As discussed in my previous post, nepotism is the practice of showing favoritism toward one’s family members or friends in economic or employment terms, for example, granting jobs to friends and relatives, without regard to merit. Such practices have damaging effects on businesses, eroding the support of other employees, reducing the quality and creativity of management and diminishing the importance of competence and high-level performance.

However, there’s a kind of nepotism that I have seen work in many companies.  Say you have a very competent employee who has worked for you for many years.  He/she is loyal and dependable.  It is clear that this employee’s values are fully compatible with your own.  Hiring additional employees with a similar work ethic and values would behoove your business.

The “good nepotism“ works like this:  Talk to this valued employee and ask if they know anyone like themselves who might be looking for work.  Perhaps they have a friend, brother, son or daughter with those similar traits.  This should precipitate a discussion about the values that you hold, those of the company, and ultimately, the values of the employee.  In your discussion, look for opportunities to reinforce examples of how the employee has used those same values in the execution of his or her responsibilities.  You seek to connect with the employee and gain a “meeting of the minds“ about values.  Then you can talk about any candidates this employee can recommend.

When you book appointments with these individuals, tell them the story of how the company was founded, the values that you and your family hold and how those values have served you and the company well.  Relate your experience to the values and performance of the employee who made the referral.  As the discussion proceeds, look for an opportunity to ask the question, “What experience have you had with using values to inform your decisions in the workplace?“

This process will open a window into the thinking of the individual, their priorities and the kind of person they really are.  It’s also interesting to explore a situation in which the candidate has had to compromise his or her values.  This discussion will make the window even larger.  There is hardly a person alive who has not found it necessary to compromise their values at some time.  If I find someone who says that it has never happened to them, I usually suggest, “That’s curious to me.  How have you lived in such a perfect world?“  Then I tell them an appropriate story of how I have had to make compromises at various points in my life.  Invariably, my sharing such experience opens the discussion even further.  With that level of discussion, you can make an appropriate decision about potential employment opportunities.

If you end up employing one of the individuals you have interviewed in this manner, this employee will never forget the values conversation you’ve had.  It will be the basis of his relationship with you and the company for years to come.  It fosters an environment where employees feel that the employer really cares about them, and these employees will likely tell others about this experience and what a fine place your company is to work.

In short, the good kind of nepotism takes advantage of relationships with respected employees and colleagues to help find and hire employees with similar traits.

My next post will give a quick review of the dos and don’ts of nepotism.

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