The pros and cons of nepotism

Nepotism: Advantages and Disadvantages

Nepotism has negative connotations both in the workplace and politics because it promotes partiality and produces undesirable outcomes such as organizational inefficiencies. However, under certain but limited circumstances, it can be beneficial.

Advantages of Nepotism: Benefits and Applications

An extensive study by J. Ruch et al. involving a species of spiders explored the role of kinship in survival and evolution. Results revealed that spiders were considerably more efficient at foraging for food and cooperate better when they are related to each other.

Based on its conclusion, in several animal species, being surrounded by kin members usually lead to better group dynamics and more cooperation, as well as better chances of survival.

The study mentioned above can help explain some of the benefits and applications of nepotism under selected situations. Consider small organizations as an example. Take note of the following:

• Family Business: Private enterprises often resort to hiring family members and other relatives to maintain secrecy and preserve what they consider as a family legacy.

• Startups: Nepotism can help speed up the creation and operation of a startup business because working with familiar people can promote efficiency.

• Hiring and Retention: Time and cost of hiring relatives are lesser. Furthermore, in properly managed organizations, absenteeism and turnover rates are low.

• Knowledge Management: Knowledge can be transferred and secured efficiently when passed down on familiar people such as family members.

Another study by P. Jaskiewicz et al. proposed two types of nepotism: entitlement and reciprocal. The latter provides several advantages such as better and healthier social exchange, as well as the facilitation of tacit knowledge that can bring forth competitive advantage.

However, the study also noted that when hiring or including family members, it is important to consider interdependence, the depth of interactions and relationship, and prevailing cultural norms of the family.

Disadvantages of Nepotism: Problems and Limitations

Nepotism is still problematic in most circumstances. A number of studies have investigated and explained its negative implications in leadership and organizational efficiency. Take note of the following:

• Promotes Corruption: Both in politics and workplace, family members can foster connivance that facilitates corruption or specific corrupt practices.

• Authoritarian Leadership: Having a leader surrounded mostly by people familiar to him or her can enable authoritarian leader. Note that this type of leadership has its pros and cons depending on the situation.

• Organizational Incompetency: Nepotism means hiring people based primarily on kinship and not on actual abilities and potential contribution to the organization. These can harm the competency of the organization.

• Harms Leadership: Family members can undermine authority by using connection and number to scheme against their leaders. These members can also exert their familial connections and entitlement toward non-relative authorities.

• Effects of Family Problems: In an organization composed primarily of people who are related to one another, problems within the family can leak further to the organization. It can be impossible to separate family affairs with organizational affairs.

• Organizational Politics: Similar to connivance against leaders, relatives in an organization can resort to power play to undermine non-relatives, advance their own interests, and neglect their responsibilities.

• Hinders Growth: A general disadvantage of nepotism is that it can hamper the growth or progress of an organization due to workforce incompetency, harms on leadership, and the possibility of corruption, among others.

Based on the drawbacks mentioned above, nepotism is not suitable in specific situations or contexts. In politics and governance, it contradicts the advantages of democracy and leadership through representation. Moreover, in workplace, especially in medium and large enterprises, it reduces the effectiveness and efficiency of an organization.


  • Jaskiewicz, P., Uhlenbruck, K., Balkin, D. B., and Reay, T. 2013. Is Nepotism Good or Bad? Types of Nepotism and Implications for Knowledge Management. Family Business Review. 26(2): 121-139. DOI: 10.1177/0894486512470841
  • Ruch, J., Heinrich, L., Bilde, T., and Schneider, J. M. 2009. “Relatedness facilitates cooperation in the subsocial spider, Stegodyphus tentoriicola.” BMC Evolutionary Biology. 9(1): 257. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2148-9-257