Preventing or managing nepotism within the corporate world is an important component of an employer’s leadership and crucial to the company’s organisational climate and long-term health. If left unchecked, workplace nepotism hinders business growth, increases turnover rates, decreases quality work output and can give rise to legal consequences. However, because the subject matter raises so many questions that don’t have morally or ethically clear answers, finding and implementing effective strategies that work can be a challenge. 

This article will explore some strategies that employers can implement to effectively prevent nepotism and protect their employees and organisation from its consequences. 

Strategies to Prevent Nepotism in the Workplace

1. Detailed job descriptions

One key way to prevent nepotism is to have a detailed job description for every role that covers all bases when it comes to the requirements of a particular position. When creating a job description, make sure that all hiring, promotion, compensation, and other employment requirements are based on objective factors, including an individual’s qualifications, ability, and performance history.

It should contain everything that the position entails and requires, including:

  • Key responsibilities, duties, and tasks as well as the possibility for additional work etc.
  • Pay grade or range, expected hours and reporting relationships
  • Expectations of results and work performance
  • Necessary qualifications including required experience, training and technical knowledge
  • Additional requirements or important notes for the applicant that are specific to the role

Having a thorough job description allows you to make sure that each applicant meets the specific requirements for the opportunity and gives a fair chance to everyone. Additionally, it makes it easier to look back on the requirements when considering whether an employee is meeting the expectations of their role.

This type of transparency is a great way to manage or prevent nepotism because a common theme in its occurrence is employees who are underqualified and lack the skills their position requires.

2. Nepotism specific policies

Having clear anti-nepotism policies allows an employer to discuss and decide upon clear boundaries when it comes to the various means through which nepotism can occur. When writing a policy that seeks to prevent nepotism, it’s important to first take your company’s past dealings, current stance and any relevant legislation into consideration. Strong anti-nepotism policies prohibit related individuals from working in the same department or company, or more specifically, one family member reporting to another.

A clearly defined nepotism policy can actually allow for the employment of friends and relatives but in order to accomplish this, the policy should specifically address different personal relationships and how they should be managed. It must first specify what the company defines as a family member or relative- in most cases, this includes not only spouses/domestic partners, parents, siblings, and children, but also household members, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, and in-laws.

From there, it should further clarify where an employee can and cannot have control over a family member’s employment (such as hiring, promotion, and termination decisions), work responsibilities, performance evaluations, or compensation. Once complete, the policy should be included in employee inductions and training programmes so all workers are made aware and regularly reminded of the organisation’s stance against nepotism and to watch out for it in their own working experiences.

3. Transparent recruitment and promotion processes

Making sure that the processes through which new hires and promotions are made are clear and transparent not only inhibits nepotism but works to improve the overall workplace culture. When a company is open and communicative about its internal decision-making for workplace opportunities, it makes it harder for those who attempt to misuse their authority for the purposes of nepotism. If a case of perceived nepotism does arise, a transparent process also makes it easier to trace back decisions to who they were made by and identify discrepancies between company policy and the decisions they made.

4. An approval process for hiring and promotion decisions

To further prevent nepotism, it’s a good idea to create an approval process for hires and/or promotions whereby any related decision requires HR or senior management recognition and approval. Having an additional and external entity look over the logic behind any final decision works to prevent nepotism by taking the decision away from one sole person or party. You can also extend this approval process towards other workplace decisions involving employees such as vacations, special training programs and bonuses.


5. Fair and equal employee treatment

Having employees that are related to you or each other in some way does not always point to a case of nepotism and they may all be qualified individuals who are in their roles based on pure merit. Regardless, it is your job to reinforce your company’s policy on nepotism and make sure that you, or any employee with a relation, stays out of decisions affecting their employment as much as possible – this isn’t restricted to hires and promotions, it also includes limiting any influence on day to day employee tasks and obligations.

If possible, attempt to keep employees with personal relations in different teams or on different projects. You can also keep the relevant employees in the loop regarding any decisions you make that are specifically about their connection so they remain aware of the reasons behind any company decisions. All supervisors and/or managers should be trained to hold employees to the same level of accountability and maintain equal expectations for workplace conduct and performance.

6. Objective decision making

Nepotism doesn’t always arise from ill intent – it can also occur when one attempts to take shortcuts or makes assumptions that do not reflect the current reality and do not adhere to company guidelines. This can include relying on referrals for interviews without the additional application requirements or making assumptions about the employee’s suitability because you already know them.

The standard process of workplace decisions regarding employees should not be strayed from in order to prevent nepotism across the organisation. Failing to apply the process consistently to every applicant or employee can also lead to accusations of workplace discrimination, making this even more necessary for employers. 

Hence, to prevent nepotism and manage its occurrences an employer should carefully review their internal policies, and recruitment processes to ensure that the company’s stance is communicated within the rules it enforces. Doing so is not only an important aspect of being in a leadership position in the workplace but will help protect the company in the long term from the damage that workplace nepotism causes when it is not carefully managed.