Nepotism at Work

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.

Last Updated on 25 May 2021

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