Workers who are the most innovative or productive or those who possess visionary leadership are inevitably propelled to the top of the working ladder. This is the image many people have of the workplace. In reality, the practice of favoring and promoting relatives, more commonly known as nepotism (Employee Issues), is widely practiced in companies large and small across the country. The dangers of nepotism to your company shouldn’t be overlooked. It is not only wise to promote antinepotism policies but also to regularly monitor ones staff to ensure that such relationships have not developed.
Some problems nepotism can cause is a disruption of the work day, unfair treatment between employees and unfair job opportunities, and favoritism.
One of the chief complaints in a company that operates through nepotism is the obvious lack of fairness. Perceived favoritism of a relative can cause dissatisfaction amongst the workers and it can lower morale in the workplace. Employees may have less incentive to perform their jobs diligently and proficiently if they feel that the path to promotion is undermined by nepotism.
Although, a company employing such tactics may find its more valuable employees seeking new employment where their talent is better recognized. At a minimum, workers will likely complain and become bitter and less productive in the face of blatant nepotism. Gill Corkindale, a writer for Harvard Business Online, described a typical workplace scenario involving nepotism at a newspaper for which she used to work. A young, inexperienced colleague was hired in her department, and she actually spent several months helping him adjust to his role at the paper.
Soon after, the young colleague was promoted to become her boss. Only then did she discover that he was actually an editor’s nephew. Given the nephew’s effortless and unwarranted promotion, Corkindale ended up leaving the paper (Corkindale).
Another disruption to workflow in a business is the worry and risk of lawsuits. Even though very few laws regulate nepotism at either the state or federal level. In fact, some states have no laws prohibiting the practice. Nevertheless, the consequences of nepotism may increase your risk of being sued for discrimination or hostile work environment. For instance, personal relationships and fraternization between coworkers often lead to over the top breakups and emotional trauma at the office. One of the parties may accuse the other of sexual harassment or of creating a hostile work environment, especially if one of the parties is a supervisor.
It can also have a bad effect on the management position. Subordinates will likely take a dim view of an employer’s ethics and judgment when they hire their friends for job openings. Cronyism, a partiality towards hiring close supporters, may suggest that the employer is weak, insecure and requires a network of allies to support their decisions. In addition to inspiring little confidence in their power and authority, a boss who embraces nepotism is deemed unlikely to make fair assessments of others’ accomplishments, especially when it comes to promotional opportunities. Nor will workers think such an employer can be relied upon to dispense appropriate discipline if the guilty party happens to be a friend. There are, of course, exceptions to this train of thought. Hiring someone you know means that you are already attuned to their strengths and weaknesses and feel comfortable that they know how you think. If the friendship is longstanding and secure, they have a vested interest in not letting you down and in maintaining the professionalism to keep both halves of your lives appropriately separate.
The employee that is “favored” is also at risk of judgment. Even if the friend of the employer is truly the best qualified in the candidate pool, they enter the workplace equation under an immediate cloud of suspicion. Everything they do could be scrutinized for signs of incompetence. Every decision they make could be challenged to test their allegiance. Every friendship they attempt to make could be interpreted as just a ploy to learn secrets and report back to the boss. Although the respect of their coworkers may eventually be won if the worker proves himself worthy, the stress of being watched, judged and distrusted in the interim can take an emotional and physical toll.
One should not forget about a very important aspect of any work place. This aspect is, of course, the worker’s morale. Having good or bad morale can easily make or break a company. Nepotism can foster hostile feelings of inequality that employees may react to in one of two ways. The first is to repeatedly undermine the favored worker’s capabilities and attempt to sabotage their projects. These efforts to get them fired, however, can result in costly mistakes and loss of time which can then potentially impact customer relations. The second reaction is an attitude of defeat. If employees assume that promotions and perks will always go friends of the boss, they will likely feel less inclined to do their best work to distinguish themselves. Resentment and indifference can lead to reduced productivity as well as employee turnover if workers decide that nothing will ever get better.
According to Dr. Stephen Asma, who is in full support of nepotism, favoritism(nepotism) is used more as a scapegoat. He states that “fairness” is redirected to words like tolerance and generosity, as opposed to “favoritism” which is related to words like corruption and prejudice. He says having these preconceived notions automatically labels the situation as good or bad, people just automatically assume that it’s a bad thing that the new employee is related to or has a close relationship with the boss (Asma). Adam Bellow states in his book In Praise of Nepotism that “Americans censure nepotism on the one hand and practice it as much as they can on the other. There’s much to be said for “good” nepotism, which is fortunate, because we’re living in a nepotistic Golden Age” (Bellow). In his book he talks heavily about politicians and how a lot of them were born into their roles. Along with being pretty talented politicians, they have the extra help coming from their status their parents had built for them, but he doesn’t state that this is a bad thing. Bellow says that having that image put on them, gives them the attention they need to get their ideas across, which has been a great gateway to finding a lot of our most famous politicians in history (Bellow).
When it comes to something as touchy as favoritism or nepotism in the workplace, there are definitely many opinions on the topic. Each side can give a relatively solid argument but when it comes to most people, especially employees of businesses, they are wanting fair treatment between everyone. In my own opinion, I feel nepotism has no place in the workplace, every employee should have the same treatment and opportunities available to them. In conclusion, this essay has went over how nepotism affects the workplace in most every aspect, the unfair treatment between employees and unfair opportunities it can create, and what favoritism does. A person chooses a career because they really enjoy that field of work and they want to be successful in it, but when an obstacle enters the picture and stunts your ability to move forward in your career it can have dire consequences. Lastly, looking at all the evidence and facts, I feel nepotism should be a very closely watched incident in every business as to ensure fair treatment between all of the employees.