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Tips on Navigating Through Nepotism and Favoritism at Work

New York, NY – Unfortunately, this article confirms the old saying: It’s now what you know, it’s who you know. 

Ben Kimmel.

I can say that I have seen this firsthand.  I have seen favoritism, nepotism and violations of equal opportunity rights. I have seen both preferential and unfair treatment towards workers due to family or cultural affiliation — and I have seen the unfair promotion of new hires over skilled and seasoned veterans simply because of who they know. 

It would be inaccurate to say this is a new problem or this only exists on the white or blue collar side of work. This happens in all fields. This happens in all trades and in all workplaces. Topics like this, however, are taboo because no one wants to address them and potentially hurt the chances of a future promotion. 

Nevertheless, in my tenure as a member of the working world — whether I was in a suit and tie or in a uniform — I have watched talented and dedicated workers go unrewarded. Meanwhile, someone who was untrained and whose skills were unproven, was promoted to a higher position because of who they knew. In fact, I recently saw this firsthand. I witnessed a string of company-wide interviews where the chosen applicant was not the most qualified. Instead, the chosen applicant was the most favored one. And as for the other applicants…there was nothing they could do. 

The question at hand is this: If it’s not what you know, it’s who you know — then what can a mid-level worker do to improve their position in a corporation that practices this kind of discrimination?

Before going forward, the first suggestion is to work smart. It is easiest to explain it this way: As a worker, we are an individual stock. Like any stock, those that are most attractive are the stocks that are marketed best and offer the best return. Therefore, the question is no longer what or who you know, the question becomes how will you boost the value of your personal stock?

One can always speak up. However, speaking up leads to fears of retaliation. Although workers are supposed to be protected, speaking up can be intimidating, which is why so many remain quiet about this subject. It would also be inaccurate to say that there is no such thing as retaliation.

So then what?

In an effort to maintain the top level of professionalism, it is important to remain professional no matter what. Although unfair decisions may seem personal — do not allow this to become personal. View this as someone else’s stock that possibly rose too quickly and could fall just as fast. 

Rather than being concerned with choices that are beyond our control, do what is possible to build value in your own performance.

Some helpful suggestions to overcome workplace descrimination and favoritism are:

  • Consider your opportunities:
    Take advantage of networking possibilities. Look to partake in continuing  education or professional development programs to improve your personal brand. Look to expand and improve your potential.
  • Be professional:
    Keep in mind, attitude is part of a worker’s personal stock. A poor attitude is not helpful. Therefore, maintain a healthy attitude. Refrain from spitefulness or any kind of retaliation and stay away from slander.
  • Document everything:
    Take notes on your skills and lists of achievements. Do not look to outside sources for validation. Instead, shift your focus to your own abilities, tasks and accomplishments. Life comes with enough distractions. Don’t add to it.
  • Understand the effects:
    Preferential treatment and favoritism in the workplace can lead to a hostile atmosphere, lower morale, resentment, a loss of staff, sub-par performance and a decreased sense of teamwork and overall potential. And be advised, workplace favoritism can also lead to legal actions. (Ways to complain, online and anonymously can be found here: )
  • Update your resume:
    Do not allow yourself to be closed off to new opportunities. Keep your resume updated and whenever possible, look for better opportunities. 

Whether the reasons workplace discrimination or favoritism go unaddressed are because of intimidation or simply, nobody wants to deal with it — our prime objective is to boost our personal stock. As workers, our main goal is to secure our best interests. Otherwise, our work life can impinge on our home life — and nobody pays us overtime to be miserable at home. Understand?

Ben Kimmel is a proud member of the IUOE Local 94, as well as an author, writer on, Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Certified Addiction and Recovery Coach, Certified Professional Life Coach, and Peer & Wellness Advocate.  Ben can be reached at


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