What is Nepotism? By one definition, “Nepotism” means a powerful, hereditary force in society that manifests itself in a preferential position, often at the expense of others. According to another definition, Nepotism means an inherited position or favoritism based on biological or social causes. Still, by any other definition, Nepotism simply means a preference for members of one’s own race or ethnic group over others.
A common explanation of what is nepotism in the workplace is that it is a way of promoting employees upward through the ranks of a corporation or other organization. Nepotism is sometimes viewed as an unethical, even immoral practice. However, many employers use nepotism in the workplace for the purpose of promoting from within and helping to brighten employee’s day and to increase their personal productivity. Additionally, some companies use nepotism to help employees who may be struggling in their jobs and need extra support in order to rise to the top of the corporate ladder.
The question of what is nepotism has become much more pressing among recent applicants and job seekers due to the ongoing and drastic reduction in the number of qualified applicants for every open position. As employers downsize and/or hire more part-time workers, they are facing the reality that they must do what they can to attract and keep top talent. Nepotism seems to fit the bill perfectly. It is a subtle and often-unseen form of employer favoritism, but it is one that are still illegal. In some cases, it can be used as a basis for hiring an employee on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, or religion. Additionally, it may be used in other situations, such as rewarding employees who have outstanding contributions to the company (e.g., what is known as talent acquisition), or in rewarding employees who bring unique creative ideas to the workplace.
As a general rule, what is nepotism does not mean that every employee hired into a workplace will become a superstar or a leader. It is used in a somewhat strategic way in order to give employees a sense of “stickiness” in the workplace so they will remain loyal and stay with the company for the long haul. For example, an African American employee may become the go-to person for the department that he or she works in. This is done through a variety of techniques: consistently making sure that the employee knows the ins and outs of the department, creating an atmosphere where they feel like they belong, or providing an environment where they can succeed just by being themselves.
An even more common form of what is nepotism found within the business world is that of field directors. Field directors are often hired to manage a team of people in a specific field – such as a marketing department or public relations department. Often times, a field director will receive free reign to hire whoever they feel is the best person for the job – regardless of their background or track record with previous clients. In a nepotistic company, it is usual for a field director to receive financial compensation for hiring the preferred candidate over others.
A second common form of what is nepotism is called cronyism. This occurs when an individual who is trusted and respected in a given workplace receives monetary compensation for bringing in extra work to the workplace. Sometimes, these individuals are “promoted” to higher-level positions in the workplace, but this is often after their initial employment has ended. This is seen as a thank you for past services rendered to the workplace, but in actuality, the individual receiving the monetary benefit is simply getting another job for the employer. This form of nepotism definition is most commonly found in the banking and insurance industries.
The third most common form of what is nepotism is called “cost effectiveness”. Cost effectiveness means increasing productivity and reducing overhead costs to maximize overall profitability. An employer may look to promote from within their own organization, or they may try to hire from outside the company to implement what is nepotism practices.
It should be clear by now that what is nepotism often involves an unethical system where one employee gets financially compensated for bringing in more employees to the workplace. However, the definition of what is nepotism can also include unethical practices of promoting (and later hiring) family members to higher positions in the workplace, or offering financial compensation for employees to work as personal assistants to the company CEO. If you find any of these practices in your company, or if your company practices any of these, it would be wise to conduct an investigation into your company’s policies to ensure that you are not unknowingly facilitating what is nepotism.