Even if you never become the favourite, here are seven ways to improve your working relationship:
Find an outside voice to serve as a sounding board. “You need someone who will tell you, ‘Yes, this situation is unfair’ or ‘you’re overthinking this one’,” says Karen Dillon, author of the HBR Guide to Office Politics.
Your goal is to be a confident, self-motivated and self-propelled contributor who doesn’t need “validation from a boss to do a good job or to be happy”, says Susan Heatherfield, a talent management expert.
Watch and learn
Observe how the favourite interacts with your boss and others in the company. Think about how you could “emulate their behaviours” in ways that feel genuine to you, Dillon says.
“You should be going out of your way to build relationships with your boss and the favourite,” Heathfield says. Dillon recommends asking the favourite for advice on how to get better at your job.
Opt for conversation, not confrontation
You can talk to your boss about ways to improve your performance, but don’t accuse them of playing favourites.
Find other mentors
“Develop relationships with people in positions of power throughout the organisation” to help deepen your understanding of the challenges you’re collectively facing and where opportunities lie, Dillon says.
Dillon is a firm believer that “hard work, a good attitude and being a good colleague pays off over time”, but if you’re “being ignored” despite “your best efforts,” it might be time to start a job search.