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12 Effective Solutions to Nepotism in the Workplace

2022-08-17
12 Effective Solutions to Nepotism in the Workplace

Nepotism in the workplace is a problem that has been around for centuries. Though people have attempted to find solutions to this issue, it still persists in many organizations.

This article will explore some of the most effective methods for tackling nepotism and improving workplace fairness. By understanding and implementing these strategies, organizations can create a more equitable environment and achieve business success.

What Is Nepotism in the Workplace?

In the early Middle Ages and Renaissance, nepotism (from Latin nepōs meaning “nephew"), referred to the practice of popes appointing relatives as cardinals. Nepotism at work is defined as favoritism shown to relatives or friends, regardless of merit - and it often shows up in a family business. For example, a company may have a person hired because they are related to the boss, rather than because they are the most qualified candidate.

Nepotism in the workplace is alive and well today. For instance, in India it even extends from families to castes - the upper caste dominates across various business domains and makes the country one of the most unequal societies in the world, where the richest 1% hold four times the wealth of the bottom 70%. [1]

Interestingly, nepotism seems to affect sons more than daughters - for example, a study found that in the US, by the time they’re 30, 22% of sons will be working for the same company at the same time as their fathers, compared to only 13% of daughters. [2]

Nepotism can occur in any type of organization, but it is most common in family-run businesses. For instance, Hollywood's Coppola family has many well-known directors and actors. Sofia Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, and Nicolas Cage were all accused of being helped by director Francis Ford Coppola with their careers. The director had his daughter Sofia cast in The Godfather Part III, meanwhile, actor Nicolas Cage changed his name as he wanted to distance himself from these accusations. [3]

While nepotism is not illegal, it can create an unfair work environment and lead to conflict and resentment among other employees. In extreme cases, nepotism can expose a company to charges of discrimination.

Dealing with Nepotism in the Workplace

While nepotism can be beneficial for those who are related to the decision-makers, it often creates an environment of resentment among coworkers. Employees who feel they are being passed over for opportunities because of nepotism may become disgruntled and disengaged, leading to decreased productivity and morale.

Employees, employers, and HR professionals alike should make a conscious effort to avoid the appearance of nepotism.

What Can Employees Do about Nepotism?

Be objective

In order to handle nepotism effectively, it's important to check your feelings at the door. While it's perfectly natural to feel angry and upset when you believe you've been passed over for an opportunity due to someone else's connections, getting caught up in those emotions can cloud your judgment and make it harder to take decisive action.

Instead, take a step back and assess the situation objectively. What evidence do you have that nepotism was a factor? Are there other plausible explanations?

Some may view hiring or promoting a family member as inherently wrong, but there are actually a few circumstances when it may not be such a bad thing. For example, if someone is qualified for a position and they just happen to be related to the person making the hiring decision, it stands to reason that they would be given the job.

In addition, if someone has proven themselves to be a competent and trustworthy worker, there may be no reason to disqualify them from a job simply because they are related to someone in the company.

Remain calm and collected

When fighting nepotism, it is important to remain calm and professional at all times. This can be difficult, especially if you feel that you are being unfairly treated or passed over for opportunities.

First, if you allow your anger to take over, you're more likely to make decisions impulsively and without thinking things through. This can be considered unprofessional behavior and lead to hasty decisions that you may later regret.

Second, it's important to be able to present a well-reasoned argument if you want to convincingly argue against nepotism. Finally, if you become too wrapped up in your own emotions, you run the risk of alienating those who might be on your side.

Trying to behave professionally will show your bosses that you are still committed to doing your job well, despite the challenges. Additionally, maintaining a professional demeanor will give you the best chance of success if you decide to take legal action against your employer.

Track your achievements

In any workplace, it's important to document your accomplishments and contributions in order to ensure that you receive proper credit - and compensation - for your work. This is especially true in environments where nepotism is present.

When family members or friends are in positions of power, they may be more likely to give preferential treatment to their loved ones, rather than those who have earned it through their hard work. By documenting your achievements, you can create a record of your successes that can't be ignored - no matter who's in charge.

Furthermore, if you're ever mistreated or passed over for opportunities because of nepotism, having a record of your excellent work will help you build a strong case for yourself.

Confide in someone you trust

Talking it out is important when fighting nepotism because it allows the venting of frustrations in a safe and controlled environment. With a carefully selected individual, you can be sure that your feelings will be heard and respected.

This can help to prevent the situation from escalating into something more dangerous or difficult to control. Additionally, talking it out can help you to develop a plan of action for dealing with nepotism. By brainstorming with someone who is supportive and objective, you can increase your chances of effectively combating nepotism.

Finally, talking it out can simply make you feel better. It can be therapeutic to express your anger and fear, and doing so can help you to move on from the situation and focus on more positive things.

Remember self-care

In today's competitive business world, it's more important than ever to engage in self-care. Nepotism can be a significant source of stress and can lead to burnout if not properly managed.

Self-care is essential for maintaining your mental and physical health and can help you to stay focused and motivated when faced with nepotism. Taking time for yourself - whether it's through exercise, meditation, or simply taking a break from work - can help you to recharge and refocus.

Additionally, self-care can help to build resilience, which can be crucial when battling nepotism. By taking care of yourself, you'll be better equipped to handle the challenges of nepotistic behavior, and will be more likely to succeed in spite of it.

What Can Employers Do about Nepotism?

Create anti-nepotism policies

A business owner or a senior manager may want to consider implementing anti-nepotism policies that could make it harder to hire friends or promote someone based on family ties. Having a policy in place can help to send the message that favoritism will not be tolerated. Additionally, anti-nepotism policies can help to reduce potential conflicts of interest and improve morale among employees.

One way to create an anti-nepotism policy is to prohibit family members from being hired into the same department or division. Another option is to require employees to disclose any familial relationships with applicants or candidates for promotion.

Those policies should be clearly listed in an employee handbook and other relevant documents in the workplace.

Hire talented HR staff

Talented HR staff can help you to fight nepotism effectively. Start by looking for candidates with strong communication skills and with a deep understanding of employment law.

Additionally, seek out candidates with experience in conflict resolution. HR professionals often play a key role in resolving disputes between employees.

Finally, look for candidates who are passionate about making a difference in the workplace. By choosing the right people, you can prevent nepotism from occurring in the first place.

Create anonymous communication channels

One way to prevent nepotism is to create anonymous communication channels such as an anonymous hotline or an online feedback form where employees can voice their concerns.

This way, employees can express their concerns without fear of retribution. By creating a safe place for employees to speak up, employers can help to identify and address instances of nepotism.

Monitor employee mood

Nepotism in the workplace can have a negative effect on employee morale and mood. Nepotism can lead to resentment and frustration, an atmosphere of distrust and backstabbing.

One way to spot nepotism in the workplace is to monitor employee moods. Monitoring moods can help you understand how employees react to certain changes at work, including unfair hiring, task assignment, and promotion based on a family relationship.

Yours App recently introduced a new mood-tracking feature that allows users to track their emotions, sensations, and thoughts, and provides them with insightful feedback and content recommendations. This could be very useful for employers who want to spot how employees feel at work and what impacts their emotions most.

What Can HR Do about Nepotism?

Transparency

To reduce nepotism in the workplace, HR needs to be transparent in its hiring and promotion practices. This means making sure that all job postings are publicly available, that candidate qualifications are clear, and that the selection process is fair and objective.

Additionally, HR should keep detailed records of all hiring and promotion decisions, and make these records available to employees upon request.

Training

One way HR can reduce nepotism is to offer training on the topic. This could encourage professional growth by teaching employees about what nepotism is and why it is harmful.

Additionally, the training can provide employees with strategies for dealing with nepotism in the workplace. For example, employees can be taught how to report nepotism to HR without fear of retaliation.

Establish a clear job description

Establishing a clear job description is one way to help reduce nepotism in the workplace. By clearly defining the qualifications and responsibilities of a position, it becomes more difficult for nepotistic appointees to meet the criteria. In addition, a clear job description can help attract a wider pool of qualified candidates, making it less likely that a nepotistic appointment will be made.

Resources

1 Sampath, 2020. https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-politics-of-nepotism/article32072772.ece

2 Chalabi, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/24/nepotism-data-ivanka-trump

3 Salmon, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/jul/24/nepotism-in-the-movies-its-time-to-call-out-the-acting-school-of-mum-and-dad