Did you know nepotism unethical that the origin of the term “nepotism” comes from Catholic bishops who would bequeath wealth, property, and priesthood to their “nephews”? The nephews were usually their illegitimate offspring, and it served as a way for church clergy to both own property and to retain power in their families.
Today, we use nepotism to refer to the hiring or promotion of a family member (including in-laws), and it smacks of favouritism. Indeed, the hiring of relatives in some companies is forbidden by company policy. However, in family-owned businesses, nepotism is often viewed as natural and expected. So, the big question is whether nepotism in business is a good or a bad thing? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer.
Nepotism can have advantages and disadvantages. For example, hiring relatives is easy and can lead to greater trust (what we call “swift trust”) if the relations get along and share a common purpose. Where nepotism becomes problematic is when non-relative employees feel that there is unfair favouritism, and when relatives are hired over more competent non-relatives. Unfortunately, there has been very little research on nepotism in the workplace.
Our research program is among the first to investigate people’s perceptions of nepotistic practices in the workplace. For example, we have found that there are individual differences in perceptions of nepotism, with some people being accepting of nepotistic practices—thinking it is perfectly fine to have preferential treatment of relatives (“well, she is the boss’s daughter…”), and others completely rejecting of any sort of favouritism.
What we are finding, however, is that people tend to believe that there is favouritism whenever a relative is hired, regardless of whether they tolerate nepotism or not. Even when a relative is the most qualified person for the job, coworkers tend to believe that it was their family relationship, rather than their qualifications, that got the person the job.
What we intend to examine next is the impact that perceptions of nepotism may have on employee performance, motivation, and decisions to stay with the company. Stay tuned for future posts.
The negative effects
A culture of Is nepotism unethical or cronyism will only stunt the growth of a business. The ‘outside’ employees will recognize the lack of fairness within the business. It will reveal to them that benefits, opportunities or promotions are not based on
merit, which will demotivate them to perform as they will no longer have an incentive to work hard. This will reduce the overall productivity of the company. This injustice can also cause a business to lose its best employees as their resentment will lead them to seek fair opportunities elsewhere.
In addition, it becomes a problem for other managers who are not able to execute fair treatment to their subordinates because they are connected to and receive the protection of someone of authority in the company. It also gives these connected employees a sense of entitlement and that the consequences do not apply to them.
Connected employees may also suffer from stress as they will be constantly scrutinized for signs of incompetence and suspected of having an alternative agenda when they try to put their ideas forward or form office friendships.
Providing opportunities that are not merit-based means that managers will not give other employees a chance to develop or shine, thus not raising the level of competency of employees or that of the business. Fast-tracking under-qualified individuals into critical roles erode the company’s leadership skills.
- Is nepotism unethical includes many of the basic government ethics issues: conflict of interest, misuse of office, preferential treatment, and patronage.
• Nepotism undermines public trust by making the government look like a family business run not for the community, but for the families in power.
• Nepotism is bad for morale within the government organization. It goes far beyond hiring. It remains a problem every time raises and promotions occur.
• Nepotism and its cousin, hiring friends, are the leading methods of keeping other ethnic and racial groups out of local government.
• Nepotism puts officials in an awkward position when they don want to hire a relative, but feel it’s expected of them. Nepotism laws protect officials as well as the public.