90: [Ask Halelly] How to handle senior manager who plays favorites with my team on the TalentGrow Show with Halelly Azulay

ep90 TalentGrow Show Ask Halelly Senior Manager Playing Favorites with Halelly Azulay

It’s time for another super short and highly informative Ask Halelly episode of the TalentGrow Show, where I answer a question from a listener, a learner in one of my corporate workshops, a member of the audience at one of my conference speaking events, or a member of the media.

This week’s question is: “What should I do if my senior manager is playing favorites with my team?”

My answer: Of course, it depends on the context such as your relationship with the senior manager. In general, you need to advocate to protect your authority to influence decisions about your team more directly. But of course, beware of your blind-spots and approach the situation tentatively, with curiosity instead of accusatory judgment. I even share a personal story about a time when this happened to me. Get the deets by listening to the full episode (it’s only approx. 6 minutes long!) and be sure to submit your own question that might be featured on a future episode of Ask Halelly on the TalentGrow Show!

Question: Hi Halelly – I’m a team leader and project manager, and unfortunately I have an issue with a senior manager who plays favorites. How do you suggest I handle this situation?

Halelly’s Answer: Ooh, that’s a tough situation, for sure. Here are my thoughts:

  • First, what do you think is causing this to happen?

    There could be various reasons.

    For example, what is the relationship like between you and the senior manager? Is the senior manager making unilateral decisions about the people who report to you without your input?

    That should not be the case, of course. You play an important role as the intermediary between the team and the senior manager, and you should have say.

    If this is happening, there could be an opportunity to ask some more questions about why the senior manager is side-stepping your input and/or authority. Is there a trust deficit? Is the senior manager questioning your judgment? Or are you somehow failing to communicate (or communicating ineffectively) about the team and your qualifications?
  • In general, you would be right to advocate for your team and for your own authority to influence decisions about your team more directly. I suggest that you talk to the senior manager about the situation that you’re observing and the impact this could have on your own ability to be seen as a leader by your team, as well as on the team members’ current and future level of engagement and motivation as a result of this decision.

    Advocating and influencing with integrity are important leadership skills to practice and develop.
  • However, beware of your blind-spots. Often, we do not see all aspects of a situation, and it could be a legitimate decision by the senior leader if and when we understand the reasons. So in the conversation, seek not only to advocate for your perspective but also to listen deeply to really understand the senior manager’s perspective.

    In other words, look for how you might actually change your mind about the situation given new information. Instead of assuming the other is wrong, what if you searched for evidence of how she or he’s right?
  • Once you have all the pieces of the puzzle, you should be in much better shape to proceed with the best approach. Good luck!


Would you like to submit a question for a future “Ask Halelly” episode? You can use the voice messaging widget right here on the website and then I can even play your audio (with your permission, of course) on the episode! Or you can send me an email, or a ‘contact us’ form on this site, or a comment-based question, or a tweet…. You get the picture. Anyway you like it, I would love to hear your question!

About Halelly Azulay

Have we met? I'm Halelly Azulay. I'm an author, speaker, facilitator, and leadership development strategist and an expert in leadership, communication skills, and emotional intelligence. I am the author of two books, Employee Development on a Shoestring (ATD Press) and Strength to Strength: How Working from Your Strengths Can Help You Lead a More Fulfilling Life. My books, workshops and retreats build on my 20+ years of professional experience in communication and leadership development in corporate, government, nonprofit and academic organizations.

I am the president of TalentGrow LLC, a consulting company focused on developing leaders and teams, especially for enterprises experiencing explosive growth or expansion. TalentGrow specializes in people leadership skills, which include communication skills, teambuilding, coaching and emotional intelligence. TalentGrow works with all organizational levels, including C-level leaders, frontline managers, and individual contributors.

People hire me to speak at conferences and meetings and to facilitate leadership workshops, but what I love most is to help fast growing organizations create a leadership development strategy and approach.

I'm a contributing author to numerous books, articles and blogs. I was described as a “Leadership Development Guru” by TD Magazine. I blog, publish a leadership podcast (um, hello?!), and have a popular free weekly subscription newsletter – so you should definitely sign up at www.tinyurl.com/talentgrow.

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