Favouritism at workplaces

Guest Column: Emmanuel Zvada

A COMMON problem in the workplace is the practice of favouritism. Favouritism can be greatly detrimental to the morale and productivity of employees, resultantly causing resentment and a lack of motivation among other employees. Favouritism and nepotism can never positively influence the office environment, they affect both the organisations and employees. Not only will the office environment suffer, but the foundations of the organisation’s culture may also be eroded. Favouritism at workplaces has reduced organisational systems to “who do you know, rather than what do you know”.

Favouritism in the workplace is exactly what it is; favouring someone not because he or she is doing a great job, but for reasons outside of the job performance. Good managers are supposed to be professional at all times, and make decisions based purely on business and performance and not on the “who do you know phenomenon”. When decisions or organisations are run basing on personal preferences, it creates a bad atmosphere in the workplace and can have a severely negative impact on the effectiveness of the workforce.

Office nepotism simply refers to any form of unfair workplace procedure or practice. For example, when family members or friends of the boss or manager are hired, not purely for their skills, experience or knowledge, but based on relations. It is imperative to note that not every managerial hire of a friend or relative is nepotism it also depends on whether it is a genuine referral or not. If there is no justification among other employees, this could breed resentment, destroy employee morale and create disincentives for good performance. Dealing with nepotism in the workplace can be tough, especially if you are at the short-end of the stick, while someone else is gaining opportunities due to what you perceive as unfair favouritism.

When there are too many prospective employees chasing too few opportunities or vacancies, office nepotism may exist. This situation can be quite demoralising, with someone undeserving getting a job that may be yours. This practice is especially rampant in small and medium-sized organisations, where corporate governance practices don’t exist.

The sad truth in many organisations is that office nepotism still exists and it dictates different company processes like recruitment, promotions and salary increments, among others.
Favouritism leads to lost productivity, as employees who are not getting the plum assignments spend more and more time gossiping and talking about how unfair the system is, rather than doing their work.

Reduces organisational commitment

The commitment of employees towards their organisations is a significant organisational behaviour which is affected by many variables in the organisation. Commitment is an act of conviction, and acceptance by employees in embracing the goals and values of the organisation, resulting in a strong desire to strive for the goals of the organisation. Nepotism can be a catalyst in reducing employee-commitment in an organisation. Normally, when employees perceive favouritism, they will end up not being passionate about their work, since they will feel unappreciated. Perceived favouritism of a relative can cause dissatisfaction among workers and may result in lower morale. Employees may not be much incentivised to perform their responsibilities diligently and proficiently if they feel the path to promotion is undermined by nepotism.

Lower employee morale

Nepotism at work lowers employee morale, hence low employee morale can also mean loss of profits for companies. When nepotism has a negative impact on a workplace, employee morale decreases, affecting operations and productivity. When employees feel unappreciated, they may end up losing the motivation to accomplish their day-to-day tasks, thus affecting organisational productivity as well.

Loss of productivity

Employee commitment can benefit organisations in a number of ways such as improving performance; reducing absenteeism, and turnover, thereby resulting in sustained productivity. The aforementioned can also be negative if there is nepotism in an organisation. Nepotism, usually, leads to an inferior work product, increases absentee and employee turn-over, among other things.

Normally, where nepotism due to recruitment occurs, it can be noticed that employees are rewarded and promoted because of their relationships with management and they are likely to be underqualified for the positions they are expected to fill. That only can also contribute to the demoralisation of more deserving candidates and the organisation would suffer as a whole. More so, this can be worse when someone who is underqualified fills a critical position, this can affect the organisation. Favouritism may also result in low productivity, as the boss overlooks a qualified person and thus fails to harness his/her skills for the job and the company’s growth.

Internal sabotage

An unhappy team member can be your worst enemy if he or she is seeking revenge, especially to the organisation. Nepotism at workplaces leads to employee sabotage and sabotage comes in many sizes and shapes. Sabotage is a deliberate action aimed at weakening an organisation or any existing institution. Employee saboteurs inflict damage to the property, reputation, product or service of an organisation.

There are various reasons for sabotaging and one of them is frustration due to nepotism at work. Normally, when employees see favouritism at workplaces, it can obviously lead to disgruntlement, especially by those who feel disadvantaged. Nevertheless, the best defence against sabotage is to prevent it. Employers should treat employees well, and create a corporate culture in which every voice counts.

Mistrust in the team

Favouritism may result in the “us and them’’ mentality. This erodes trust and harmony in the organisation and breeds hostility. The only way to avoid such is to ensure that there are no acts of favouritism at workplaces. Also, engage and treat employees who are on the same level equally. Trust can make employees go the extra mile, work for the greater good of the company. That is fundamental for the success of companies.

The only way to rebuild lost trust is by strengthening the connection of your teammates through team-building programmes and finding ways to improve teamwork.

It is important for any organisation to have an inclusive company culture, where every worker feels they are judged on their performance rather than anything else, so as to avoid the breeding of office nepotism. Favouritism and nepotism can never positively influence the office environment; they ruin everything you tried to create and develop in your company – trust, loyalty and understanding. I do not think any employee who is favoured, is worth this loss.

 Emmanuel Zvada is a human capital consultant and an international recruitment expert. He writes in his personal capacity.

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