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A person using a stick to push around rubber ducks in an inflatable pool

Harvard Business Review shares findings from summer OB/HR PhD graduate, Haoying (Howie) Xu. In summary, while managers should strive to treat their employees fairly, it’s only natural for them to develop stronger relationships with some people than with others.

The good news is, new research suggests that this sort of favoritism doesn’t have to be destructive. Specifically, if the “boss’s favorite” is perceived as expressing authentic rather than hubristic pride, researchers found that witnessing favoritism could actually motivate other employees to improve and build stronger relationships themselves. With the right approach, employees, managers, and leaders can build an organizational culture that celebrates positive workplace relationships and gives everyone the tools they need to grow and succeed.