Victim of favouritism?

Here are a few ways to deal with bias against you

boss shouting at colleagueRamesh is a sales representative in a large firm. For the past two years, he felt that his supervisor was being unfair to him, unjustly hauling him up for every issue. "Once he yelled at me for requesting an afternoon off after a relative of mine met with an accident.

Yet, he'd granted a colleague an entire week to attend a marriage just the day before. That's when I knew I had a decision to make—quit my job or learn to deal with his brand of favouritism." Ramesh opted for the latter. Quitting would've been easy," remembers Ramesh. "And there was always the possibility that I would encounter such a person in my new workplace as well. I had to face the problem head-on."

It's not your fault

At any age, dealing with someone who is flagrantly partial is difficult. This is because every time we encounter such people, our self-esteem takes a beating, says psychologist and counsellor K Sreesudha, head of the Chennai Counselling Center.

"When people you know are really aggressive or hard on you, for no other reason than that they have taken an irrational dislike to you, understand that it's not your fault," she says.

This sort of behaviour indicates that they are insecure about themselves or in some cases, even jealous of you. You may be threatening them on some sub-conscious level. And this isn't limited to the workplace alone.

The mother-in-law who just never gives you a chance and who seems to feel her daughter or son is more worthy, parents who favour a sibling over you, the teacher who always found a way to condemn—all these people in positions of authority tend to wrongly assert themselves.

How to react?

Ignore it: Ramesh's strategy to deal with his situation involved two important steps—first, he learnt to not take such comments and criticism to heart, no matter how unjust it all was. Secondly, he ensured that his efficiency improved manifold.

Do better: "When someone is so obviously assaulting you with the intention of putting you out of commission, it's up to you to guarantee that your anger is under control and that your performance is flawless," says Bangalore-based counsellor P Usha.

Keep quiet: "Your aggressor will want a reaction from you and it would please him/her immensely if you gave in to that temptation. Rise above it and you would have made them feel small and furious, says Usha."

The best thing to do in such situations, she recommends, is to keep your cool and simply walk away. "If it's your employer or supervisor who is being partial, just listen to his criticism. Don't react. As long as you know that you've done your work well, just don't let it bother you."

Speak up, don't fight: "You'll need to be more resilient and have a greater strength of mind to deal with this," advises Dherandra Kumar, a clinical and child psychologist associated with the Department of Psychology, Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi.

"Understand that there are some things that you can change and some that you cannot. "Weigh the pros and cons of the situation. Will it be worth speaking out? If you decide to confront someone with their partiality, avoid being aggressive or negative.

You can be assertive and stand up for your rights, but the minute you get aggressive, the focus will shift from the issue of partiality to your own bad behaviour."

Learn to accept it: If you cannot change things, learn to accept the situation as a part of life. "Has there been a society without partiality or favouritism in its relationships?" asks Kumar.

"Take a look at ancient history: This vice has been prevalent even since the times of the Ramayan and the Mahabharat!" Understanding that this is very widespread should help you tolerate the stress caused by someone's rejection of you.

Meditate: If you're still having trouble dealing with this, meditation can prove to be a healing aid. Spirituality can help you channel your thoughts in a positive direction so that you don't dwell on the unjustness of any situation, rather, help yourself rise above it.

Coping strategies

If you've been deeply affected by partiality, here are some suggestions that will help you heal:

  • Get a life. Cultivate new friendships and hobbies that will lead you to richer, better experiences.
  • Move on. Don't dwell on another's ill-treatment of you, no matter how tempting it may seem to condemn it or talk about it endlessly. This will only serve to frustrate you further. Put it entirely out of your mind and keep yourself focussed firmly on the future instead of the past.
  • Build confidence. "Don't let favouritism undermine your confidence or destroy your spirit," says Sreesudha. Keep driving yourself with more personal goals and worthy ambitions. Every goal you achieve—even on a small one—will automatically boost your confidence.
  • Stop comparing. Remember, every one has a unique personality. Even the fingers of your own hand are different from one another. Resist the urge to compare and this will stop favouritism in its infancy.

Favouritism in the family

If you have ever felt left out within your family circle, especially as a child, it could have been a devastating experience with long-standing effects on your psyche—more than when you experience favouritism at the workplace with complete strangers. This is because the offender is someone you love, and that can hurt you more.

"My paternal grandmother was blatantly partial to my brother. She believed that the son is the child of the family, while the daughter is just a drain on the resources," says Anita Satyajit, a writer.

"As a result, every act of mine was termed insolent and I was deemed a rude child while my brother's antics were laughed at indulgently. Thanks to her behaviour, I grew up very competitive with boys and constantly feeling inadequate as a person."

Anita's relationship with her grandmother took a toll on her, emotionally. "Even as an adult I was overly sensitive to people's words and comments and used to inadvertently end up seeking their approval. I didn't realise how deep a problem her constant belittling of me had sown in my life, till I found myself being unnecessarily defensive.

The after-effects of growing up with my grandmother had made me hyper-sensitive to criticism of any kind."

When someone advised her, Anita would feel like she was five years old again, being told that she was not good enough. "Though that awareness has helped greatly in changing myself as an individual and my response now to people and situations, in a way I have never been able to get over that childhood problem of wanting to prove myself and obtain praise," she says.

"Today, however, I am confident of my capabilities and achievements. And know that I matter, even if my grandma thinks otherwise."

Constant comparisons, especially when you're growing up can be belittling on a vulnerable and fragile ego. If you too are overtly defensive, do a little soul searching. Has the scourge of favouritism played havoc with your life in any way? Further, to ensure that favouritism doesn't ever creep in your family, keep communication channels open between all the members.

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Kamala Thiagarajan
Kamala Thiagarajan is a Madurai-based journalist. Her writing interests encompass a host of genres including travel, health, entertainment and lifestyle. She is a full-time freelance journalist who works from her home in Madurai, South India. With ten years of experience in journalism, she has over four hundred articles in print in leading magazines across the globe. Her writing spans a variety of travel, health, entertainment and lifestyle features read by a diverse audience in over seven count

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