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The supervisor does not treat everybody equally…

Dear Office-Politics,

I have a few concerns regarding my workplace. I will try to make it short and simple.

I am a new employee at my current workplace. I work for a design firm as an intermediate cad drafter, where obviously a lot of detail work is required and you have to be very proficient. My fellow employees have 10 to 25 years more experience than I do and are probably at their senior levels. I am not in any way jealous of my fellow employees and like learning from their successes and failures.

I was hired 6 mo’s ago. From the beginning of the position I was required to learn new software and new methods of construction, and other new work related material. I feel I have done a good job trying to adjust to the position. I am coming from a jr. cad position and have lots of customer service and some sales experience.

However, my supervisor is not impressed with my accomplishments and thinks that i have not fully applied myself… he is right and not right. I have applied myself to the extent of my training… full training was not supplied and nor the fellow employees are always available to help, since everybody is usually busy… or just too lazy at times to help.

My Supervisor also hints that I socialize too much and do not use my workday to its fullest. I do not socialize anymore than my fellow employees and also seldom socialize. It seems he only sees my negatives and not the positives. I am an outgoing, friendly, social and hardworking person and am usually liked by most i converse with and am liked by most in the office, that i know of, but i dont know what people really think behind my back. The Supervisor is quiet and is not very outgoing. He was hired straight out of university and got hired as our manager, since he is an engineer and he also knows the CEOs daughter. He is my age.

Now you know a little bit about the supervisor and myself… a little bit about the other employees. Two click with each other and consider themselves the most experienced and only discuss things with each other… one guy has been there the longest and the other was hired a little while before myself. They both socialize alot amongst themselves and the supervisor does not see it or realize it… they are also brown nosers… the new employee comes in late, leaves early, never calls the supervisor when he is going to be late or going to be sick, takes days off regularly.

Where on the other hand i have to write down exactly when i come in, when i go, when i’m gonna be late, when i’m gonna be sick, when i take my lunches… otherwise, i get a lecture.

I feel the supervisor does not treat everybody equally, different treatments for different employees. 3rd employee is the most experienced at drafting and works way too much overtime than he actually needs to, and is prob the hardest working there… on the other hand the supervisor does not want me to be working overtime, since it’s a slow season. He wrote me an email regarding it… and did not say anything regarding the overtime to any of the other 4 employees.

I feel that the Supervisor is picking on me, on one hand to make me a better designer and the other hand it seems like a personal thing and does not like me as a person a whole lot. I also feel that my fellow employees talk behind my back.. even tho they seem friendly. It also seems they talk to the supervisor behind my back and prob recommend i’m not applying myself… and am not working hard… ratting on me.

Should I start doing the same and start ratting them out.. should i confront somebody… Please help. What can I do? what should I do? I like my position as a designer and would like to continue for some time to come.




dr. rick brandon
dr. marty seldman

Dear Faltering,

We are going to start with the premise that you like your position as a designer, you are learning to use important technology and for now even with these drawbacks, the positives outweigh the negatives. Our advice is going to be based on these assumptions. If things shift for you, e.g. the treatment of you gets worse or someone offers you a comparable job in a better working environment feel free to consider your options.

You may actually be learning some things that, over a career, may be more important than designer skills. You are learning first hand about power, perception, politics and some basics of organizational and human behavior. Ultimately this will make you more savvy about people but this is a frustrating way to learn.

The starting point is to learn about yourself. In conjunction with our book Survival of the Savvy we developed an Organizational Savvy Self Assessment, which we would encourage you to take. You will probably learn that you have some blind spots in this area.

Here are a couple of things we’ll point out from your letter. First, you seem to have a highly developed sense of fairness. This is a fine trait if you treat people fairly, and try to create a fair environment when you have some influence and control. However a belief that things “should” be fair will prevent you from seeing the realities of power.

Your supervisor is probably treating you this way for a variety of reasons. One could be that he is quiet and introverted with a low need for affiliation. When he sees you socializing combined with the fact that you haven’t mastered all aspects of your job he probably gets upset.

Why doesn’t he treat everyone equally? Possibly they do a better job of flattering him or managing perception than you do. However, the other possible reason he doesn’t is because he can. This is the hardest lesson to learn about power.

The implications of this are numerous:

1) When you go into a new situation immediately start studying power and how it is used
2) Assess how much power you have, which at this point is not much, before you chart a course of action. This is why we strongly advise against “ratting them out” or confronting somebody.
3) If you decide to stay then the minimum is to try to meet the expectations of the person in power if they are at all reasonable and not unethical.
4) If you decide to leave, check out in more depth how power is used in your new organization. 5) You rarely get to pick your boss. Our current advice is to read up on Organizational Savvy as soon as possible, meet your supervisors’ expectations and try to increase your network through business interactions. Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.

Warm regards,

Rick Brandon, Ph.d. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. Co-authors,
Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success

cover of Survival of the SavvyRick Brandon, Ph.d. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. are Co-authors, Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success. Dr. Rick Brandon is CEO of Brandon Partners. He has consulted and trained tens of thousands at corporations worldwide, including Fortune 500 companies across a variety of industries. Dr. Marty Seldman is one of America’s most experienced executive coaches. His 35-year career includes expertise in executive coaching, group dynamics, cross-cultural studies, clinical psychology, and training.

  1. 3 Answers to “The supervisor does not treat everybody equally…”

  2. Feedback from Faltering:

    Thank you for your time and response to my office politics question. Yes you have it exactly right in the first couple of sentences.

    However, either way… I do not agree with power and politics. We are all professionals and/or looking to be one. Nonetheless, an office atmosphere should not be like that. I acknowledge it as being human behaviour, but it does not make it right. I am used to the whole power and perception thing… but I don’t brown nose to anyone, that’s where I am different from other employees.

    Overall, I appreciate your reply and will forward more questions in the future.

    By Letter-writer on Mar 22, 2007

  3. Can A supervisor put his hand on top of a employees hand who wanted to call the supervisors boss / manager on the phone to ask a question, stopping her from doing so,

    By virgil on May 3, 2010

  4. Dear sir/Madam

    In a similar situation where we are not given the respect or recognition we deserve. We deal with plenty of professional bodies who expect us to give a good service which we do. We are pushed each day to meet targets therefore over worked and under paid.

    Supervisors are constantly changing processes without telling us or asking our opinion or ideas first, which we are expected to keep up with. Constantly keeping a close eye on us and making sure we are topped up with work. We now are given guide sheets and MUST complete for each task

    I work well under pressure but this is ridiculous! we are meant to have 121’s each month but hasn’t happened in around 6 months, supervisors and managers are always having meetings but we are all kept in the dark and we have not had a team meeting in almost a year.

    We are all de-motivated and when we are voicing our opinion no one wants to know. We are working through lunch breaks and sometimes staying late. If we make an error like forget to complete a work tick sheet supervisors do not hand it back, they throw it back.

    I know what your thinking…. Get another job lol? BUT as HR are useless as they always take managements side, is there another way? How can we give these power hungry people an eye opener and make them see that we are valuable members of staff, we are also educated to a high level and we are not robots we are human beings trying our hardest to make a living. They have forgotten the basics of motivating there staff as they are focusing more on results.

    We also have a policy called TCF (Treating customers fairly) This does not exist! Equal opportunity also does not exist as our development needs are swept under the carpet and various other situations too.

    If your bullied your the one who has to move teams….

    If any one here has any advice, please let me know.

    Thank you

    Peace X

    By Kitkat on Sep 26, 2013

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