Favouritism Practices: Nepotism, Cronyism, Sexual Favours, and Patronage

January 25, 20212:35 pm4148 views
Favouritism Practices: Nepotism, Cronyism, Sexual Favours, and Patronage
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As a leader, you are the one responsible for keeping employees at your organisations happy and productive. But, this goal would be difficult to reach if favouritism practices exist in the workplace, especially if they are allowed to grow unchecked. 

The evidence of workplace favouritism 

Evidence has shown that many leaders have favourites and treat their favoured employees differently. In a survey of 303 U.S. executives, researchers found that more than half (56 percent) of executives admitted to having a favourite candidate when making internal promotion decisions. A staggering 96 percent will promote their favourites rather than considering the candidates’ communication abilities, which is crucial for the position examined in the study. 

Similarly, research by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board indicated that 25 percent of American federal employees believe their supervisor practices favouritism. Over 50 percent suspected that other supervisors in their organisation practices favouritism, while 30 percent of human resources management staff agreed that favouritism occurs in the organisations where they serve. 

See also: 2 Effective Fairness Practices in Workplace 

Types of favouritism practices  

Certain types of favouritism are practiced in different parts of organisation. Becoming familiar with types of favoritism that are practiced can develop effective policies to combat them. 

  • Nepotism is the practice of hiring and prioritising family members regardless of their qualifications. In some cases, nepotism can be good if the hired members are qualified to perform the job for which they are hired. However, when the hired employee is not qualified, nepotism becomes counterproductive. 
  • Cronyism is an act of hiring friends regardless of qualifications. Main problems with cronyism include a feeling of entitlement that employees hired under these circumstances feel. As an example, the hired employees know or are related to an executive with the company, hence they feel they deserve raises and promotions that should be reserved for more qualified staff members. This, consequently, can create conflict in the workplace and between employees. 
  • Sexual favours is a situation in which candidates exchange sexual favours for career advancement. This can be classified as sexual harassment. The employees who are denied promotions and raises in lieu of sexual favours being exchanged between manager and employee can claim that they were discriminated against. 
  • Patronage is a practice where an executive promotes employees he trust into positions of management, then asks the promoted employees to hire their relatives or friends. This kind of favouritism has the potential to spread throughout the company, bringing favourite employees into positions of authority. This is also an act of creating an ally in the workplace for certain advantages. 
Indicators of workplace favouritism include:  
  • Give certain employees better treatment within the workplace
  • Socialise with certain employees more
  • Assign desired tasks to certain employees
  • Provide more development opportunities for certain employees 
  • Give certain employees more frequent and timely feedback 
  • Let certain employees get away with actions that other employees would be reprimanded for 
  • Consider the suggestions of only certain employees 
  • Praise certain employees more 
  • Support certain employees more 
  • Give important work-related information only to certain employees 
  • Excuse certain employees of unproductive behaviour 
The cost of favouritism practices  

Leaders play favouritism for various reasons, including simply because certain employees have more similarities to them, like certain employees better because they obey them more, or leaders have certain goals in the company and become manipulative to achieve the goal by practising favouritism. 

The consequences of this practice are also numerous. Employees not only deemed favouritism as a form of workplace injustice or unfairness, but also reacted to favouritism behaviours with negative emotions. Meng Li described in her study that favouritism creates certain negative emotions from employees towards organisations. This emotion will then turn into doing less work, having less work motivation, and having more emotional exhaustion. Subordinates who perceived higher degrees of favouritism also reported having poor work relationships with leaders, receiving less recognition and professional help, receiving less support at work, and having less trust toward the supervisors. In the end, employee turnover will grow higher if the favouritism is not addressed properly. 

Are favoured employees happy?  

According to Meng Li, although favoured employees at work reported a significantly higher quality work relationship, they also reported higher levels of emotional exhaustion, turnover intentions, and reported more interpersonal conflict with their coworkers at work. The amount of job satisfaction, work motivation, affection toward the organisation, loyalty to the company and perception of fairness did not significantly differ from those who do not think they were their supervisor’s favourites. 

In short, those who are favoured by their supervisors might also be the victims to a certain extent. They might feel pressure from their peers for receiving better treatment, frequently perceive conflicts initiated by coworkers, which eventually exhibit higher levels of emotional exhaustion and express greater intentions of quitting. 

What to do?  

Rebecca Knight in her HBR article wrote that playing favourite is unwise and unfair. It might as well put the organisation in danger as it creates a foundation for creating a dysfunctional team around the workplace. Therefore, it is requisite to create policies to ensure workplace favouritism is no longer practiced. Leaders can also do the following strategies as proposed by Knight: 

  • Keep track of who is doing what – it is a certain way to ensure there is no one favouring over someone else. A conscious effort to divide assignments in a fair, equitable way will help all employees feel that they play an important role in their job.  
  • Be inclusive – encourage all of the team to speak up; make team meetings more participatory. 
  • Get an outsider’s perspective – ask a college’s opinion from another department or division to give feedback on where you are focusing your energy and attention. 

Read also: Post-Employment Disciplinary Practices due to Misconduct

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