Dealing with nepotism in the workplace can be tough, especially if you’re receiving the short end of the stick while someone else is gaining opportunities due to what you perceive as unfair favoritism. Nepotism, or the act of providing or receiving opportunities due to a family relationship or friendship, has a history that runs long and worldwide.
“Nepotism is a natural part of the human endowment,” says Robert Jones, a professor of Industrial-Organizational Psychology at Missouri State University. How it's perceived is tied to culture, according to Jones. “In China and India, nepotism is a way of life and regarded positively.”
Nepotism generally has a negative association in western, individualistic countries such as the United States, particularly if the favored recipient isn’t unqualified. Nepotism can cause damage to a business, affecting employee morale, causing friction and resentment.
However, it isn’t necessarily a bad practice, either. Hiring or promoting a relative can provide certain advantages. For instance, if the candidate has been groomed in the family business, then the person may bring valuable social and intellectual capital to the position. Jones points to a recent nepotism study on NCAA teams that shows that teams that have nepotism (two or more family members as players or coaching on the same team) perform better and win more games than those without.
The bottom line is that the way people respond to nepotism at work depends largely on the candidate’s qualifications and self-awareness, transparency in the hiring process and other variables. But if you find yourself in a work situation where nepotism is a flagrant problem that disrupts your health, workplace satisfaction and professional growth, look to these five ways to cope.
Click through the slideshow to see the five ways to handle nepotism at work.