinking. Instead, you are better off choosing associates using another method.
How to Avoid Office Favoritism
As you can see, favoritism causes a lot of negative reactions in an office setting, such as a law firm. There are not many positives that can be drawn from favoritism. But the good news is there are ways to avoid this happening in your work environment.
Create Performance-Based Rewards
One of the best ways to avoid favoritism is to base any rewards on performance. For instance, there are often bonuses and promotions available within a law firm. If the incentives are awarded based on performance, any employee who is also a friend will receive the reward fairly. This way, the reward can be earned by anybody. Therefore, create targets and allow everyone an equal opportunity to achieve them. This can motivate all staff to work hard, knowing they each have a shot at the prize.
Keep a Record of Achievers
Even if you have a tremendous performance-based reward system in place, you need to keep an eye on who is winning the rewards. Why is this important? Well, the system is no longer fair when the same person keeps on winning. While you are not favoring them and allowing them to win, this might be how it appears to other employees. To keep things competitive, keep a record of who the winner is of the rewards. If you notice somebody is always getting the extra perks, perhaps it is time to shake things up a little. This keeps it fair and exciting for everyone. Plus, it stops favoritism from becoming a potential problem.
Be Transparent About Policies
Let’s not forget one of the most important things you can do to stop favoritism in the workplace. We are talking about being honest, open, and transparent. If you have a reward system, speak to your associates about it. Explain what the targets are and how they can all meet them. Let them know that everyone should have an equal opportunity to earn perks based on their performance. Stress that the workplace will not allow favoritism.
You also want to leave your door open for comments. Let your associates know that you welcome their feedback, and if they have a problem, you want to know about it. Again, this lets everyone know their voice will be heard, and if they have an issue, they can raise it without backlash.
Be Inclusive and Reward Everyone
Of course, having a performance-based reward system is the best way to run a law firm. But it is also important to consider how you can be inclusive and encourage everyone to perform at their best. For instance, you can try to figure out a way to reward every employee. One way that law firms do this is by creating some group goals. This allows everyone to contribute to a goal and have some impact. It means that every employee can feel like they are part of something and have had achievement. This can be a great way to boost morale and show that you do not have favorites in the office.
It is clear to see that favoritism can have adverse effects on a law firm. It can lower morale levels for all employees, creating jealously and resentment. Overall, this results in an unproductive and unhealthy working environment. The competition that happens can mean that colleagues do not feel comfortable or appreciated on a day-to-day basis. Employees also lose respect for the law firm and those they should look up to in the office.
However, there are ways that law firms can avoid favoritism and ensure that all employees enjoy their working environment. Namely, this means following a performance-based reward system. Efforts should also be made to have transparent equality policies and to be inclusive.

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