Although there are several laws and policies in place to prevent it, nepotism still occurs. However, that does not mean that you have to stand by and endure unfair treatment at the hands of your employer or supervisor. If you have witnessed or experienced nepotism, here’s how you can report nepotism in the workplace and still protect yourself against retaliation.
What is Nepotism?
Nepotism can take many forms. However, it boils down to discrimination that occurs when people in positions of authority or power give their relatives or friends preferential treatment. Most commonly, it involves hiring, awarding promotions, or assigning leadership roles despite a lack of knowledge, skills, or experience.
No matter how it presents itself though, nepotism is always toxic to the workplace environment because it threatens equal treatment and fairness. When nepotism becomes commonplace, it lowers staff morale. Additionally, it also lowers overall productivity when rewards and recognition are not merit-based. Furthermore, it increases the company’s employee turnover rate since it creates conflict and an unhealthy professional environment. If nepotism is part of the work culture, it undermines all sense of camaraderie and cooperation.
How Do You Recognize Nepotism in the Workplace?
Sometimes it can be difficult to recognize when nepotism occurs. This can become especially tricky if you are experiencing strong opinions or emotions about the situation. However, being related to someone or having an existing relationship doesn’t automatically qualify their hiring as nepotism. If they are qualified and have extensive training or experience, they may be the best candidate for the job. It is also a common business practice to groom people for specific positions if they intend to pass the company to the next generation.
So how do you determine when nepotism is happening? While these questions are not all-inclusive, they can provide some guidelines to help you recognize nepotism in the workplace.
Are they unqualified?
First and foremost, you have to ask yourself, ‘Is this person qualified for their position?’ If they hold the proper degrees and certifications or have years of experience in the field, then it will be difficult to argue your case. However, if an employee lacks the appropriate education or training for their position, then this is a huge red flag.
Do they receive special treatment?
Another important question to ask is if an employee is getting special treatment from someone in a position of authority. This point is more subjective and much more difficult to prove. However, clear favoritism towards a particular employee could be considered nepotism. For example, it can occur when an authority figure chooses a friend or family member for the most enticing projects and assignments. Or, perhaps they consistently receive the best hours or work schedule.
Other times you may witness nepotism when a friend or family member is not held to the same standards as other employees. An employee benefitting from nepotism might take advantage of their relationship by not following company rules, evading responsibilities, or not working as hard as other employees. On the other hand, you may also witness it when someone receives less severe consequences than other employees who make the same mistake. While these behaviors do not always indicate nepotism, they are a few clear examples of how preferential treatment can lead to nepotism.
Are they receiving a higher salary?
If you are collecting evidence to report nepotism in the workplace, start by following the money trail. If someone earns a higher salary for the same job or gets bigger bonus checks due to their relationship, then there is a strong case for nepotism.
Have they been fast-tracked for promotions?
This last point is one that most often leads to people reporting nepotism. Unfortunately, it can also become the most complicated if the complaint comes from a disgruntled employee. Nepotism clearly occurs when the company promotes a friend or family before more qualified and experienced employees. It also happens when someone is put into the most coveted positions without earning it. These are blatant examples of special treatment when an employee doesn’t have to ‘pay their dues’ or climb the corporate ladder.
How Do You Report Nepotism in the Workplace?
If you believe that you have a strong case and want to report nepotism in the workplace, here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. You must file a complaint with the HR Department.
When you decide to make a report, you will need to file a formal complaint with the Human Resources Department. Remember to keep it professional and remain a model employee. Don’t let your negative feelings impact the quality of your work. If you stay above reproach, you appear more credible. So, continue to perform your duties with poise and professionalism even after you file the complaint.
2. Keep records of your work.
If you feel you were unfairly passed over for a promotion due to nepotism in the workplace, you will need evidence. Start by compiling documents that show a history of your work performance. Highlight your areas of excellence as proof that you were the most deserving candidate for the position. You can look at past projects you were involved in or performance evaluations demonstrating your qualifications for the position.
4. Gather evidence.
In addition to your own work record, keep track of each instance you witness the preferential treatment. You can also include testimony from other employees and coworkers to corroborate your claim. However, be certain to only include the facts, not your opinions or impressions.
5. Prepare for a potential backlash.
Anytime you come forward, you subject yourself to potential backlash. The best way to protect yourself is to prepare for the worst. Know the local laws covering nepotism and maintain a good performance record. Don’t be surprised by underhanded attempts designed to make you leave or make your life difficult.
What Are the Possible Repercussions?
Although it doesn’t always happen, you may experience retaliation from the benefactor or the person in the position of authority. Since your name will appear on the report, they will know who filed the complaint. While company policies forbid retaliation, there are several ways to create a hostile work environment to make you quit. If they put your performance under the microscope, it is crucial not to sink to their level. Remain professional through any added scrutiny, unfair evaluations, and less-than-desirable assignments.
However, if you feel retaliation has reached extreme measures or that you may be in danger, seek professional counsel. No one should have to deal with discrimination or inequality in the workplace. Get sound legal advice on the best course of action to protect your and your future.
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Jenny Smedra is an avid world traveler, ESL teacher, former archaeologist, and freelance writer. Choosing a life abroad had strengthened her commitment to finding ways to bring people together across language and cultural barriers. While most of her time is dedicated to either working with children, she also enjoys good friends, good food, and new adventures.