Is it favouritism to protect an employee no one likes?

The Dominic Cummings affair shows the dangers of double standards, but it’s also true that management isn’t a popularity contest.

by Natasha Abramson

The disquiet over Dominic Cummings ultimately centres on double standards. It seems to many people that the Prime Minister is displaying favouritism to his special adviser, allowing him to get away with things that others wouldn’t.

But there’s more to it than that. The ferocious response of some MPs and the media has also been driven in some part by their dislike of Cummings himself. Cummings is a divisive figure, the architect of Brexit and a man who’s left a fair number of bloodied noses in his wake (professionally-speaking of course. If in doubt, just ask former chancellor Sajid Javid).

There are parallels here with a common management conundrum. What should you do as a leader if you want to keep someone on your team whom no one else likes? When does protecting the individual from the group end, and favouritism begin?

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