Nurse Managers/Supervisors: Avoiding Favoritism in the Workplace

by SilverBells SilverBells, BSN Member Nurse

Specializes in Rehab/Nurse Manager. Has 7 years experience.

In life, most of us naturally prefer some people over others.  It makes sense, then, that we might also like certain coworkers better than others.  This is not a problem until it has become evident some employees are favored over others. 

As a nurse manager, I'm wondering if I might (unintentionally) have issues with favoring some employees over others.  The other day, a nurse told me she doesn't always feel comfortable on my unit because we've all been working with each other so long.  She was frustrated, because from her perspective,  it seems as if I always side with certain other nurses.  She's the only one who has ever told me this, but I also know not everyone is as forthcoming as she can be and am now wondering if others feel the same way. 

Any tips for avoiding favoritism in the workplace? I feel this is important as a manager 


Specializes in New Critical care NP, Critical care, Med-surg, LTC. Has 10 years experience. 4 Articles; 2,209 Posts

Well if you've identified it as a problem, just don't do it. Not intending to sound condescending, but if you feel like you might be favoring someone over another employee, analyze your behavior and what that newer nurse might have seen. Do you assign tasks differently? Or is it just because you're potentially more conversational with the nurse with whom you have a prior relationship? 

When I was the supervisor in a LTC facility I had some nurses and techs that I had known longer and might even see in social situations outside of work. However, when we were at work, I don't think anyone would have assumed I was friends with them more than anyone else. I didn't socialize in excess with anyone. I was friendly with all staff, but work wasn't the time to hang out together. I was known for applying all policies equally, for instance I wrote up friends for cell phone use as often as I would write up new employees. Everyone knew it, and I even overheard one tech telling another new tech "don't get mad at _____ if you do something wrong, she is tough to work for but she's 100% fair". To me that was one of the bigger compliments I had gotten, even though she didn't know I heard it. 


LibraNurse27, BSN, RN

Specializes in Community Health, Med/Surg, ICU Stepdown. Has 9 years experience. 972 Posts

I think it's good you're thinking about this, because many people would simply get defensive and ignore the constructive criticism. Maybe you can look into what causes you to possibly favor certain nurses. Is it always those you've become friends with? Is there some sort of implicit bias issue? Once you've determined those factors, work on evaluating everyone's performance objectively.

Also when making assignments I think it helps to split the patients evenly without considering who will get which assignment, come up with a balanced assignment, and then assign a nurse to each group of patients, rather than start with the nurses' names. It's human nature to like certain people better than others, so I'm glad you recognize it as an issue and are working on it. It can definitely lower morale if some employees feel unfairly treated or unappreciated. 

SilverBells, BSN

Specializes in Rehab/Nurse Manager. Has 7 years experience. 1,010 Posts

After thinking about this, I don't assign tasks differently.  Each nurse gets about the same number of patients initially and each is expected to help out with admissions.  However, I think where my downfall lies is there are some nurses that I do become quite conversational with during the day.  It's not done intentionally to leave anyone out, but it happens because we've worked with each other for years and are familiar/friendly with each other.  Sometimes it gets to the point where we aren't quite as responsive to others whether it be patients, family members or coworkers, so I can see how it is becoming problematic.  Also, in the past few years I have been spoiled with nurses who are primarily able to handle their assignments by themselves.  Recently, we've started hiring more nurses who are requesting more assistance with things.  I hate to admit it, but I find myself less willing to listen to nurses who have a history of adding things to my workload.  I don't mention this because it is something I am proud of, but I feel it's important to identify this as a problematic area so I can work on it.  

Another problematic area that I've identified for myself is that I tend to agree with certain nurses' opinions, even if they've been wrong.  I've noticed a tendency to not correct nurses I've worked with for years during instances I probably should have.   I feel as if I may not be as objective with their performance or behaviors, because I've come to know and trust their judgment.   One example I can think of is when a long-time nurse overreacted and became confrontational with a different nurse when it was not warranted, and I didn't back up the nurse who hadn't actually done anything wrong.  I mistakenly took the long-time nurse's account as being accurate and her actions as being appropriate when others involved had a completely different story to tell.  Thus, in this instance, I did end up showing favoritism because I didn't investigate the situation or listen to everyone's perspectives in the way I should have.  I think this has been a problem before, because even the long-term nurse has commented that I don't seem to correct her during instances in which she is wrong.  I wonder if perhaps we have become too friendly with each other and if I may want to step back a bit on socializing with her (and a couple of others) as it seems to be impacting both of our work performances, as well as my ability to view everyone's work objectively. 

A few things I have in mind to correct the situation: 

1.  Readjust the focus at work to being on the patients.   Limit the amount of conversation had with coworkers as there is likely something else patient-related we could and should be doing instead. 

2.  In the event of conflicts, make sure to interview and listen to each person involved.  There is always more than one side to the story.  

3.  Remember that each nurse has different needs.  Nurses who are new graduates or are new to the facility will require more assistance than others.  Other nurses will prefer help with some tasks over others.  Some will prefer assistance with help with putting in or reviewing orders, some will appreciate help with medication pass and others will find it more helpful if I step in to help with the leaking ostomy, the catheter that needs to be changed or the Hoyer-lift patient who is requesting to get into bed.  Finding a way to assist each nurse in a way that ensures patients are receiving proper care is important.  

4.  Be sure to evaluate situations and cares in an objective manner.  Perhaps it may be helpful to view each situation as an outsider would, who would give no thought to the particular individuals involved.   Pay little to no attention to whether or not an involved party typically has good judgment or has a good history in the workplace.   Disregard any thoughts that may arise as to whether or not someone is more pleasant to work with.   Keep in mind that any of the nurses that I generally trust to have good judgment may actually be wrong at times. 

5.  Be okay with having opinions that are different from my coworkers, especially if I normally agree with them.   I mention this because I think this is what inhibits me from correcting certain nurses.  If we normally agree with each other, I'm less likely to be willing to develop an opinion that may conflict with theirs.  I feel as if this needs improvement because it is impeding me from being objective in certain situations and ultimately doing the right thing.  



Edited by SilverBells

Pepper The Cat

Pepper The Cat, BSN, RN

Specializes in Gerontology. Has 36 years experience. 1,771 Posts

So you talk to some coworkers causing your both to ignore everyone around you including pts??!

You don’t like it when new nurses ask for help.

You have favourites that you trust even when they are wrong?


No wonder people don’t want to come to your unit.



LibraNurse27, BSN, RN

Specializes in Community Health, Med/Surg, ICU Stepdown. Has 9 years experience. 972 Posts

18 hours ago, SilverBells said:

If we normally agree with each other, I'm less likely to be willing to develop an opinion that may conflict with theirs.  I feel as if this needs improvement because it is impeding me from being objective in certain situations and ultimately doing the right thing.  

I think it's great you are taking the time to reflect on behaviors and make improvements. It's a hard thing to do, and I wish you success = ) It always feels better to know you're doing the right thing, even if it's hard in the moment. It's worse to be left with regrets and guilt that last much longer than the momentary discomfort of doing something difficult; I know this from experience. It's great to work on objectivity and fairness.

Nice to have workplace friendships and since you have already recognized that you tend to favor your friends, I'm sure you can work on it! = )