Playing favorites


A friend of mine works in the TV industry. He recently applied for a job at a new station, and they said he was their top choice for the opening, with a final decision to be made in a few weeks. Each time he spoke to them prior to the decision date, they confirmed that he would be offered the job. But when the date came around, they gave the job to someone else. It turns out they interviewed another person at the last minute as a favor to one of the managers, and gave that person the job instead.

This behavior isn’t limited to employment matters. You see it all the time with vendor selections, even when the purchase is supposedly being made through a competitive bid process. In each case, it’s a huge waste of time for the parties involved, and can easily cross the boundaries of what’s ethical. Frankly, companies who create elaborate hiring and purchasing charades, only to hire the VP’s brother or choose an inexperienced company run by their next-door neighbor, should be punished for these ethical violations.

If your cousin or friend or neighbor is the best choice, fine. But don’t waste everyone else’s time to go through four rounds of interviews or complete a 50 page proposal when someone else is already a lock for the job — or a higher-up in your company plans to overrule your selection with whoever they owe a favor to. In these cases, do everyone a favor and skip the fair-competition charade. Just award the business to the party that you planned to use from the start. And when you actually do run a competitive bid process or post an opening in your firm, try to maintain some semblance of a fair and equitable selection. Otherwise, people will learn that the odds are stacked against them and stop responding to your requests entirely.