Life in the workplace is unfair.
Although favoritism is the broadest term, by definition it sums up the more narrow concepts of nepotism and cronyism. Nepotism is the practice among those in power favoring relatives or friends, especially within the workplace, while cronyism refers to partiality toward friends and associates.
Similar to the old saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” personal relationships can undeniably advance you to the next level, at least get your foot in the door. Is it ethical using “who you know” to your economic benefit? According to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, “Equals should be treated equally and unequals unequally.”
Fairness is one of the most basic themes of ethics.
I think the question should be: Is hiring someone not deserving of merit unethical? A person cannot help who they know, and if that particular person of influence can help you get to where you need and want to be in your life, why not use that to your advantage? The situation gets blurry when the applicant is obviously not as skilled as a counterpart.
Government Executive Magazine found in a 2002 survey from the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management that only 36 percent of federal employees thought promotions in their work units were based on merit. Just over one-third of the staff believed that promotions were not based on merit, meaning the individuals advancing to the next level did not possess the skills to do so but, instead, held the network advantage. However, one can easily disguise nepotism as networking, which is highly recommended in the work field. Especially in college, who you know can definitely be a step up in advancing your career.
Even when applying to colleges, they want to know your legacy status; do you have any family members that attended this particular university? If that answer is yes, there are typically rewards in the form of a scholarship.
Networking, the system of connecting through socializing for a professional or personal gain, can be misconstrued as nepotism. The difference lies between applying for the job and having the job. If an employee is advancing within the workplace because of the relationship with the person of power, regardless of performance, then it is unethical, but in regard to a family member helping a relative obtain a job, that is simply networking.
Employers have the responsibility to not just limit their applicants based on who they know but also based on ability and skill, giving each candidate an equal opportunity to earn the position.
— Quran Hansford
Freshman journalism major
Printed in the 3/7/18 issue.