Bosses Admit to Playing Favorites When Determining Promotions

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Illustration by Alexander Ho for TIME; Getty Images (2)

We know that favoritism has long played a role in the workplace. Now, a new study has senior execs saying so.

According to a survey by Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and research firm Penn Schoen Berland, many managers and bosses play favorites when they’re figuring out who to promote — meaning that they base their decision on factors other than that person’s abilities, background or even ideology.

How widespread is it? Twenty-three percent of more than 300 senior business executives in the U.S. admitted to practicing favoritism in determining promotions, with 9 percent saying it played a role in deciding their last promotion.

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Fifty-six percent of bosses said they often have a favorite in mind before a formal review process begins, and 96 percent of the time, those favorites get promoted. What’s interesting is that most of those surveyed — 83 percent — said that this sort of decision-making can often lead to poor business choices. But apparently they’re doing it anyway.

Unfortunately, there’s not much employees can do to combat this, other than working hard and staying on their bosses’ good side. However, 94 percent of those surveyed said that their company had procedures in place to prevent favoritism in promotions. But it sounds like those procedures aren’t favored.