What Is Nepotism? An Insight Into A Troublesome Notion

What is nepotism? It’s almost impossible to achieve anything big in life without hard work, merit, and struggle but it is only nepotism that can prove highly damaging to both merit and professionalism.   

Nepotism inflicts profound harm in today’s professional landscape, obstructing the paths of zealous and hard-working individuals striving for coveted positions. Advocates of nepotism operate discreetly, their actions insidious and gradual, shrouded in secrecy. Victims face rejection and discouragement, while perpetrators and their cohorts revel in ill-gotten gains.


The repercussions are staggering for the victim, yet celebratory for the perpetrator and their enablers. Despite tireless efforts, success proves elusive when personal connections overshadow merit, relegating public interest beneath self-serving agendas. The initial triumph for the perpetrator is fleeting, ultimately leading to a downfall veiled in pomposity.

Such failures often lead to self-doubt and mental anguish, fueling stress, anxiety, and depression. These psychological burdens, potent enough to drive individuals to the brink of suicide, leave minds feeling irreparably damaged. It’s a vicious cycle perpetuated by nepotism, undermining meritocracy and fostering an environment of injustice and despair.

Table of Contents

What is nepotism mean in simple terms?

Understanding  What is the meaning of nepotism

Meaning of Nepotism is the tendency of certain ecclesiastical superiors, bishops, and popes, and by extension of certain leaders of other institutions, to promote the ascension of members of their families into the hierarchy they direct, to the detriment of ordinary selection processes and merit. By extension, the term refers to a tendency to grant benefits to close relationships, friends, or even members of a common ethnic, religious or ethnic group, regardless of their value. It is synonymous with favoritism or cronyism.

Etymology of nepotism

The term was borrowed in 1653 from the Italian nepotism, itself derived from nepote which means «nephew», by reference to the favoritism granted by a pope to one of his nephews by the undue transfer of ecclesiastical titles or donations reserved to the Vatican. But often at this time the term is an understatement and the “nephews” are the own children of the ecclesiastics; Savonarola preached thus against the Church of Rome in 1497: “Formerly, if priests had sons, they called them their nephews; now we have no nephews; we have sons, sons at all.”

What is an Example of Nepotism? An historic examples

In the context of the Roman curia, nepotism found its most emblematic realization in the phenomenon of cardinals-nephex.

Among the popes who practiced nepotism, we can quote:

Calixtus III (1455-1458) Borgia who named his nephew and adopted son, the future Alexander VI, cardinal;

Sixtus IV (1471-1484) named many young men cardinal, including his 17-year-old nephew Raphael Riario;

Alexander VI (1492-1503) Borgia who named his son César Borgia cardinal at the age of 18;

Paul III (1534-1549) who created the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza for his son Pierre Louis Farnese, he named two grandsons cardinals, Alexandre Farnese and Guido Ascanio Sforza di Santa Fiora;

Pius IV (1559-1565) who appointed Cardinal the cousin of his son-in-law, Alfonso Gesualdo, aged 21;

Urban VIII (1623-1644) who raised three of his nephews to the rank of cardinal;

Innocent X (1644-1655) who appointed his nephew Camillo Pamphilj as cardinal.

Great and small nepotism

Historiography traditionally distinguishes two periods:

Great nepotism: Before the Council of Trent: the favors granted to the family consist in alienations from the patrimony of St.Peter;

Small nepotism: After this council, consisting of revocable or life benefits.

Nepotism in the workplace

In politics, nepotism meaning is characterized by the favors that a man or woman in power shows toward his family or friends, regardless of merit or equity, their abilities or abilities. Nepotism is generally distinguished from the hereditary transmission of the power of heredity of the offices. The NGO Transparency International equates it with corruption.


Accord Admittedly, this is not a question of public money, but the majority opinion considers that recruiting his collaborators within his family or among his very close ones is an unprofessional attitude, even reprehensible, that one should ideally get rid of his ties, It’s his attraction, his networks when it comes to hiring and surrounding strangers chosen for their skills.

Nepotism and family businesses

However, many family businesses do not follow these rules, incorporating many family members, chosen in preference to others. Practices considered as Latin survivals by the majority Doxa, viewed with a certain commiseration, accused of harming performance and the capacity for innovation.

Is nepotism a good solution at times?

What if these family businesses had, in fact, sometimes a good reason to do so? Our research shows that nepotism can in some cases be a good solution.

When the economic environment is very uncertain, working with your family, knowing your employees intimately, fosters confidence and allows rapid adjustments to changes.

When the institutional environment is very fragile, the state provides little protection, the law is poorly respected, and the family group provides support and can mobilize to help the company survive.

Family business owners are not just putting money into their businesses. They are investing emotions. They are not just into money-making. And they see the business as a child that needs to grow. So, They expect strong socio-emotional benefits from their commitment.

Max weber’s thought on nepotism

It is this socio-emotional investment, which is little taken into account by classical economic theory, that explains why the presence of family members in family businesses is often an asset. Max Weber said bureaucratic structures must make it possible to eliminate the nepotism of traditional governments.

Is nepotism illegal?

The nepotic practice may be legal or prohibited depending on the country or legislation. Beyond the legal framework, it can also be cultural.

Political science on nepotism

According to political scientist Armelle Le Bras-Chopard, this practice may be motivated by the financial aspect or by the better confidence and efficiency of a working relationship with a relative but it “reflects the excessive collusion and nepotism in the political class”.

Multi-faceted nepotism


Political nepotism

Several cases of nepotism have recently made headlines in the political arena. Employing one’s wife, son, or daughter as a parliamentary assistant is no longer accepted. Also in the corporate world, nepotism is seen as something to be detested and frowned upon.

We know that the stronger the family ties, the more the leader identifies with his society and that the more the family is present in the capital, the more people in the family are working there.

Practical implications of nepotism

Research also shows that the start-up phases are facilitated by the experience of former adventure partners and that the commitment of family members is then on average higher than that of traditional employees, they are more flexible when necessary.

Of course, the point here is not to say that a company can recruit without regard to skills, but only blood ties. Of course, it is not a question of throwing aside all the recognized practices in terms of human resources: the precise definition of positions, training, performance evaluation, etc.

But recognizing the importance of nepotism in certain contexts has very practical implications.

Nepotism as a valuable support mechanism

It is not necessarily desirable to try to impose on the enterprises of poor countries, whose state is failing, the idea that they should behave like Anglo-Saxon firms, opening their doors wide to the unknown. It may be preferable to recognize the strength of the family model while encouraging companies to adopt some good HR practices, including training.

Nepotism and migrants

Similarly, for migrants arriving in new countries, it is important to recognize that the support of the family group is very valuable to them. The model of the Chinese restaurant that employs all relatives seems out of step with the majority economic activity, but it has its logic.

If new, non-family heads manage to join the community to bring new knowledge to these small family businesses and help them better understand their environment, the bet is often a winner.

Thus, encouraging migrants to seek paid work outside their surroundings is not necessarily the most relevant approach to integration. Facilitating the creation of family activities could be a fruitful path.

Merit-based recruitment seen through the lens of human resources

Human resources are essential to the local and regional authorities of which they constitute. To operate effectively, these communities require quality and efficient staff which is also highly motivated. The existence of merit-based recruitment and promotion systems is a

prerequisite for the impartiality and quality of the public service offered.

At the same time, the autonomy of local and regional authorities to recruit and lay off staff is considered one of the main risks of corruption.

Council of europe’s thought on nepotism

Recognizing that corruption in all its forms poses a serious threat to good governance at the local and regional levels, the European Congress accepted, as part of its linked roadmap anti-Corruption activities, adopted in October 2016 at the 31st session of the Council of Europe, to prepare a report on nepotism to identify preventive measures and good practices in the fight against this form of corruption.

Local and regional authorities and their exposure to nepotism

Local and regional authorities face heightened vulnerability to nepotism and favoritism due to their size, autonomy, and close proximity to citizens. These dynamics often render nepotism practices more conspicuous to the general public.

To foster public trust and combat corruption effectively, implementing robust human resource management practices becomes imperative. At the local level, challenges such as poor teamwork, absenteeism, lack of motivation, hierarchical issues, and diminished confidence in leadership can exacerbate the situation.

Establishing transparent and accountable human resource management protocols is crucial, given the paramount importance of employee confidence and satisfaction in the workplace. By proactively addressing these issues, authorities can cultivate an environment conducive to efficiency, fairness, and public trust.

Social and administrative culture’s relation with nepotism

Rules and regulations alone cannot avoid nepotism, attitudes, social and administrative culture must also change and evolve so that these practices are less and that an ethical approach is adopted. The general public has a role to play and must be aware of the risks and harmful consequences of nepotism for public authorities.

Transparency through clear and comprehensive procedures

Strengthen the transparency of recruitment and promotion procedures by establishing

clear and comprehensive procedures that are easily understandable and accessible to candidates and the personnel; Here are the ways it can be undertaken tactfully :

  1. Make sure the equality and fairness of recruitment and promotion procedures taking into account knowledge, experience, skills, and ethical behavior of candidates, in defining a common set of rules and applying the principles of recruitment based on Merit.
  1. Conduct ethics or anti-corruption audits with attention specific to human resource management practices to measure the risks of nepotism and propose appropriate countermeasures;
  2. Establish reporting mechanisms to identify potential cases of favoritism or conflict of interest during the recruitment or selection process;

Educational activities to counter nepotism

  1. Organize educational activities in public institutions, such as seminars, seminars, workshops, continuing training, to raise awareness of the risks of nepotism or any form of favoritism;
  1. Create regional networks, to exchange theoretical and practical data on the nepotism in the recruitment of personnel;

Nepotism as a discouraging factor

It can discourage qualified, motivated and competent candidates from applying to certain positions and lead to the recruitment of unqualified personnel, thereby distorting the proper functioning of any organization by allowing private interests to override public interests.

Recruitment procedures must be transparent and conducted according to rules and standards to avoid undue influence of public officials in the selection process, with the risk of

of conflicts of interest.

Adequate remuneration is another essential condition for having quality personnel and minimizing risk nepotism and other forms of favoritism.

Legislative body and the legislation for nepotism

Government must ensure that the legislative body’s legislation contains sufficient

provisions to mitigate the risk of nepotism, combat and address alleged cases of nepotism, in particular by:

  1. Protecting whistle-blowers who report nepotism;
  2. Ensuring the impartiality and protection of judges and prosecutors investigating nepotism.

iii. Providing for appropriate sanctions in the event of proven nepotism.Taking steps to develop their administrative culture to exclude any tolerance for all forms of favoritism by creating bodies to monitor the application and effectiveness of legislation relating to nepotism and by providing vocational training.

  1. Offering seminars, internships, or meetings to public officials.
  2. Raising public officials’ awareness of their rights, responsibilities, and duties in this regard;
  3. Ensuring the selection of competent personnel in the public bodies that monitor the local and regional authorities to discover possible causes of nepotism.

vii. Ensure the independence of the staff of the supervisory bodies.

viii. Ensure transparency, accountability, fairness, and equality in the recruitment process by following ways:

  1. Using standardized examination systems to appoint and recruit public officials
  2. Providing clear and complete explanations of the recruitment and selection procedure;
  3. Requiring public officials involved in the selection procedure to declare any relationship past or present with candidates;
  4. Prohibiting public officials from exerting direct or indirect influence on employees with which they have links to;
  5. Prohibiting public officials from recommending the hiring of family members on their place of work or soliciting other employees to hire family members;
  6. Ensuring effective systems for monitoring recruitment procedures;
  7. Establishing effective and accountable human resource management systems.

Nepotism, patronage and corruption

Nepotism and patronage in all its forms are types of corruption that can undermine the proper functioning of the state and compromise the ability of public authorities to serve the public interest.

At the local and regional levels, they compromise the effectiveness and efficiency of public services, weaken the confidence of citizens, and undermine the image of local authorities as servants of the interests of their citizens.

Patronage, nepotism, and abuse of power, among other corrupt practices, can affect virtually all human resources activities including recruitment, promotion, training and transfers of personnel from one of the most vulnerable sectors.

Purchase/sale of positions, appointments and promotions

The purchase/sale of a position, and appointment or promotion of a friend, acquaintance, or member of the the same party is particularly high when the position is considered lucrative or offers opportunities for illicit enrichment, and/or where the unemployment rate is high and positions in the public service can provide stable income and other benefits. In this type of situation, the existence of high discretionary powers, the lack of robust control systems, and the lack of transparency mechanisms are all factors related to corruption practices.

The level of public trust and perception of corruption depends on the quality and

professional behavior of employees working in each specific institution.

It is therefore to root public confidence and fight corruption, to put in place strong human resource management practices that ensure that governments local and regional hire people whose profile, skills, and motivations that best fit the job. These practices are a guarantee of impartiality and quality of service delivery.

Aristotle and Plato on nepotism

Since the times of Aristotle and Plato, the primacy of the general interest over the personal interest (which translated by the absence of corruption) is what distinguishes good governance from bad governance.

Favoritism, cronyism and much more related to nepotism

Favoritism can be defined as unequal support given to an individual or group,

by an authoritative person. In its various forms, it embodies the typical conflict of interest in which the personal interest of the public official takes precedence over his duty of impartiality in the performance of their public duties. This type of behavior may give rise to cronyism which is a specific form of favoritism whereby the public official gives preference to his friends or acquaintances.

Political Favoritism

Political favoritism is a form of favoritism by which a person is chosen to occupy a position

employment or benefits from public benefits because of its support or membership in a

political training.


Another form of behavior related to corruption, clientelism is a system of “mutual exchange”

and unequal levels of goods and services between richer and/or more powerful “bosses”

less rich and/or powerful “clients” (Transparency International 2009).

Forms of clientelism may be used as an election strategy, or as a general strategy for obtaining or maintaining political support. The link between citizens and leaders using this strategy is based on clear self-interest as managers grant material benefits directly to certain persons or small groups of persons in exchange for their support, vote or their membership.

The principles of merit, transparency, and accountability disappear in favor of obscure resource practices in which corruption, favoritism, and patronage are tolerated and ultimately

achievement (which is translated in terms of a notion which has the proper functioning of the organization).

How does favoritism flourish?

Favoritism practices can flourish, including in cases where court constitutions are not present. The principle is then that family members, friends, and members of the same political circle are entitled to an advantage treatment and are best able to serve the interests of the structure. In many support to family members, friends, or members of the

a political party is part of the local tradition.

Studies conducted on nepotism

Several studies on cultural traditions and perception of corruption, however, argue that all cultures and traditions do not accept not corruption (SMITH 2007, PERSSON, ROTHSTEIN and TEORELL 2013). Studies that examine the roots of corruption show that acts of corruption thrive not because people consider them to be appropriate, but because in a country where corruption is widespread, the cost of honesty is very high.

When society considers that corruption is part of everyday life, individuals tend to conduct themselves in a corrupt manner, otherwise, they could face “losses” as a result of their moral principles. Individuals see no reason, to be honest, and act against their interests (PERSSON, ROTHSTEIN, and TEORELL 2013).

Vicious circle of corruption

These situations create a vicious circle in which the use of corrupt means to influence policymakers and managers lead to a decrease in confidence in public servants, which leads to the use of officially banned means to get what you want and further weakens accountability and the legitimacy of the political system (PHILP 2001:358). Practices such as nepotism, cronyism, and political favoritism create conflict of interest situations that distort the relationship between the local or regional executive and the public.

WECHSLER(2013) on corruption and how it is failing citizenry’s confidence

For WECHSLER (2013), when public officials do not disclose the conflicts of interest that concern and do not withdraw from decision-making processes from which they are likely to derive an interesting staff (family, friends, professional acquaintances), they are generally considered to be not trustworthy and as the masked agents of the person(s) with whom

(which) have a special relationship. If such behavior is not sanctioned, the whole administration is seen as selfish and guided by the interests of friends and families, not by those of the local population.

Not only does the trust of citizens fall, but these beliefs within the population are a serious barrier to the recruitment of highly skilled people and rigorous ethical behavior, who will be less motivated to apply for a position. They believe that the administration is subject to corruption and lacks the spirit of the body.


Define nepotism

Nepotism definition is the practice of giving positions of power or influence to family members, friends, or other people who are closely connected to the person making the decisions. The word nepotism define comes from the Latin word Nepos, which means “nephew” or “descendant”.

Is Nepotism a Crime?

Nepotism is the practice of favoritism based on family or personal relationships. In other words, it’s the act of giving someone a job, promotion, or other advantage simply because they’re related to you.While nepotism is not technically illegal, it can lead to cronyism.

What is the Difference Between Nepotism and Cronyism?

Nepotism is the act of showing favoritism to family members or friends, especially in business or politics. Cronyism, on the other hand, is the act of appointing friends or allies to positions of power, regardless of their qualifications. While both nepotism and cronyism involve giving preferential treatment to certain people.

How to prevent nepotism in an organization?

Nepotism is the practice of favoritism based on family relationships. This can be advantageous to the person who receives the special treatment, but it can create an unfair work environment and lead to jealousy and resentment among employees. Here are some ways to prevent nepotism in your organization:-

  • Establish clear policies against nepotism
  • Communicate these policies to all employees, and make sure they understand the consequences of violating them.
  • Enforce the policies consistently and fairly.
  • Monitor hiring and promotion practices to ensure that nepotism is not occurring.
  • Encourage employees to speak up if they believe nepotism is taking place.
  • Take action immediately if nepotism is discovered. By taking these steps, you can help create a fair and egalitarian workplace for all employees.

What are favoritism, cronyism, and nepotism?

Favoritism and cronyism refer to an unethical practice, which is to use relationships or benefits toward an advantage or job. It has also been observed that these relationships are based on trust and social status. For example, when a family member is selected to be a member of a government decision making body, it is termed as cronyism.

What is Nepotism and What Can You Do If It Affects You?

Nepotism is a legal term that refers to an interest, trust, or other relationship between relatives. There are a number of ways that nepotism can affect people. It might be something as simple as one brother or sister getting promoted over another and taking the place of a colleague. When they are promoted, they may not get the same opportunities as their colleagues and peers, and they may even take the opportunity to steal away opportunities that were given to their colleagues or peers.

How Nepotism Works?

If your nephew or niece happens to work in the same office or a nearby cubicle, you might think that the two of you share a special bond. But is that true? Probably not. Nepotism is a type of familial love that can be harmful if it is used for selfish purposes. A significant number of family members are known to be involved in nepotism. It is a term used to describe familial relationships in which relatives are involved in the lives of others at an official or unofficial level.


Nepotism wreaks havoc on productivity and merit, showcasing its destructive nature. Its impact reverberates from individual lives to the broader fabric of society and the nation, leaving a trail of damage.

Talented individuals, deserving of success, find their paths obstructed by nepotism’s insidious influence. This obstruction isn’t merely personal; it extends to the macro level, affecting the state and society as a whole.

The consequences are profound. By sidelining merit in favor of familial connections, nepotism cripples productivity and stifles progress. The ripple effect is felt throughout the nation’s economic landscape. As deserving individuals are denied opportunities, the nation’s true potential remains untapped, hindering its ability to compete on the global stage.

In essence, nepotism isn’t just a troublesome notion; it’s a corrosive force that undermines the very foundation of meritocracy. It erodes trust, perpetuates inequality, and diminishes the collective potential of a society. The consequences extend far beyond individual aspirations, shaping the trajectory of entire nations. It’s imperative to confront and address nepotism to unlock true progress and prosperity for all.