Dear Dave: I think my problem is a common one. My manager certainly has his favorite employees and they receive the best treatment. I and several others are not on his “special treatment list.” His favorites get the best assignments as well as the most attention and guidance. Everyone in the department knows who will get the best treatment and who will get the least amount of consideration. Why do managers do this, and how can those of us who are not on the “special treatment list” get treated better? — T

Dear T: I know exactly what you are talking about, and I believe it falls under the heading “management abuse.” This means you are being mistreated and you have every right to be upset about your situation. I believe that every employee should get the same consideration and care. And, I believe that managers should not have their — as you call it — “special treatment list.”

Now, I know there are many employees who do not come to work to do their best work. We all know those who just get by, or even do inferior work. It always seems like these employees are not engaged or motivated and their managers have put them on their “special mistreatment list.” These employees know they are going to do inferior work and their managers know it, too. But, even these workers should get a chance to improve — maybe receive additional training, emotional behavior assistance, or motivation enhancement.

Here is a revelation: managers are not saints — they have their flaws like anyone. Even the worst managers just want to get the work done well, and they want employees who can do it. Because of this basic need, they put different people in different “treatment buckets” — my term, thank you. They might not even realize they are doing this, except their employees are painfully aware of this fact. Simply, the employees know full well which employees will get the most time and attention — even rewards — and which employees will be in — and stay in — the “naughty bucket” and might not get the time of day.

I believe employees are always assessing who is getting what and why. And, they know how much thought and effort they should put into their tasks and assignments, based on how they believe they will be treated and how their manager has treated them in the past. If employees believe they are currently being treated like dirt – and that they will continue to be treated like dirt — they will perform possibly “passable work” and not a bit more. If employees believe they are on the favorites list, they will invest more time and energy, because they know their manager will pat them on the head and say, “Good boy (or) girl!”

Contact Dave Conrad with questions or comments at conradd@augsburg.edu. Conrad is an associate professor of business at Augsburg University in Rochester.

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