HR Glossary for HR Professionals

Glossary of the most common HR terms and acronyms to assist professionals navigating the ever-growing and ever-changing world of HR terminology.


Nepotism Definition

Nepotism is when those who have power show special and unfair favoritism to those they know, typically family and friends. This special treatment may include providing one with greater opportunities within a company or increasing pay or benefits.

Dealing with Nepotism in the workplace can be tough, especially if you’re the one on the short end of the stick.

5 Ways to Handle Nepotism in the Workplace

The way people respond to nepotism depends largely on the qualifications and self-awareness of the individual in question. If you find yourself in a work situation where favoritism is a problem and it disrupts your workplace satisfaction and professional growth, here are five ways to cope: 

  1. Breathe: Focus on maintaining a professional attitude and a strong performance. 
  2. Be professional: Nepotism isn’t fair, but it’s rampant with the potential to be toxic. While you can’t control others behavior, you can be responsible for your own. Double-down on professionalism, resist the urge to act out, and keep doing all the things that professional people do: be courteous, show up on time, follow through on your responsibilities and keep growing your skills!
  3. Document great work: In the case of nepotism, what’s often most frustrating is that a person feels overlooked. Document that you’ve achieved over time, and make sure to compile as much data to back youtube as possible. Avoid making your argument about someone else. 
  4. Speak up: Keep in mind that nepotism is a dangerous territory. You need to report your case to someone higher up than you, and someone that you trust. Have your documentation ready, and examine your own behavior during your meeting. 
  5. Focus on you: Nepotism is stressful and it can hinder you professionally. Find a way to keep your mind off of the situation– whether it’s exercising, cooking, or talking with supportive friends or family– find an activity that brings you relief and happiness.

Is Nepotism Illegal?

While this is an unfavored and negative term, there are few laws that prohibit it. 

Federal law prohibits workplace discrimination based on race, nationality, religion, or gender. A claim for employment discrimination must be able to show that an employer’s practices disadvantaged employees based on one of those prohibited categories. 

Keep in mind that nepotism generally means providing workplace opportunities to employees based on a personal relationship rather than experience and qualifications. Hiring or promoting friends and family isn’t necessarily unfair if the person is qualified.

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