Managers need to be perceived as not having favorites in the workplace. It’s a key part of business leadership. If your methods are viewed as favoritism, that perception can erode morale and trust on your team and negatively impact productivity.

Of course, the more crucial part is not having favorites among your team. Frankly, that can be difficult to pull off entirely. Whether it’s because of similar interests or one person’s stellar performance, it’s human nature to like some people more than others or to see some people as better for key roles than others. The goal is establishing an environment where no one is silently thinking “teacher’s pet” as you tap the same member of your team as last year to lead a crucial sales development goal for this year. You need, as a manager, to make everyone feel rewarded and respected for their efforts.

Keep Track of Assignments and Strive for Inclusion

So how do you do that?

One of the best ways to make sure you don’t play favorites is to keep track of assignments you’re giving. As the Harvard Business Review observes, if you think Person A is the highest performer you have, you may be giving her key roles and plum assignments, not fully realizing the near-monopoly on good stuff she’s developed. It’s easy to lose sight of inclusion when it comes to key roles and plum assignments if you’re thinking solely of performance metrics. These are highly important, of course. But they can easily be balanced along with inclusion goals.

Do you have a team member who is nearly always in a secondary role? Ask if they can lead a weekly meeting. Tap a team player who has good presentation skills to lead at the company conference rather than, necessarily, the team leader.

Establish Lines of Communication

Make sure that your team knows why certain people are being chosen for specific assignments. If your top performing salespeople have the highest yielding territory, be transparent about the choice. More sales = linkage to a lucrative territory. It may not level the playing field, but at least the team knows what the criteria are for the position.

Don’t worry if you have key criteria that result in the same person being chosen repeatedly. That’s a solid business strategy choice. It’s not the same as favoritism, which is choosing the same people out of comfort, liking, or similarity. If your team members perceive actions as favoritism that are in fact undertaken out of strategy, share the strategy.

Another communication area, however, is more personal. Sometimes managers unwittingly play favorites simply because they have things in common with some employees but not others. They may feel more personally comfortable with the former category or end up having more face time with them.

Make a point of establishing common ground with each member of your team. Do you both like baseball or soccer? Garden or parasail on weekends? Any personal interest can work in establishing mutual interests, and thus more comfort.

While it’s normal to like some team members more than others and to see some people as higher performers than others, make sure that your attitudes and actions aren’t perceived as favoritism.