What do HR Managers Need to Know About Nepotism?

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According to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), HR professionals who work in small, family owned businesses are more likely to deal with nepotism. This refers to the business practice of unfairly favoring family members in employment related decisions with little regard to the person’s suitability or competency. Certain collectivistic cultures promote this type of employment favoritism because can improve company loyalty, confidentiality and turnover rates. Regardless, this blatant management partiality and discrimination is unethical and illegal.

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HR Challenges

It is already difficult enough for HR professionals to establish and apply labor practices and hiring policies across organizations. It is much harder and more necessary to reinforce these policies when favoritism is an ongoing issue. The role of HR professionals is accentuated and heightened in organizations with partial managers and owner. While there are very few state and federal laws that specifically regulate nepotistic behaviors, their inevitable consequences will increase the risks of being sued for discrimination or hostile work environments. For example, a supervisor has a personal relationship with a subordinate and experiences a tempestuous breakup. Afterwards, the familial manager may ignore the subordinate’s complaints of harassment. This will ultimately lead to improper and unfair management decisions, which may result in serious lawsuits, legal fines and reputation damage.

Workforce Disruptions

One of main complaints and problems of management favoritism is the open lack of fairness. This will increase worker dissatisfaction and employee turnover rates while lowing employee engagement and morale. Employees will be difficult to incentivize to proficiently perform their responsibilities because they know that rewards and promotions are impossible. These companies will soon find that the most talented and hardest working employees will seek new employment where their skills and devotion. The rest of the non-familial employees will most likely complain more, provide poor customer service and intentionally slow down their productivity. It is possible for family members to work for the same employer, but they must not be in a superior-subordinate relationship. Even if the relationship is proper, this will give rise to suspicions and slander.

Anti-nepotism Policies

All companies must have an anti-nepotism clause or policy that prevents related individuals from working in the same department. Employers may adopt a policy that allows the employment of relatives on a case-by-case basis to ensure maximum flexibility. The policy should clearly explain the dangers of employing relatives at home and work. It may cause emotional problems at home, when as when the superior employee demands favors, but also relationship problems between partners, such as when a spouse feels their partner is unfairly treating them at work. As long as the policy allows employees to discuss their concerns with top management, most employees will find this acceptable. These anti-nepotism and no fraternization policies should allow the employment of family members while preventing common operational and supervisory issues associated with such situations.

Nepotism creates many problems at work, such as when a subordinate family member takes advantage of their situation by not working as hard or when they intentionally insubordinate against non-familial supervisors. Nepotistic relationships make it extremely difficult to offer constructive criticism on performance evaluations and administer discipline when needed.

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