Handling nepotism issues intelligently

Nepotism, the favoring of a relative over other employees, can operate at any level in a company. High level nepotism may be so ingrained in the DNA of a company that it cannot be eradicated, but nepotism amongst mid and lower level employees can be avoided with some intelligent HR policies that don’t discriminate against productive family members.

A reader asks:

Please help me understand – in your article on nepotism, are you saying that companies SHOULD install a nepotism policy that removes the possibility of a family member of an active employee from being hired at the company?   

She was referring to my article, How important is nepotism?

I wrote:   
If you read my article, I believe you will see that I believe that any activity that gives family members special privileges over other qualified employees is destructive to the company and to general morale. It is a kind of business insanity that should be avoided at all costs.

Having family members work in the same department is unwise because there is a connection that circumvents normal organizational lines. Most companies allow members of the same family to work in the company, but not in the same department.

Nepotism at the lower levels of the company can easily be avoided by intelligent use of policy that says that family members cannot work for each other or in the same department or division.

The real problem with nepotism is that when a family owns and runs the company, family members are often treated differently than other employees and this always leads to trouble in the long run. They are promoted when they are unqualified and they are forgiven for errors that other employees get fired for.

Net result, incompetency is rewarded and the good people leave at the first opportunity.

The reader responds:

I totally agree with you.  What I’m trying to substantiate is removing the existing general nepotism policy at the public utility company where I currently work and to allow our HR hiring process to choose the best candidates.  Simply placing an umbrella statement of no family members working anywhere in the company appears to be a cope out to me; taking the easy road.  We are no doubt turning away qualified and effective workers as a result.

My suggestion:

Just include the provision that family members must not work in the same division and you should be very safe. For example family members in a personnel dept can interact with other family members to share salary info. When they are in separate divisions, there is no management connection between them.

Are any of you running into nepotism problems? What solutions have you found,  other than leaving for a saner work environment?

Please note that not all family enterprises show favoritism to relatives. Some even set the bar higher for family members than for other employees.

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0 Responses to Handling nepotism issues intelligently

  1. Marco Polo says:

    I work in a small private university. There have been two cases where full-time (tenured) teaching staff have proposed (directly or indirectly) their offspring as candidates for part-time teaching positions. In one case, it was the daughter of the head of the department, which made most other dept members uncomfortable as it made it more difficult for members to say no (who’ll be the first to speak up and tell the boss to his face we won’t hire his daughter?). As far as I know, there is no policy on this matter, either at the departmental or university-wide level. To be fair, in both cases the candidates were well-qualified for their positions. Typical for this (Japanese) culture, no-one said anything in public against the proposals, but (I think) almost all felt uncomfortable. The university is private, but is not family-run. I think your suggestion that family members should not work in the same division or department is a good one.

  2. Dave says:

    Spending over a year trying to find work here in job-starved SW Virginia the one thing I discovered is nepotism is a way of life in this area. The company I now work for is from out of state but while applying for the position the comment was made by another applicant, “I sure hope this isn’t one of those preference things”.

  3. MK says:

    I work for small company in MT. Our Presdent has a son who was recently promoted to a department head. In this case I believe this was a ligimate promotion, although such cases should be closley monitored.

    The second case for our company is a V. P. who has recently promoted his son to a management position and hired a second son to a position that directly answers to the first son and the father (V. P.). Additionally a third party was recently hired to same department that the first son (manager) is now dating. What could possibly done to rectify this situation?

  4. Lisa says:

    I work for an assisted living facility. The administrator hired her daughter for a managment position in the dietary. Recently a person quit this position and she was upgraded without anyone else being asked if they wanted the position that had more experience or was more qualified, the daughter had never worked in the kitchen before and the first day she made manager and made lots of money, to this day she is not a good worker and does not have the residents best interest at heart but is still never repromanded for failing to do her job correctly. the sister of the administrator also works for the company in the medroom and has special priveledges as well that do not apply to others. Many times narcodics are missing and covered up due to being related. There is also a man in the medroom who is now a intern for the administrator job cause our boss is going to quit. He has hired his 20 yr old daughter who has very little experience in the med room and who is not dependable due to her quiting her job constantly and getting rehired to take his position as D.O.N Director of Nursing. No one else was asked if they wanted the position. There are several others with the proper work ethics and qualifications as well as siniority in the medroom as well as the kitchen. what to do? It is such a mess. others are made to do their jobs without extra benefit or pay. They tell us they will shave our checks if we have any overtime even if we have to stay late to finish their jobs. it is truly a awful case and the residents suffer as well. the state has come over and over for years but the top people are fast talkers and the failiers are overlooked and still remain.it is getting worse and worse. what to do? How does one go about changing this leagaly?

  5. TM says:

    Regarding nepotism and ethics, what about a situation where a teaching staff where the principal has a practice of hiring married couples? Approximately 25% of our staff is comprised of married couples. He is very open about the practice saying it’s like a family, but I argue that it could turn into a dysfunctional family. Every year we seem to acquire one more spouse and I was even told that my spouse would be hired if she applied for the job. I, of course, would ask that she not apply for a job at the same school in which I work. What are the positive and negatives of such a practice in a school setting?

  6. Amy says:

    My husband and I own a franchise. Upon graduation, his daughter was immediately hired to be our afternoon receptionist. Our receptionists must be able to handle mulitple duties and is the first person our clients come in contact with. My husband never had a talk with his daughter about expectation levels so she showed up on her first day in flip flops, wet hair, and a list of days that she couldn’t work. My morning assistant was incredibly reliable and a true blessing. Needless to say, she left at the first opportunity to one of our competitors. Our workload has since increased and we basically pay my stepdaughter to answer the phones, shop online and socialize with her friends online. My husband will argue with me rather than correct her behavior. I’d love to leave the business but my husband says that would force him to close his doors. He says his daughter isn’t mature enough to take my positon.Yet he refuses to correct her behavior or place any consequences on her when she doesn’t perform. He says I just have to learn to live with it. My contractors get irritated with her and come to me to complain instead of him. I’m not sure how much longer I can take this.

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