What is nepotism?
Nepotism is the process of favoring family and friends over other employees for opportunities in the workplace. This can include hiring unqualified family members or friends, promoting them over more qualified individuals, or giving them preferential treatment in other ways.
It often places the wrong people in leadership or subject-matter expert positions. This can lead to a loss of productivity and collaboration and a general feeling of unfairness among employees.
This practice is not illegal, but it can lead to tension and decreased productivity in the workplace. Employers should be aware of nepotism and prevent it from happening in their organization.
Employers can do a few things to prevent nepotism: be transparent about opportunities, develop policies against nepotism and promote top talent.
Different types of nepotism
There are two types of nepotism: reciprocal and entitlement.
Reciprocal nepotism is when a family member accepts a position because of financial considerations or loyalty issues.
Entitlement nepotism is when someone feels a sense of entitlement for a particular job or promotion only because their family member works at the company.
This can be very harmful to companies as it can create an unfair playing field and disrupt the workplace dynamics.
To prevent nepotism in the workplace, employers should put in place policies that prohibit family members from working in the same department or being promoted to positions within the company.
Reciprocal nepotism is a situation where someone hires a family member, and that family member accepts the position.
The decision to hire is based on three factors: financial dependency, the extent of exchanges and cultural norms.
Economic dependence means that one party needs something from the other to survive – usually money. The second factor, the extent of exchanges, looks at how much each side has given and received in the past. Finally, cultural norms look at whether or not it is socially acceptable to hire family members.
Entitlement nepotism is a specific type of nepotism where the family member feels they deserve a position because of their family member. It occurs most often within family-owned businesses, where there is already an inherent advantage given to those related to the owner.
This type of nepotism can lead to destructive behavior and sometimes hostile situations, as the person doesn’t feel like they earned what they have. It can occur in any situation where people are related to each other.
Harmful effects of nepotism
Nepotism can have several adverse effects on the employees and the company. Signs of nepotism can include employees feeling unsupported or unqualified, tension among coworkers and decreased productivity. Nepotism is illegal in some jurisdictions and can lead to poor morale and reduced confidence among employees.
Employee confidence in managerial authority and power diminishes when family members are given preferential treatment. Furthermore, exceptional employees may leave an organization altogether if they feel that their skills are not being recognized or rewarded.
In sum, nepotism can damage an organization’s culture and employee morale.
Here are some of the most harmful effects nepotism can have in a workplace:
Nepotism can lead to decreased productivity in the workplace, which happens for a few different reasons.
First, when a manager allows their unqualified family member to participate in a job position that they don’t have experience in, this can lead to errors and a slow-paced work environment.
Second, when those in positions of power give promotional opportunities to family members without having a history at the company, this can create a sense of hopelessness in employees who worked hard to get to a promotion. This can cause them to decrease their work ethic because they feel like their work isn’t noticed or appreciated.
This not only frustrates qualified employees but also lowers morale and weakens productivity. In the long run, this can lead to the decreased success of the company as a whole.
Decreases employee enthusiasm
When nepotism is present in the workplace, it often has negative consequences for employee morale. If a related employee is hired for the wrong reasons- such as through family connections rather than merit- other staff are likely to be unsupportive and resentful.
If one person begins to exhibit low morale, other employees may start to feel the same way, resulting in a lack of loyalty and dedication to the job at hand. This can cause decreased productivity, decreased creativity and even an exodus of talented employees.
Contributes to the development of an unhealthy work environment
Nepotism can create an unhealthy work environment where employees feel undervalued and unfairly treated. This is because nepotism often results in unqualified employees being hired for positions they are not suited for, leading to resentment from other employees. Additionally, nepotism can reduce morale and productivity and increase turnover rates.
However, it should be noted that there is a difference between nepotism and hiring close to home. Hiring family members or friends who are qualified for their positions and are the right fit for the job can benefit the company, and this can help build a close-knit team that works cohesively towards the same goals and objectives.
Employees don’t tend to stick around for long
Hiring new employees is a considerable expense for companies, and it can be even more costly when nepotism is present in the workplace. Nepotism can increase employee turnover rates and recruiting, interviewing, and training costs, which can damage a company’s bottom line.
Nepotism can create feelings of unfairness and resentment among employees unrelated to management or other high-ranking employees. This can lead to talented individuals looking for work elsewhere, as they feel that the company is not valuing their skills and dedication.
This can cause good employees to leave the company, increasing turnover rates and lost productivity.
How to spot nepotism and what should you look for
There are different types of nepotism, and each can have adverse effects on employees. Some signs to watch for include appointing family members without considering their qualifications, giving them preferential treatment over other employees, and refusing to punish them for unethical behavior.
If you suspect that nepotism is happening in your workplace, it is crucial to speak up and report it. You can also take steps to protect yourself from nepotism by being aware of the warning signs and by networking with other professionals.
Hiring under-qualified workers
Nepotism can often be spotted in an organization when poor policies and improperly trained leadership are in place. This allows unqualified candidates to be hired without just cause, often due to family ties. As a result, employees may view their employer negatively due to the manager’s ineffective leadership. This will likely decrease employee confidence and morale, which can hinder performance.
In addition, watch out for these signs that indicate nepotism is happening in your workplace:
- The way up the ladder is through favoritism instead of merit-based promotion
- Employees who are exceptional at their role quit to seek more fulfilling opportunities
- There is a lack of transparency in the hiring process
Not all employees are equal
Nepotism is often exhibited in the form of a family member not being reprimanded for breaking the rules. For example, if a manager’s relative routinely arrives late to work, misses deadlines, does not dress appropriately, and doesn’t get reprimanded – this is a sign that nepotism is at play. Managers should be aware of these signs and take appropriate action to ensure that all employees are held to the same standards.
Keep an eye out for complaints
If you have noticed that other employees have been complaining about their working conditions to either you or HR, it is vital to take action. Investigating these complaints and taking disciplinary action against the employees who made them can help improve the workplace environment for everyone.
Nepotism can create tension and resentment among employees and lead to several other problems in the office. Before taking any preemptive actions, it is crucial to meet with these employees, listen to their concerns, and document the events that have taken place.
How to prevent nepotism in the workplace
Nepotism is unethical behavior in the workplace and can adversely affect employee health and morale. To avoid nepotism, foster professionalism in your organization and provide training on favoritism, why it’s harmful, and how employees should report any instances of it confidentially.
Unchecked favoritism is harmful, and employees will not risk reporting it if they’re not sure how to go about it or if they fear it will come back to affect them negatively.
If you discover that favoritism is taking place in your company, it is most important to make sure it stops.
Gather the facts and get to the bottom of it – don’t ignore an accusation of discrimination in the workplace.
Train your staff
While nepotism in the workplace is often an unavoidable reality, some steps can mitigate its effects. One such step is leadership training, which can address the very concerns that give rise to nepotism in the first place.
Leadership training provides a common understanding of what nepotism looks like in the workplace and how it can manifest itself. Furthermore, establishing a culture of accountability creates an environment where nepotism is less likely to take hold.
Even if it does manage to sneak through your organization’s defenses, you will have already built a solid foundation to advise and coach leadership more effectively on how to address the issue.
Have clear job descriptions on hand
Maintaining accurate and detailed job descriptions is one of the best ways to keep team expectations grounded, leadership in check, and an open, communicative platform for all to see.
Job descriptions should detail the skills, experience, and attributes employees need to qualify for any given position within the company.
Maintaining detailed job descriptions is essential to ensure that employees are fully aware of their duties and responsibilities.
Ensuring that employees are fully aware of their duties and responsibilities prevents them from making mistakes, leading to lost productivity.
By keeping track of employee performance, managers can better assess the effectiveness of their work policies.
When pointing out that somebody else is rewarded without valid grounds or by that, either directly or indirectly suggesting that you might be better for the job, there is an excellent chance that your superiors will take a closer look at you.
Establish a culture of recruiting and promotion that is transparent and communicative
To foster trust between employees and leadership, an organization’s hiring and promotion policies must be clear. Communication is critical for establishing a unified, communicative recruiting and promotion culture. Fostering a healthy work environment is crucial for keeping top people and advancing an organization’s success.
Implement an anti-nepotism procedure
Nepotism is prohibited by law in several states, and it can lead to discrimination claims. Implementing an anti-nepotism policy in the workplace can prevent favoritism and any potential appearance of nepotism.
An efficient and timely hiring process is critical for any company. However, it’s imperative to ensure that the process is fair and unbiased.
When making decisions about hiring and promoting employees, it is vital to have a process that includes HR involvement and senior management approval. This helps to ensure that the best possible candidates are chosen and that all legal requirements are met.
This will also help ensure that nepotism doesn’t play a role in who gets hired or promoted.
What is the difference between nepotism and cronyism?
There is a significant distinction between nepotism and cronyism.
Nepotism favors a family member in the workplace, whereas cronyism favors a friend or acquaintance.
This can often lead to problems in the company, such as lawsuits and complaints filed against the company.
There is also a difference between nepotism and hiring family members- hiring family members is not always considered cronyism or nepotism; it depends on the context of how it’s done.
Is nepotism in government illegal?
Yes, nepotism in government is illegal. Since 1978, the United States has had the Hatch Act to prohibit nepotism in government. The act prohibits federal employees from using their positions to help their relatives get jobs in the civil service or give them an advantage when taking exams. This law applies to all levels of government and all departments and agencies of the US federal government.
If a public official hires or promotes a relative in violation of anti-nepotism laws, they can be subject to fines and/or imprisonment for up to five years. There have been several high-profile cases of nepotism within the US government, including those of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.
Is nepotism illegal in the private sector?
Nepotism is not illegal in the private sector; however, nepotism may rear its head with individuals in a position of power, such as those in a senior or executive level role. Nepotism is defined as favoring family, friends, or associates in the hiring, promotion, or other treatment of an individual.