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Being buddies with the boss doesn't always pay off: Managers worry about appearing biased

If the decision is public, employers are less likely to reward staffers who are their buddies to prevent perceptions of favoritism, new report finds.

© Provided by USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc.   Me too in the workplace

By Charisse Jones, USA TODAY

Being buddies with the boss may result in less cash at holiday time.

That's the unexpected finding of a new survey that discovered employers are more likely to skip over their friends to reward staffers they're not close to in order to prevent perceptions of favoritism.

“Unlike what we normally think about managers ... in some situations they’re actually biased against their friends,'' says Shoham Choshen-Hillel, a business administration professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who co-authored the report published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology with assistant professors at UCLA and the University of Chicago.

A key factor in such decisions is whether the reward process is public – if the staff knows what the perk is, the manager making the decision, and who ultimately gets the bonus or gift.

“So if you have just one ticket for a show to give to an employee, and there are two equally deserving, in private, the manager would give the ticket to their friends,'' Choshen-Hillel says. "However, if they know the decision is public, many of them would give it to the non friend or the stranger.’’

That’s the case even if the manager's friend is slightly more deserving. "If both employees are strangers, they’ll give it to the one who’s better... based on merit,’’ she says. “However if the person who did slightly better is your friend, you’re not going to give him the bonus. You’ll give it to the other person. Or not give it to anyone. Or flip a coin... The reason is the employer is so worried about appearing biased.’’

While it's not great that someone might be denied what they've earned just because they grab lunch with the boss, an emphasis on appearing fair is still a step in the right direction, Choshen-Hillel says.

"Of course being biased against a friend is not fair,'' she says. But  "I think our basic instinct is to bias in favor of our relatives and friends...In companies where the boss prefers their sons, they normally don't work so well. You have to give credit to those who deserve it. So being concerned about your appearance in others' eyes generally is a good change.''

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Career Magazine: Being buddies with the boss doesn't always pay off: Managers worry about appearing biased
Being buddies with the boss doesn't always pay off: Managers worry about appearing biased
If the decision is public, employers are less likely to reward staffers who are their buddies to prevent perceptions of favoritism, new report finds.
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