Nepotism alive and well in Nanaimo

“Bob’s your uncle.”

That saying could be posted on signs at the entrance to Nanaimo to show  nepotism is alive and well in the Harbour City.

Where does the phrase “Bob’s your uncle” come from?

British Prime Minister Robert Cecil (a.k.a. Lord Salisbury) decided to appoint Arthur Balfour to the prestigious and sensitive post of Chief Secretary for Ireland. Not lost on the British public was the fact that Robert Cecil was the uncle of Arthur Balfour. In the resulting furor over what was seen as an act of blatant nepotism, “Bob’s your uncle” became a popular sarcastic comment applied to any situation where the outcome was preordained by favouritism.

Here in Nanaimo, nepotism is not uncommon.  From retail stores to large government employers such as Island Health (Vancouver Island Health Authority) family members and extended family members can be found working together. Because they all have different last names, it’s not obvious to the unitiated.

The City of Nanaimo once had a father and son who were city managers. The current city manager didn’t have to apply for the top job. Nor did the mayor think it was necessary.

The problem of nepotism creeps into the working of an organization when the senior management officials start favouring family members or friends, or known persons often with no regard to the person’s suitability for the job, or even not considering the performance. This also has its impact on virtually all functions of HR, including hiring, performance evaluation, compensation and succession planning and also for the employee’s appraisal.

Nepotism can make other employees feel insignificant and their contribution to the business goals of the organization look small or not even considered. This causes a deep indent in the minds of the employees and such an unfair practice leads to the problem of maintaining discipline in the workplace. This arises from the fact that the employee feels that there is no fairness and justice in the office setting and hence there is no point in following the office decorum or the rules and regulation in the workplace.

Favouritism resulting from nepotism can be considered as discrimination, yet most employers deny its existence. Favouring one employee over another reduces morale, increases employee turnover and slows down career advancement. It also inculcates the feeling in the employees, that it doesn’t matter how one performs on the job, what matters is the extent to which your superior favours you. And it is this favouritism that determines perks and promotions one will receive.

The City of Nanaimo is currently spending $3,000 to evaluate its corporate vision. Perhaps the consultant can also look into the spectre of nepotism and how far it reaches.