Resource Centre Life At Work Office Nepotism: Stolen Opportunities at the Workplace

Office Nepotism: Stolen Opportunities at the Workplace

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.
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