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  • Writer's picturedennisharris04

Favoritism and Nepotism Create Glass Tigers



If you have worked long enough or grew up playing sports you have very likely, at some point along the way, encountered some nepotism or favoritism that is extremely frustrating and is not right. I have personally witnessed it in coaching, been subject to it at work, and said no to it as a business owner. So what can you do about it? That is a hard question to answer and the thing that I would say that worked for me is to keep putting your best foot forward, maintain your core beliefs and pick your spots.


Coaching in sports I witnessed time and time again those coaches that put their kids in the marquee positions and did not justify it by having proper tryouts. I also witnessed players getting special treatment because they had parents who were best friends with the head coach. My message to the other kids, including my own, was to keep working hard and always do your best, so people can’t ignore you. It is frustrating, but the kids who have to work for every inch will be far better off in the sport and in life. The kids getting spoon-fed will not understand when they finally have to rely on their ability and how they carry themselves. Picture some poor kid who has been made to believe they are better than their ability, gets to college, and the coach says sorry, you are not good enough. The person responsible has given the kid a false sense of security, hasn't taught them to learn from adversity, and essentially set them up for failure, with no idea on how to deal with it.


This type of situation doesn’t stop at minor sports, you see it taking place all the time through various careers in the workplace. I have witnessed the type of nepotism where a parent promotes an offspring like it is their own personal family business, not taking into account the other workers’ abilities or effort that has gone in to make them more qualified for the position or positions in question. I imagine that the parent has accomplished enough in their role with whatever organization and because of that will promote their child with no worry of the consequence. That parent quite possibly has no faith in the ability of their child and is definitely too cowardly to actually go out and start a family business where nepotism would be less of a surprise.

Some bosses just like to play favorites where you see people who have been moved into positions past people who are more qualified and more than likely have been there longer. Those people are typically the type whose beliefs stand for nothing, the go along to get along type who can be described simply as the yes men and women of the workplace. “Great Spirits Have Always Encountered Violent Opposition From Mediocre Minds” - Albert Einstein said that and I’m sure he had a few people in mind, like people in supervisory roles calling themselves leaders. Those are the kind of managers that fear intelligence, do not welcome questions, and do not embrace change on most levels. That is how they pick their favorite employees, people who go along with whatever they come up with. It is frustrating for anyone that truly wants to be part of a team, contribute something, and know that their ideas are appreciated and embraced. For that, you need true leaders and they are hard to come by. You will know one when you find one, they are the kind of person that is in this world to create more leaders and it will be obvious and likely pretty inspiring.


So what can we do while we wait for that inspiration, if we are witnessing nepotism and favoritism? Stick to your beliefs, have faith in your ability, and get good at picking your spots in life. That is not always an easy thing to do. I will share a personal situation and a friend's belief that I always carry with me. That friend always maintained that when you go in to negotiate, whether it’s for a promotion or business for your company, never go in on your knees, because you will leave that way. There are a few different ways to interpret that, but it is brilliant in its simplicity. I still follow that advice and always will. The nepotism situation is even harder because it is a much more difficult version of favoritism and is more trying to deal with. I have been on two different sides as an employee and an employer. When I owned my company my youngest sister came to work for me and I started her from the bottom position just like I did. She started pitching trash by hand, then I trained her to drive, allowing her to use my machinery for the test. Essentially she had achieved a recession-proof career, that I made her work for.


After she was trained and had only been with me a short time, she started believing that special privilege and being second in command was her right as a family member. The person I had as my second in command was a knowledgeable guy with lots of industry and had respect from the crew. It would have been a devastating blow to the morale of my crew, hurt my company and my sister would have had no respect because of how it was obtained. I knew this and was also aware that the industry had a high turnover rate and with patience, perseverance, and time in that my sister would naturally move up the right way, teaching her the importance of that path and giving her respect because it was earned.


That is how important proper teaching is to me. I knew that there was always a possibility that good employees would move on to higher-paying, easier jobs in other industries. It was just part of the industry I chose and had been a part of for some time. My sister didn’t want to trust that theory or my knowledge and was quite offended that I didn’t put her in that position and pay her more. I stuck to my belief, she went and worked for a competitor waste company, and not long after, my second in command obtained a position in a different industry. I continued to have success, and I replaced both of them. My sister realized the grass isn’t always greener, but that is her story to tell. With a little faith, patience and time, she would have been right in the spot she wanted, had support, respect, and a sense of personal accomplishment. She chose a harder path, but all I can hope is that the journey has taught her something. I will continue to teach a path that doesn’t involve nepotism or favoritism, but instead supports and helps find success.


Things in life that are easily obtained, are things easily lost and people who are consistently given that false sense of security will eventually find that out on a level that may crush them. I would equate lessons of favoritism and nepotism to people that get a Black belt in martial arts after a few months, that person will have a false sense of security. No good Martial Arts school hands out that rank without some serious time and effort spent. The title without the much-needed lesson.


Favoritism and nepotism create glass tigers…What does that mean? A tiger has to go out there and hunt for food, shelter, and whatever else it needs to survive. It becomes battle-tested and develops confidence that it can go out and get that done every day. If you hand someone all those things and tell them that they are a Tiger because you want to believe they are but don’t teach them how to hunt, that is a fragile belief system created. It will break against anything hard, just like glass.


That is why when we are subject to the wrong side of favoritism, or dealing with nepotism we must maintain our core beliefs, which start with believing in you. As a coach, a dad, a boss, and a co-worker I always wanted to help people develop a belief that they can stick by successfully. I think that is the best thing all of us can do for ourselves, people we care about, and just to do the right thing. If you are in a situation that is poisonous and shows no signs of changing, start asking yourself the hard questions. How long has it been going on? Am I happy? Do I deserve something better? Do I have the power to affect positive change? Do I have leaders at work or just bosses? There is a huge difference, remember that…If you are on a sports team and the coach is playing favorites, can you appeal to that person for a deserved shot? Life is too short to allow someone else’s self-indulgent bull-shit to hold you back from the things you are working towards, and essentially your happiness. If you are a coach or co-worker, speak up against wrongdoing for a better, more equitable environment. If you are directly affected, start mapping out a better future with careful patient planning. Get your resume ready, ask people for advice, and do not be afraid to look for change if you have exhausted all means of promoting change.


Encourage and promote working for what you get, teach how to respectfully fight for what you deserve. Pick your spots so that if you are going to call out wrongdoing, you have a backup plan to land in a situation where you have done something right, but will still be in a situation to be successful, even if it's a different job or a different team.


It is hard to fight nepotism and favoritism, especially when the person is protected by a person in a high-up situation. That is why I say, start mapping out a path and plan that is best for you. At the end of the day, do you want to be happy or feel defeated? Do you want to wake up in the morning feeling dread? What is your time worth? All of us should be working towards our best life, but some situations will take a little more careful planning. I would like to think the reward will be greater with a larger hurdle. Try your best not to get discouraged, look for advice and help from people who might have some experience in your current situation.


Favoritism and nepotism hurt anyone involved, including the person who is the one receiving the momentary benefit. The good news is the people being overlooked will experience instant resentment for being wronged. If you are that person, find the strength to change the experience by learning from it and asking yourself what the next step is. Nobody will ever be remembered for what they are handed, instead, people will be judged by accomplishments made through facing adversity and how they used it to help others.


If you are one of those people who like to remind your co-workers who your parent is and where you stand in the food chain, eventually you will be judged and have to answer the bell. Glass tigers should stay where it’s safe, on the shelf…

For the people who have been affected by these two things, keep fighting, stick to your beliefs, and remember no legacy is built by being handed it. True champions of life are given what they can handle and will rise to the occasion.



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