Nepotism in Workplace, Research Paper Example


There is an old saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” in order to get ahead. In some cases the old saying is true. Inequality in the workplace can be a very serious issue. It can create conflicts, and tension that make it hard for employees to communicate and reach goals. Nepotism is another issue that can lead to conflict and discouragement in employees. It creates an unfair practice that doesn’t account for skills, and education that other employees may hold over the candidate. Although nepotism may work for major companies where heads of the companies passed down to the reigns to their children, it can be a two way street. In most companies executives, managers, and other employees try to work their way up the latter in order to get farther within the company. Nepotism is bad for business, it promotes an unhealthy work atmosphere that lowers workers morale, creates conflicts, and promotes inequality practices that lead to problematic results.

Defining Nepotism

Defining nepotism is not a complicated task. Nepotism can occur between family members, spouses, or just good friends. “Nepotism is a form of discrimination in which family members or friends are hired for reasons that do not necessarily have anything to do with their experience, knowledge or skills.” (Hemlett) Nepotism can be traced back all the way to Kind David, and to the 14th century in Italy, described as the dishonest or unethical practice of choosing papal relatives into offices. This practiced usually chose sons (illegitimacy) who were passed off as “nephews” or other relatives in order for church clergyman to obtain property and retain power in their families. This move was most famously done by the Borgia family who made two of his “nephews: into cardinals, which Rodrigo becoming Pope Alexander IV, then help make his lover’s brother into a cardinal who became Pope Paul III.  It wasn’t until Pope Innocent IXX issued the Romanum dect Pontificem that put an in to nepotism in the church.

Nepotism moved throughout time in to the 18h and 19th centuries as the settlers arrived in America.  When colonists were setting up their government many of the founding fathers and their government members would put in power their family members. “The period of 1789 and the rise of the first modern parties in the late 1830s was one of rule by gentleman and the leading families of the Revolution.” (Bellow 227)

Nepotism in politics has been rampant since Ulysses S. Grant had over 15 family members hold some part of office, John Adams and John Quincy Adams, The Kennedys, and recently the Bush’s. According to LA Times, “At least 17 senators and 11 members of the House have children, spouses or other close relatives who lobby or work as consultants, most in Washington, according to lobbyist reports, financial-disclosure forms and other state and federal records.” (ProRev) This is not to mention the hundreds of other families members that have held their positions in office thanks to a relevant family member including, Cheney, The Clintons, Gore, Colin Powell Jr, Supreme Court Rehnquist’s daughter, and so on. Nepotism is rampant and is not just based in the United States but all of the world, in China, where power has been passed down from family members for centuries. In Romania, Russia, Venezuela, and other parts of the country where world leaders give important positions to members of their families.

Nepotism in the Workplace

“Nepotism in the workplace may be defined as preferential treatment given to family members when making managerial decisions regarding employee selection, promotions, and raises.” (Briggs 2)  Currently nepotism from a business prospective can take several shapes and greatly impacts the work environment. In the business world when bosses or heads of companies hire members whether through friendship, or kinship it is considered nepotism which promotes those less qualified over people who may be more qualified. Some view nepotism as illegal and an injustice that benefits the family members or friends while ignoring those who put in the time and education to get to that position. In family businesses, nepotism is a common occurrence, so common that many companies have written policies on nepotism.

When nepotism happens it can create a shift in the workplace atmosphere. When individuals are hired over other employees that may be in line for a promotion it can severely lower worker’s morale. When executes favor one employee over another it can create a feeling of dissatisfaction, not being appreciated, and a feeling of being passed over. Within the work environment low morale creates increases in employee turnover, and in some employees a decrease in career advancement. “Discrimination involves a lack of opportunity, a choice to communicate this sort of inequity, and the others’ perceptions regarding one’s merit or lack thereof, based on social categories like ethnicity, gender, and so on.” (Jones, Stout, Harder, Levine, Levine, Sanchez 2) It is demoralizing and be harmful for the business. When employees feel that they are not appreciated and discriminated in the business, the business loses money. Worker convey of “Why Should I?” attitude when it comes to meeting deadlines and finishing projects. Employees began to work on their resumes and to other companies where they feel they would most appreciated in their position. Low morale creates stress on the job and at home that can lead to other health related problems. The perceived favoritism gives employees a feeling of discrimination and unfairness that creates more problems when the work atmosphere isn’t motivated to do the work need. Productivity will decrease and tensions will run high, as employees will have less incentive to perform their duties diligently and competently if they feel that a path to advancement within their career is undermined by nepotism.

Nepotism can cause conflicts in the workplace. When the bosses chooses to hire new employees in a position where they seemed to be misfit, other employees will likely hold negative feelings not only against the boss but also against the new hire. Employees that are promoted based solely on their relationships with management are at most unqualified for the position, and often do not perform well as other who were more deserving. This can cause attrition in the workplace as the work environment leadership weakens.  Conflicts are harmful to the workplace and bad for business. Conflicts can cause low productivity, stress, and create complex working relations. If the new hire is in charge of a group the fellow employees will mostly likely not respect them, or follow guidelines. “The authors proposed that while the family’s goal is to help and protect its members, the business’ goal is to produce and profit, thus the most obvious conflict would be the hiring of an incompetent nepotee.” (Briggs 2) Conflicts are detrimental to the overall revenue of the business. When working in a group conflict is bound to occur. In certain situations conflict is neither good nor bad. Conflict can occur when members of the group disagree on choices or ideas. While conflict can also arise if everyone is not on board with the goal of the project or assignment. Conflict can effectively harm the work environment and the goal of completion for projects.

Nepotism in the workplace creates conflicts between management and employees.  Conflicts occur when employees perceived favoritism in the workplace, harms relationships between managers and employees, and spreads mistrust in the workplace. What also is a problem is the conflict that arise between the family members and the bosses. When they hire family they also bring all the family drama within the family. Families bring conflict and can ruin relationships with other employees and break down communications between management not being able to separate home life from work life. “In extreme cases, they may use their position to carry out unethical acts or to take advantage of their position to serve their own interests and to interests and to detriment of the company.” (Briggs 3) In work groups conflicts can make it difficult to work together and keep focus, in a husband and wife nepotism it can also destroy the business.

Lastly, nepotism is problematic. It can create lawsuits that stem from sexual harassment, discrimination, and create a hostile work environment. Currently there are few laws that regulate nepotism in the workplace on a federal or state level. In cases, lawsuits will arise from employees like they are in a hostile environment. “For instance, personal relationships and fraternization between coworkers often lead to tempestuous breakups and emotional trauma at the office.” (HRHero) An employee can turn around and file sexual harassment charges on a relationship gone sour. This can cause the company to lose reputation and money. In addition discrimination is a form of inequality and against the law. If the employee were to prove that this company created a work atmosphere where nepotism was discriminatory then the company can lose out on millions and ultimately lose their position. Fostering hostile attitudes can create a hostile environment that where it can develop into costly mistakes and sabotage of work relations and projects. Even if the matter does not escalate into legal action the threat of a legal action can permanently destroy relationships, work culture, and undermine management leadership authority.

This matter has forced some companies to create anti-nepotism policies in the workplace to prevent these problems from arising. The laws and policies vary from state to state however, companies do provide manuals and procedures that are enforced. On documents when potential employees feel out applications than they must acknowledge if they have relative or a spouse that is involved with the company. This information is valuable in potentially creating an environment where it could potentially impact relationships with supervisor, managers, employees, security, safety, and workplace morale. However these policies can also be discriminatory as they might not hire applicant based on their relationships with the company if they might be qualified. In some cases nepotism can be a good a thing, it helps to keep the business in the family, and it also gives other members that are qualified a chance to run the company. Nepotism is an accepted practice all over the world, and other countries world leaders purposely place family members in positions of power in order to keep family members close and also to keep the power within the family.


In conclusion, nepotism can potentially be harmful in the workplace. It creates a low morale in employees that leave the feeling of dissatisfaction, stress, and motivation to be productive in the workplace. Low productivity hurts the company as they lose out on money. Nepotism can create conflicts among family members they hire, and also create conflict with other employees that might cause problems with productivity, problems with communication, and leadership management. Nepotism can also create lawsuits that hurt the reputation of the company and cost the company money from sexual harassment suits, discrimination, and possibility of hostile environment. In small and large companies nepotism is practiced to keep the business in the family, however, it is practiced that should be done with caution.

Works Cited

“All in the Family.” America’s Feudal Families. 2011. Web. 17 July, 2013.

Bellow, Adam. In Praise of Nepotism. Anchor Books. New York, NY. 2003.

Briggs, Eric. “Who’s your Daddy? Addressing Nepotism from a Cultural Perspective.” Proceedings of The National Conference On Undergraduate Research (NCUR). 2012. Web. 17, July, 2013.

Jones, Robert, Stout, Tracy, Harder, Bridgette, LeVine, Edward, LeVine, Jonathan, Sanchez, Juan. “Personnel Psychology and Nepotism: Should We Support Anti-Nepotism Policies?
The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist. Volume 45. No. 3. 2008. Web. 17 July, 2013.

“Nepotism and Its Dangers in the Workplace.”  HR Hero. 10 Oct, 2008. Web. 17 July, 2013.

Ruder, Robert. “Nepotism: A Policy of Convenience?” School Business Affairs. (2010). Web. 17 July, 2013.