Corporate cronyism remains a significant problem in the modern workplace, despite equal opportunity initiatives, diversity protocols and organisational training. Hierarchies at work, born out of nepotistic hiring practices and cliques focused on protecting their own interests, have damaging effects on organisations’ productivity. Marginalised employees often feel that their interests are being ignored by management, leading to friction in the workplace and unhappy workers underperforming.
Interviewed for the FT recently, Excello partner and employment lawyer Hina Belitz commented that when it comes to preventing workplace cronyism, many companies “will absolutely hold themselves to account”. However, she noted that some circumvent legislation with pay-offs and create diversity programmes simply to tick the required boxes. Close friendships and personal relationships between senior executives threaten the integrity of hiring practices. Hina stated that firms “sidestep the law”, with management ignoring external recommendations and shunning proper hiring practices.
Asked to comment further on the above, Hina noted that one of her clients – the only senior woman in her company to have a child – “was left in no doubt her days were numbered”. To align with their wish to sideline her and avoid the need for potential legal action, Hina suggested as a creative solution that her client ask her employer to finance a costly Master’s, something her client had wished to explore prior to discovering she was pregnant. The employer agreed on the condition that she quit the company, when ordinarily, after financing training, employers require an employee to return to the company for a period. Despite diversity initiatives, a “boys’ club” culture still abounds in the City, which stifles change, works to protect the interest of its members and denies women role models. Members of this club favour each other for job opportunities, and work to protect their own from regulatory scrutiny.
Questioned on the issue of how best to tackle systemic unfairness, Hina commented that a statutory body should be established “to compel organisations to engage in confidential mediation”. Hina’s suggestions would see a closer examination of office culture and employment practices, in order to implement changes to overcome systemic workplace cronyism.
Read Hina’s comments in the Financial Times.