Home > Employment Relations > Nepotism at Work

Nepotism at Work

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 2 Jun 2016 | comments*Discuss
Nepotism Cronyism Favouritism Nepotism

Nepotism at work refers to the act of favouring relatives at work in employment or economic terms as opposed to them being judged on ability or merit. This could include Employing a Relative a position over somebody else who may be more suitable, paying a relative more money than somebody doing the same job or granting them special favours.

However, for the most part, nepotism can simply be viewed in terms of people giving somebody a leg-up to enable them to get on within an organisation but being treated in exactly the same manner as everybody else. And, although nepotism, in its strictest sense of the word, refers to relatives, its interpretation these days can also tend to incorporate friends or simply favouritism in general.

Where It Is Most Prevalent and Most Accepted

Smaller, family-run businesses are the most common arena where you’d see nepotism at work and that is perfectly understandable. Family run businesses have a tradition of being passed down from generation to generation and their success and continuity rely a lot on the emotional ties which bonds a family together. That said, if the company also employs staff outside of the family as well, it’s important to maintain a strict working relationship where the family member(s) is treated no more than equal to all of the rest of the staff who may hold a similar position to them in order that the workplace remains harmonious and there are no accusations of preferential treatment. In fact, you often find that family members have to strive even harder than outsiders to prove themselves worthy of holding a position to avoid such accusations from arising.

Nepotism – Pros and Cons

There are several benefits and also disadvantages of hiring a close relative. On the plus side, it can create stability and continuity for a company. The relative is likely to be more honest and trustworthy and willing to go the extra mile in their job to prove that they’re capable of undertaking the job on merit. They’ll demonstrate loyalty and commitment and be willing to make sacrifices for the business.

On the downside, however, they may lack the experience to do the job and may even be totally incompetent and unsuitable. They may bring family conflicts into work with them which can ruin communication at work and they might be unable to leave work behind and to separate work and home life. In extreme cases, they may use their position to carry out unethical acts or to take advantage of their position to serve their own interests and to the detriment of the company. Husband and wife teams, in particular, can often find the most difficulty in working together and, unless totally focused on keeping work and life totally separate, a constant crossover into both can not only ruin their relationship but can destroy the business too and can cause a decrease in morale amongst the rest of the workforce if not carefully managed.

Good Practice

Most of us these days are familiar with the concept of getting a job through ‘who we know’ in addition to ‘what we know’. In this day and age, we’re all much more able to accept that personal contacts are a perfectly legitimate way of trying to open doors – after all, that is what social networking is all about and many of us have already used our relationships with others to open doors for us or will do so at some time or another.

It’s a competitive world out there and we’re all looking for something or somebody to give us the ‘edge’ when we’re seeking to get on and progress in our careers. And, whether it’s family or friends that give you an ‘in’ to a particular job, it’s become accepted throughout business that this is fine as long as you’re able to work within the confines of a merit-based system when it comes to rising through the ranks and it’s important not to seek to receive any preferential treatment. And, whilst problems are rare for the most part, remember that there will always be the odd disgruntled colleague who’ll not be able to accept that you’re there on merit but as long do your job to the very best of your abilities, do not accept preferential treatment and pitch in like everybody else, accusations of any kind of favouritism would be totally unjustified.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Charity sector rife with nepotism. My office managers daughter job shares with me. I say share but she does 20% of the workload with longer hrs.Every time I bring her incompetence to the managers attention she deflects and takes the blame herself.
Alandickie - 2-Jun-16 @ 10:03 PM
ScreenQueen - Your Question:
I work in a busy UK airport. I work for an aircraft cleaning company. Nepotism is rife and I feel it to be wrong. My boss is seeing another member of staff. My boss is female and the member of staff male. She has just employed her boyfriends daughter-in-law as a driver. She(the daughter-in-law) has gained immediate promotion without ANY merit. I.E> Given a supervisory position over those that have been there years. Her boyfriend gets overtime over everyone else. Gets called into work to do the tasks of a tradesman. i.e painting, and paid for doing so. He has access to areas the supervisors do not have. i.e. The store cupboard where essentail work equipment is kept. If he is not on shift we go without the neccessary tools.

Our Response:
If the boss is not your actual employer, you should consider making a complaint about this to the HR department of the company.
SafeWorkers - 29-Feb-16 @ 10:50 AM
I work in a busy UK airport. I work for an aircraft cleaning company. Nepotism is rife and I feel it to be wrong. My boss is seeing another member of staff. My boss is female and the member of staff male. She has just employed her boyfriends daughter-in-law as a driver. She(the daughter-in-law) has gained immediate promotion without ANY merit. I.E> Given a supervisory position over those that have been there years. Her boyfriend gets overtime over everyone else. Gets called into work to do the tasks of a tradesman. i.e painting, and paid for doing so. He has access to areas the supervisors do not have. i.e. The store cupboard where essentail work equipment is kept. If he is not on shift we go without the neccessary tools.
ScreenQueen - 26-Feb-16 @ 10:40 AM
There is a young man at the security company I work who gets special treatment on account of being in a relationship with the boss' niece. He regularly causes conflict between other employee's and even with clients, but he is never held accountable. He also throws his weight around and makes no secret of the fact he's above the law. I know that one of the supervisors caught him misbehaving on site, and the supervisor got in trouble for flagging it up and was told to leave him alone. If anyone complains they often get accused of bullying or troublemaking. As you can imagine this has ruined morale within the company, many workers have even left in disgust. Worst of all are the workers who pretend to like him, just to get an easier ride.
James - 10-Aug-15 @ 4:49 AM
I currently work at a place where a close family relative is favored over all of the other wait staff. The relative can call into work for insanely irresponsible reasons such as "I am too drunk" or "I just broke up with my boyfriend" and even if I am not on the schedule to work, I am forced to go in because the boss threatens to punish me by giving me less hours. Is this legal? Can I be bullied into working a shift that I am not scheduled for?
Cass - 20-May-15 @ 6:01 PM
Experience of this in a charity.Great deal of expenditure goes on family and cronies.
bill - 1-May-14 @ 11:53 PM
I work for a small business. Out of 34 including the Managing Director only 3 are unconnected. I am one of the 3. When the company was beginning it was a family affair and after that each person has brought others in that they know and they found others and so on. Friends, family, neighbours. 1 person alone has 5 others that they got jobs for and they all know each other too. Its a very difficult workplace if you are not one of the clan. They all have sub groups and cliques aswell. If I say one small thing to one, I get the backlash from many.I feel so insecure and unstable always worried I will be in trouble or pushed out. The other 2 outsiders: 1 has managed to get into the good graces of a senior and the other works in a section that is remote and does not come into contact enough to cause waves though I hear them gossip about her. I know Im one of their better employees, I know from my own productivity/ standards unyet I am invisble. It makes no difference that Im not late/ sick. The others get away with murder.After nearly 3 years I am a little depressed and have changed alot. I have lost alot of confidence working for these people and jobs are thin as is. I am certainly cynical and mistrusting now and if I ever summon the confidence to get to an interview, my priority will be to interview them regarding their staffing policies. Never again will I work for a company like this. Theres alot to be said for big business that has protocols- proper training and monitors its staff correctly.
justme - 2-Apr-14 @ 11:33 AM
We run a small business which operates using sub contractors; my partner (50/50 director) has started to plan the monthly workload based on giving his son-in-law some of the other contractors jobs, who have been with us longer and are more experienced. I am unhappy with this situation, but am concerned as to how to stop this practice, I fear that we current use too many of my partners family in our business and I'm concerned that we may end up peeing off our other contractors.
Me - 23-Oct-13 @ 2:51 PM
I am working for my company for about 3 years now and I really enjoyed, I get promoted, as supervisor , and I was always appreciated for my hard work . 2 months ago a new manager come in organisation and she changed everything. No comunication , she is bulling all the time and she is very, very rude with me and my staff. We falling apart and I am feeling like I am loosing the battle. I see my staff confused and upset everyday, and some they want quit, and some they are to scared to say something. I was doing my job in one day and I went to ask the helpdesk about a delivery that was delay to come, and after I get bullied on phone by my manager that if I go one more time to talk or ask any other manager or head something she sack me out. I was shocked as nowone in my company was talking like this before. Since then I try keep records of everything, and I try to calm my staff. The worse thing is she bring member of family on job to be part of my team , and things go worse everyday. She giving favoure to members of family and to rest of as hard work. She changed the schedules for everyone and is it clear , she want make us leave. I am thinking to inform Hr about what happening, but not to sure if this is the right think . Is anyone can tell me what to do???
Iqbal43 - 8-Oct-13 @ 10:03 PM
My workplace has recently shut down and All workers including myself have now been made redundant because Of nepotism.The organization hired a women to be a shift coordinator.She then hired new workers who were all her family.Bit by bit she forced long term shift workers to leave, either by making up serious false accusations about them to HR or not giving them shifts on the rosters.When the employees were forced out she hired more of her family.Then the payroll bills started to soar and soarbwith all of her family members making an average of $5000.00 per fortnight each.This apparently being due to them working lots of overtime and not having 10 hour breaks between each shift.The shift coordinator lied to national management that she was unable to contact other workers or they were not available or that they were not showing up for their shifts.None of this was true.National office were unaware she had been employing her own family until it was too late.They shut down our branch because they losses suffered could not be recovered and was too much of a risk to the rest of the organization.Thanks to one greedy person and her family many others are now out of work
Delune - 11-Sep-13 @ 4:59 AM
I worked in a company for ten years and then the daughter was brought in - she comes and goes whenever she wants and does as much or as little work as she pleases, usually the latter.The boss will come in i can be working away and the daughter is doing her own thing and the boss comes up to me and piles more work on me.We have to wear a uniform but she can wear what ever she wants.Its turned into a horrible place to work. I used to love my job but now i hate it because of her - i dont feel as if i can say anything because she's the bosses daughter he wouldnt be happy with me if i was calling her to him. Its a no win situation.I have to put up with it or be forced out of my job because of her bad attitude to work.
Tiggy Ten - 30-Aug-13 @ 9:38 PM
I started working for a family business 3 months ago.. I was praised every day for building the business up, putting in a new structure etc etc. then they employed a family member with no experience as they felt sorry for him and I have been told there's not enough work for both of us and I may have to go.I have no rights? I gave up a good job to go there and I feel completely duped.. Employment Law is not there for me even though I am a good, honest worker.
Roy - 20-Apr-13 @ 3:53 PM
I currently work at a family run company. The father has employed his son to be a manager and to say he's incompetent, well that's putting it nicely. The atmosphere during the work day is horrific. All the staff want to leave and even the other management know how bad a job he's been doing yet still there has been no reprimand for any wrong doing. After filling in over 200 job applications in the last 3 years of working there, I am completely fed up. We've had 16 staff in the last 2 years leave due to his attitude and problems with management. What do you do when the family wont fire the son that's ruining their business?
Suitandties - 27-Mar-13 @ 12:02 AM
You also forgot to mention the social implications, cronyism etc. Also you must remember that when friends/relatives get picked for positions (promotion) that the other members of staff may resent being passed over due to simply not being a mate from college. I have experienced this first hand. It does effect productivity VASTLY. Nepotism in small businesses is all very well and good, but in big businesses preaching professionalism, its suicide. No one has any motivation if nothing they do will improve their position.
Rsol - 11-Jan-13 @ 9:38 AM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the SafeWorkers website. Please read our Disclaimer.