What is Nepotism in the Workplace?
Nepotism In The Workplace

What is Nepotism in the Workplace?

The word nepotism is derived from the Latin word for nephew, ‘nepot’, it refers to the preferential treatment of family/friends over others in the workplace (considered a human resources practice).

Regardless of experience, qualifications, personality traits and cultural expectations.

Many people in the UK have witnessed or experienced nepotism, it is often thought of as favouritism, it can have a serious negative effect on businesses.

If you believe your organisation is suffering from the effects of nepotism, keep reading to find out how you can combat it!


Nepotism may be seen as a form of discrimination but it is not technically illegal under the current UK employment law – Employment tribunals currently cannot take any legal action against nepotism.


However, if there is a potential for discrimination, employees can make formal complaints, make a grievance and/or even make a claim in court or an employment tribunal.

This can lead to expensive court fees and compensation pay-outs.

How Does Nepotism Affect the Workplace?


Working alongside your friends and family may seem ideal for many business owners and managers, however, it can make life more complicated.

Existing employees often find it difficult to adapt and may feel left out or worry they’ll be replaced in the future.


Usually, nepotism manifests in the form of new job opportunities or promotions.

Those in power do not follow the normal workplace procedures, and often unfairly choose a friend or family member to fill the position.


Nepotism is far more common in smaller businesses or ones that are family-run.

Although not every new hire/promotion of a family member is nepotism, it only refers to where the related employee is not qualified/experienced enough for the position.

Existing employees may see this as nepotism, regardless of qualifications and experience, which is why hiring friends and family can often lead to issues.


An example of true nepotism – You’re asked to help a new employee and show them around, a few weeks later this new employee is your boss (supervisor/manager/etc).

After you find out that this new employee is the boss’s daughter/son, who has little experience in your job field.


In these situations, employees can often feel betrayed, especially if they are more qualified for the job.

The workplace morale is likely to decrease significantly, employees will be extremely unmotivated as it seems skill and experience are not the way to move up the job ladder, instead, favouritism decides who will progress in their job.


Understandably, nepotism can have many negative effects in the workplace – research has shown it can lower job satisfaction for regular employees, increase job turnover and tarnish the reputation of the business.

While businesses with good human resource management have much better rates of job satisfaction and makes it far less likely for employees to quit.


Top 3 Ways to Deal with Nepotism


Anti-Nepotism Policies


Many HR departments have investigated and implemented an anti-nepotism policy, this shows employees that their employer is serious about removing nepotism from their workplace.

policies can be added to anti-discrimination policies that are already in place or can be made into a new policy of their own.


These policies can restrict management from hiring and working with family members and friends, especially in the same department, aiming to reduce the negative effects that nepotism can have.

For example, these policies may prevent one relative supervising/managing another or prevent friends/couples from working together.


Anti-nepotism policies should be outlined in the employee handbook and they should state clearly that management cannot promote, supervise or hire relatives and friends.

This can have a significant reduction in the negative effects of nepotism, making existing employees feel secure in their job and it can increase their loyalty to the business.


If employers would prefer a more flexible approach, they can decide to review each nepotism situation case by case.

This can allow for friends or family members to be hired/promoted who are qualified for the job, have relevant experience and the right personality traits.


Nepotism and Discrimination Training


Introducing your managers and supervisors to anti-nepotism and discrimination training can help them to make objective decisions and helps to identify nepotism and discrimination in the workplace.


These training courses can help your staff to identify nepotism and can support your workplace culture – Motivating employees to act ethically and objectively.

Having training that specifically covers nepotism can aid you and your employees to identify unacceptable conduct and shows a strong stance from the top of the workplace hierarchy!


When staff have been trained to identify and deal with nepotism, they are much more likely to report instances where nepotism may have had an influence on a managerial decision.

This makes it far easier for employers to intervene if their management staff are showing favouritism to friends and family, nipping nepotism in the bud.


It is essential for businesses to ensure their employees are educated on nepotism and discrimination, it reduces the likelihood of grievances and employment tribunals in the future.

If you’re interested in an online equality, diversity and discrimination training course, click here!


Open Communication


Creating an environment where employees feel comfortable and safe is essential when it comes to reporting nepotism.

Employers and senior management should make it clear to employees that they can discuss and report instances where they feel nepotism influenced a decision.


Allowing employees to confidentially communicate instances of nepotism can significantly increase staff morale and reduce resentment felt.

It can make employees feel more secure in their job and motivate them to increase their productivity, making it more likely for them to work towards promotion as they feel they have a fair chance.


Additionally, having an open and honest atmosphere in the workplace can encourage employees to report instances of discrimination or nepotism without the fear of negative consequences.


If your business needs help dealing with nepotism or any other HR issue, contact Wurkplace! We create bespoke HR solutions for businesses all around the UK. Contact us by calling 0330 400 5490 or Click here and fill in our contact form.



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