Nepotism occurs when those in positions of power show special and unfair favour to those they know, usually family and friends. Giving a job to a preferred individual, raising their pay or benefits, or providing more and better opportunities within a company are all examples of special treatment.

The term “nepotism” is derived from the Italian word for nephews and dates back to the mid-seventeenth century when bishops and popes made a habit of bestowing special privileges and promotions on their family members, particularly their nephews. Their “nephews” were frequently their illegitimate sons. As a result, the concept of nepotism emerged.

Nepotism in the Workplace:

Nepotism in the workplace frequently manifests itself in the form of a leader hiring or promoting someone based solely on favour rather than the individual’s qualifications. Nepotism is difficult to confront, especially if you suspect a manager of it. If you believe a manager’s decisions are biased, you should speak with your human resources representative. To avoid nepotism, as a leader, you should make decisions based on an individual’s qualifications rather than your relationship with them.

Effects of Nepotism:

  • If you favour a family member, your employees will lose faith in you. They would dismiss your assurances because they would see you as a weak, untrustworthy leader.
  • A poor example of growth: When favouritism becomes the easy and only way to advance, it hurts team morale.
  • Increased turnover: When you favour undeserving employees, it can frustrate those who deserve the opportunity. As a result, they’ll start leaving your team/company in search of a place where their skills and experience are valued.

How to handle nepotism in the workplace:

  • Everyone is treated equally.
  • Establish an anti-nepotism policy.
  • Be open about your relationship with the new hire. Instead of your employees discovering this friend or relative you hired later, let them know about it.
  • Request that your new hire demonstrate their credibility and competency. Encourage them to form relationships and earn the team’s trust.
  • If you notice instances of nepotism at your workplace, speak up to your HR.

Examples of Nepotism at the workplace:

Example 1: Sarah works for ABC Company as a Product Manager. Andrew, her nephew, is one of three people who report to her. When a promotion became available, Sara suggested Mark, who has less experience and knowledge than his peers.

Example 2: When a position for an experienced software developer becomes available at his company, Jack ‘The Manager’ creates a job description that corresponds to his friend, Jill’s experience and qualifications. As a result, Jill appears to be the ideal candidate when she applies for the job.

Example 3: Marc, the HR executive at ABC company, wanted his friend Anthony to be hired as a Business Analyst. Because Marc is in charge of the interview process for this position, he informs Anthony of all interview questions and assessment details ahead of time. As a result, Anthony has a significant disadvantage over the other candidates.

Example 4: Jake, the company’s owner, is about to retire and wants Jenny to run it. Jenny currently has no experience or knowledge of how to run a business. She was also not mentored for the position. Jenny is given this opportunity because of her relationship with the owner, rather than a person within the company who has relevant experience and knowledge about running a business.

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