Office Nepotism: Stolen Opportunities at the Workplace

  | 5 min read

The workplace has evolved over the years to reflect the diversity of the people from different backgrounds and viewpoints.  However, the sad reality is that office nepotism is still present and it dictates different company processes like recruitment, promotions, salary increase, among others.  It is a potent threat to a company’s growth, as well as individual career progress. In situations where jobs are hard to find, office nepotism can be quite demoralizing to notice that someone else is getting a job you deserve or the promotion you have been eyeing. All because they knew someone in the management. This practice is especially rampant in small and medium sized organizations.

The biggest downside of office nepotism is that most often than not, it locks out qualified people who would have greatly impacted on performance, and gives the undeserving few an edge. It should be noted that workplace nepotism mostly enhances the hiring of people with fewer skills, qualifications, and experience into positions based on their relationship with the hiring manager or the overall boss.

Impact of Office Nepotism in an Organization

  • Low staff morale: Members of staff may feel less motivated to give their best performance as they feel like the favored member of staff gets all the credit.
  • Internal sabotage: Other members of staff may intentionally try to undermine the favored member as they constantly question his qualifications and motives.
  • High staff turnover: Members of staff may be locked out of promotions and pay increments in favor of the boss’s favorite and this demotivates them. In some cases, it can lead to a high turnover.
  • Locking out potential: Favoritism may also result in low productivity, as the boss overlooks a qualified person and thus fails to harness his/ her skills for the job and the company’s growth.
  • Mistrust in the team: Favoritism may result in the staff members segregation and forming the “us and them’’ mentality. This erodes trust and harmony in the organization and breeds hostility.
  • Breeds contempt and conflict: Favoritism erodes the confidence of a team on management since they view all other decisions made by management as biased. Workers question the employer’s judgment and decisions in relation to promotions, punishments, and fairness in the event of a conflict. It also becomes a source of conflict in the organization among employees.

Since it is illegal to hire people based on your relationship with them, nepotism has become hard to notice as organizations try to maintain a national outlook. However, there are some pointers to nepotism and they are as follows:

  • A person of little qualification is hired to fill a particular position.
  • An individual who is not hard working and has no qualification is promoted while the person with a higher qualification or superior skill is overlooked.
  • The boss constantly gives an unqualified employee the best or most visible tasks so as to make him or her to get accolades for the job even if he does not perform well.
  • Unmerited praise for a job done even if the outcome is low or the person being praised did not necessarily have a large impact on the outcome.
  • When a job advertisement is being placed you may notice that the qualifications listed tend to bend towards people of a certain group and this fosters nepotism from the recruitment stage.

Since office nepotism is present in most organizations, it is necessary to find ways to deal with it so that it does not affect your productivity and career growth. You may use the following strategies to deal with and conquer favoritism.

  • Talk to the human resource manager about signs of nepotism at work. Often times, the manager may not be aware of the daily operations and relations of people in every department. If you notice favoritism based or friendship or relationship, it is advisable to talk to the human resource manager in private. Remember to always have concrete evidence to prove your allegations so as to avoid accusations of witch-hunting your colleagues.
  • Ensure that your performance is excellent and you maintain high-level professionalism. In the event that your claim to nepotism is unfair promotion, it is important to demonstrate, through productivity, that you were more qualified for the position. This backs up your claim and legitimizes your concerns.
  • Have evidence of specific situations when nepotism was evident. This will ensure that you do not constantly go to the human resource manager with complaints which make you appear unprofessional. If possible, have particular dates and events in which perceived favoritism occurred and it is always advisable to have a witness to eliminate the likelihood of biases.
  • In the event of a family owned company, it may be hard to find the right channels to complain. As a result, you will be constantly frustrated at work and it is advisable to look for another job to salvage your career.


Njeri Karanja
Njeri is a reading and creative writing enthusiast who is neck-deep in research writing. She is well versed in researching and writing on various topics.


  1. it is a nice article.nepotism has been rampant in most organization and its a menace that needs to be eradicated.

  2. Nepotism at work place at times really hurts. My sister just lost her job at Sidian Bank to an undergraduate awaiting graduation. Reason, she didn’t have a degree despite years of experience, having a diploma and just got her final CPA(K) results. Really makes one frustrated.

    • Hi Edwin,
      We agree it does make one feel frustrated but you know what they say when one door is closed another one is opened. So, your sister’s career is not wasted. She just needs to find another job where she won’t feel less appreciated. Nepotism is real but there are employers who appreciate each employee’s input.

      We wish her all the best.


  3. This is really a good article and has articulated this topic very well. The best part I see a solution. Thank you

    • Thank you Jayne.
      We are here to ensure you get the best career advice and to offer solutions for any career problems.
      Keep it Brighter Monday for more tips and advice.


  4. This is a very good and informative article. Unfortunately, even the HR managers one may wish to point out the vise, will fall under either;
    1. A beneficiary of a biased system and will therefore protect and justify the practice OR
    2. One who, on realising the existence of the vise, chooses to ” look the other side” to assure his own survival. He accepts to be the agreeable scapegoat

    • Hi Catherine,
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and views with us, we highly appreciate them.


  5. Hello. This is a nice article. It is on point. The problem is, what if the HR Manager is the one involved in nepotism? You can’t complain to him. It’s either you accept and move on or just quit. Look for another job.

    • Hi Josephine,
      With or without the involvement of the HR, this should not effect your input to the company. Continue doing your level best and if you feel your effort is going down the drain, then the decision lies with you on whether to continue or not but please analyse all your options critically before reaching your final verdict.


    • Hi Janet
      Thank you for reading.
      Please feel free to share with as many people as possible. We highly appreciate the support.


  6. Good article. But what about if the Human Resource Manager is involved in nepotism, who do you turn to. Talking from experience.

    • Hi Lydia
      We understand your frustration. However, even if the HR is involved, it doesn’t mean that you remain silent on the issue. There has to be someone who is more senior in your organization and who would listen to your case. So, don’t keep it to yourself and give it some time before you expect any feedback. While you are at it, make sure it doesn’t interfere with you work; keep on performing.


      • i dont have an answer,but further asking that what do we do to boses who opress their staff and are ready to fire them off work…?

        • Hi Jacob Polo,
          Thank you for your query. In such a case, it is best to put your best foot forward and then raise this issue with your human resource manager for action. Also, learn what the boss likes and dislikes and align yourself accordingly.

  7. well, it is sad to know that leadership does fail even at institutional/enterprise levels. This is a sad reality which i wish corporate and govt. quarters could address. it’s really a detriment to human resource practice and organizational growth. Thanks for the highlight BM.


    • Hi Harrison,
      Thanks a lot for sharing your views.
      Your participation is highly appreciated.


  8. Hi,

    Nepotism is real at work places. To avoid it organisations should come up with Hr procedures for recruitment,selection and reward of their human resources that ensure equity prevails at the workplace.


    Moses Maithya

    • Hi Moses,
      Thank you for reading and we do appreciate your proposals.
      Keep writing to us, we would like to hear more from you.


  9. Very nice article that exposes what is happening in many firms.. Nepotism is prevalent even during recruitment….

  10. Hi,I enjoyed reading the article but my sentiments on the topic are that nepotism is very common especially in Kenya.Its not as easy to deal
    with as stated in the article. A lot of people get jobs because of who they know. It’s just a matter of doing your best and hoping you will not be a victim of such circumstances.

    • Yes Rosey, no matter how difficult the environment can be, give your job your best and you will be rewarded in due time. At the end of the day, giving your job your best enhances your chances of being noticed within the industry.


  11. nepotism is a workplace disease esp. when it comes to the availability of promotional chances. How to treat it is what remain a big challenge.

    • Thank you David,
      Indeed, nepotism steals one’s chance of being promoted but as we have pointed out, you can always ensure that you get a fighting chance by tactfully using the recommended steps.


  12. Quite true and if only firms knew how much they were losing as a result, probably they would think twice
    Thanks please

    • You’re welcome Muguwa.
      Thank you for sharing your sentiments.
      We appreciate your support.


  13. Hi, the article is very informative, I have been a victim but from what I have learnt all hope is not lost.On the other hand I have a complain to make ,ever since I subscribed to Brighter Monday I have never even received a call or an email inviting me to an interview even for the jobs that don’t need experience .It’s very discouraging and if there is something that am missing out I would appreciate to be well informed.Thanks

    • Hi Julia,
      Thank you for reading and we do understand your frustration. However, the list below can shed some light on the possible reasons that might have led to your current predicament;
      Do you send applications to job adverts that match your skills?
      Have you updated your CV since last year?
      Do you write a customized cover letter for each application?

      The number of job seekers has gone up since last year, making the talent pool larger and you have to ensure your CV stands out from the rest.
      Start by editing your CV to reflect all the skills and experience you have gained. Subscribe for alerts that are relevant to the career you wish to pursue.
      Update your profile to achieve a score of over 97% to make you more visible.

      We hope all these measures will improve your chances of being considered.


    • Hi Elizabeth,
      Just as in Julia’s case, implement the measures we have highlighted, and you will increase your chances of hearing from employers.
      Feel free to write to us if you need further assistance.


    • You’re welcome Princelow,
      It shall be well, just hang in there and pray that your grievance will be heard and acted upon.


  14. Hi Brighter Mondays,

    I am writing from a fresh experience and what even makes it shocking it was a Church based out fit.
    My hope is high, I am positive my job will eventually locate me.
    Thank you for addressing what we used to refer as ‘ the elephant in the room ‘ in times of clear -cut conflicts.



    • You’re welcome, Joan.
      We highly appreciate your feedback and please continue writing to us.


  15. Have read the article and it really have some serious steps to help us if we do follow them.

    Kudos for the good job you always do.


  16. The author of this doc?writing a research paper on perceptions of discrimination in the work place.

  17. truth indeed. all public institutions here in Kenya should be subject to vetting. more than too much rot is ongoing.

    • Thanks a lot Brian,
      Your feedback is highly appreciated. Continue to read our articles for more insight.


    • Thanks for the feedback,
      We will keep on doing what we do best just keep it here.


  18. This article is very useful. This is experienced in county governments and very hard to deal with because Human resource managers could be the one hiring their relatives so solving it becomes very difficult.


    • Hi Irene,
      Thank you for reading and sharing your sentiments to us.
      There many case of that however this should no withhold you to seek employment. Majority get jobs through their hard work so press on and whatever you are pursuing if it was meant for you it will be yours.


  19. What about the case where the HR manager(s) are the ones perpetuating nepotism, in collusion with the Departmental Managers?

    I have seen it, and directly suffered: why the manager wants to hold you in a current role instead of allowing you to move to another (available) position that real fits your career aspirations. Then they collude with HR to withhold such a move.

    • Hi Jose,
      We are sorry for what happened to you. In such cases if its beyond ones control then there is pretty much nothing one can do about it. Its only to maintain the current position one is in or look for other options but the decision lies on the individual. We hope you overcame it and by reading this article, we know it will help you make the right decision in future.


    • Thanks Gilbert,
      Keep visiting our Career Center for more enlightening articles.


  20. Very well said, I actually thought about many organizations that I have worked with and how nepotism and favouritism was manifesting itself. My big question is, if its coming from the top big how do we deal with it?

    • Hi Njebi,
      You need to build yourself a case carefully, and approach a HR or someone who is senior and lay it all out but more importantly make sure you choose the right words. If immediate action is not taken then dont loose hope keep proving yourself to be a productive worker and worthy of a new role or promotion, and in time it may come. However if you feel like you’ve exhausted all the channels and nothing seems to be changing, it could be time to start looking for another job. Starting the search and moving jobs is not always ideal, its important also to think critically first because you never know, the promotion can come unexpectedly.
      All the best.

Comments are closed.