10 nepotism rules to live (or die) by

If you own or run a company, you probably have been tempted by the siren song of nepotism. Nepotism refers to the high art and common practice of hiring your relatives. 

Interestingly, if you search for the terms “nepotism” and “rules,” you are likely to get a number of documents that purport to limit the practice or eliminate it entirely. This is not going to work. Nepotism, like hanky-panky and skipping your morning exercise routine, is here to stay.

I propose that we not follow the fruitless path of discouraging it. Rather, let’s make a list of rules to encourage its proper practice. Here goes. But first, some vocab. In nepotism, the person obtaining the employment is the nepotisee. The person offering the employment is the nepotiser. And the person with the power — usually the employer’s spouse or rich uncle — is the freakin’ hammer.

1. Motivation. Your prospective new employee should not ask you for a job. It is so much better that your Great Aunt Tilly be fed up with his or her sloth and decide that he or she will work for you. That way the nepotisee can obtain a suitable wage without ever having to expend energy, other than perhaps for finding a quiet place to sit. So please let Tilly do the negotiating on his or her behalf.

2. Job experience. The nepotisee will not need any experience other than the week and a half he or she spent cowering in the back of a McDonald’s while in high school. Let us also specify that the month of kitchen duty the young person experienced while enjoying the benefits of juvenile detention be forgotten. After all, the cops expunged it from the record, right? Why shouldn’t we?

3. Wages. Pay the beneficiary — excuse me, the nepotisee — wages higher than other people in the department. This will cause resentment in others, but that is the cost — that those others must pay — of working in a company owned by the royal family of the janitorial supply industry, or whatever your company’s field. They should just get over it.

4. Job title. Your nepotisee should receive the title of managing director. This is a British-ism formerly meaning “head of the company” but now meaning “without specific duties, and overpaid.” There should otherwise be no job description.

5. Hours. It is a common misconception that nepotisers don’t care about the hours put in by the nepotisee. This is not true. Company management cares deeply that everyone be at their desk slaving away in plain sight of others. That is why it is always a surprise to find that the nepotisee goes for a long coffee break twice a day. Upon returning from lounging on the couch of the Magic Bean, the nepotisee should never offer any coffee to his or her colleagues. It would be disruptive. Nepotisees are also permitted to work from home on Mondays and Fridays and to coach T-ball on Wednesdays at 2.

6. Vacation. The nepotisee should be subject to the same vacation policies as everyone else. That way the nepotiser can show surprise when the head of HR shows you the Facebook pictures of the nepotisee carousing on the Lake of the Ozarks when it was widely assumed that he was spending five days setting up a booth at McCormick Place. Upon discovery, say nothing to the nepotisee. Why upset the apple cart?

7. Company car. The nepotisee is likely to request, via the aforementioned Great Aunt Tilly, that he be afforded a company automobile. Tiny underpowered cars are usually provided only to salespeople who must obey strict accounting rules for expenditures on gas and oil. That is why the young person in your employ will require a top-of-the-line BMW. Do not be surprised that in addition to oil and gas, the nepotisee provides bills for speeding tickets, parking problems, towing, and auto body repair. Pay him or her without comment or complaint!



8. Credit card. They gotta have ’em. Salary goes only so far in supporting the lifestyle, right?

9. Other benefits. Country club, dry cleaning, tennis lessons, and purchases of home furnishings are assumed to be legitimate business expenses in the eyes of the IRS, so long as no one tells the IRS that these are company practices.

10. Family gatherings. Do not participate in family gatherings. No birthday parties, weddings, sweet sixteens, or religious holiday parties. This is the most important of all the rules. Why? Because if you have followed the first nine of these rules, you have also experienced crowds of employees bearing pitchforks by way of expressing their opinions about the nepotisee. In addition, your accountants will have expressed grave concerns about the rise in expense, and the newspapers will have noted that police cruisers have made more than occasional stops at the front entrance. You will have informed the freakin’ hammer that she is a meddling old battle ax with no conception of what it is like to run a company and that the nepotisee has been invited to return to his former habit of sleeping on the beach but no longer with the benefit of a company-paid car service to remand the nepotisee’s sandy body to the showers. This will earn you the disapproval of the family so that all prior invitations to family events will have been rescinded. 

Rule number 10 says, in effect, that if membership in the family is the price to be paid for perpetually employing undeserving members of the family, you should always be prepared to unwind both sides of the transaction. Upon reflection, you will find that the exchange — lack of family privilege for the relief of not having the nepotisee darken your door ever again — is a fair one. You will embrace your exile, and you will wonder what enormous financial and organizational pain you would have avoided if you had only acted to rid yourself of the pestilence sooner. 

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