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    Monday, April 30, 2018

    “Who you know?” A symptom of a systemic problem in a Nigerian workforce.


                In commemoration of the International Workers Day, I'd like to share my thoughts on people's experiences that they carry around after several job applications. They say that "it's not so much what you know, but who you know." Like the Igbo's, one of Nigeria's tribe would exclaim, "Ima mmadu" meaning "Who you know" is now a disease plaguing the work environment/system around the world.

    But the question still is, how do we tackle nepotism and "connections" in the global workplace?

    While I am not a believer of nepotism, connections or favoritism. I understand that this practice has helped a large number of youths/people become employed. However, it has also left the employable unemployed even with their relevant skill sets, particularly in Nigeria.

    It is not unusual for family members and friends to work for the same organization, especially for large establishments other public agencies.  However, it can raise issues when an employee uses his/her authority, discretionary power, or influence to obtain or secure employment or promotion for an individual without proper regard to his/her qualifications. This kind of situations is referred as nepotism, cronyism, or favoritism in the workplace. More specifically, nepotism occurs when this type of favoritism is exercised for a person related by blood or marriage regardless of that relative's merit and fitness to the job.

    Here's what it does, regardless of how it occurs, nepotism and favoritism at work can have many negative effects on the business, organization and the employees. For the organization, workplace nepotism creates inconsistency in the application of standards,  policies,  rules, and evaluation processes, and this negates appropriate checks and balances related to work practices. Also, because of nepotism, the employer may not be hiring the most qualified individuals to do the work, and the performance of the department and the organization will suffer. Moreover, some cases of nepotism or connections may lead to legal ramification for the organization. 

    As for the employees, as we have seen in many instances, negatively impacts the employees' productivity, motivation, job satisfaction, morale, and retention with the organization. The bottom line is —nepotism can be very harmful and costly to the organization and its employees and the entire world as our fight for reducing the unemployment rate in the continent will become fruitless. 

    In tackling nepotism, everyone has a role to play, and these include;

    Advising your supervisor or a hiring authority when a family member or a friend is participating in a hiring interview. This holds true for both permanent and temporary positions. Even though some employment application requires applicants to disclose this information, the information may or may not filter down. Therefore, it is the best practice to always notify your supervisor when a situation may be considered as nepotism. 
    Do not serve on interview or evaluation panels where a family member or a friend is being interviewed or evaluated.  You should not put yourself in a situation where you will not be able to objectively evaluate your relative or friend, or your objectivity will be questioned by others.

    Do not influence the screening,  evaluation,  or interview process for employment or promotional opportunities where a family member or a friend is participating, including avoiding writing recommendation or introduction letters, I for one, I try to adhere to this as much as possible. 

    Advise your administration, typically a supervisor or CEO, of your concern if you become aware of a situation involving nepotism. Besides, you may also consider contacting the Division of Human Resources or Personnel Commission with such information; as there might be no retaliation or other negative consequences associated with this action.

    Let us stay vigilant and strive to reduce nepotism and connection in the workplace, gradually we will win.

    Happy Workers' Day!

    By: Sharon Georgewill


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