Cronyism at the workplace – Can anything be done?


cronyismMany people work in an environment where there is a lot abuse. Apart from power games that take place, regular arguments and everything being organized behind your back, there is a vary serious one prevailing: cronyism.

Sooner or later each one of us will be confronted with this terrible manager’s treat. Dealing with cronyism in the workplace can be very frustrating, if not impossible. I have been in this situation before.

Adverse consequences

Whether intentional or unintentional, workplace cronyism threatens a positive corporate culture. Managers who give special treatment to their friends reduce the morale of the other employees. Finding yourself at the non-receiving end of coveted assignments can be difficult, especially if the recipient also doesn’t have adequate work qualifications. Dealing with workplace cronyism without harming your reputation is essential to your career development. Read on and I will explain if anything can be done against cronyism at the workplace.

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What is cronyism?

First I would like to give an exact definition of this feature. According to Wikipedia cronyism entails the following:

Cronyism is the practice of partiality in awarding jobs and other advantages to friends or trusted colleagues, especially in politics and between politicians and supportive organizations. For instance, this includes appointing “cronies” to positions of authority, regardless of their qualifications.

I would like to add here from experience that cronyism is very much a company matter as well.

Signs of cronyism

Here are some of the worst things that can happen to you when a boss favors somebody else:

Promotions, benefits, and appraisals will be given to the favorite employee, but not to you who knows you function better.

You are not valued for a task that you have completed diligently, but the friend of your boss is valued for even the smallest of tasks.

You are constantly compared to the supervisor’s friend, and this hampers your confidence.

You are not allowed leave, even if you have a real, important reason, but the employee’s favorite employee is granted leave for the most trivial reasons.

You are not getting a budget despite the fact that your papers are in order, but your boss’s friend gets a huge budget without any real proof.

Now I would like to provide you with two real examples, as below.


Example # 1

The case

ceo wrongYou are in a Management Team and the CEO only looks at your alleged downsides. However, he is wrong. Customers are satisfied, your employees are content, your results are very good and your direct manager has no complaints.

Pressure on your boss

Therefore the CEO influences your direct boss. He will say to him in no uncertain terms: “I don’t understand how you can maintain that employee in your section. Unbelievable, but this happens. This is also going to affect you. Your boss is starting to feel the pressure and he changes his behavior towards you. The feedback will not be concrete; there is something about your “behavior” but it is completely unclear what exactly.

The outcome

You become rebellious and that rebellion is used against you. They call you “negative”. And you also become increasingly negative. Ultimately, the CEO gets his way. They put you in a different (less responsible) role at a different location. And one of the people in your CEO’s network will take your place.

Example # 2

The case

This is the case that I have experienced myself during my career. I had been working in several positions for many years, growing towards an International Sales Manager’s position in a certain geographical area. I had all the qualifications required, even partly proven some in the field already.

Decision time

So, there came the time for management to make a decision on who would be appointed. If I ever was on the list, I do not know, but my boss choose one of his friends to be the next sales guy. Someone with other but definitely fewer qualifications than me for this particular job.

My action

I must have felt something like this to happen because I wasn’t that devastated and took immediate action. I organized a meeting between my boss and me at HR. Inevitably tensions rose high and at one point I accused my boss of cronyism. Of course, the boss played his part and angrily shouted: You are fired! I left the meeting with a stomach ache.

Needless to say that I did not get the job, but I wasn’t fired either and received a fresh new project to deal with.

What recourse do we have?

I have tried to show you here that you would be dealing with quite an unsavory situation. I personally think that the person in the first example does not stand a chance of winning. After all, why would anybody believe him and not the CEO and his direct boss? If they maintain the employee is negative, you have a not defensible position.

In my case, I did not win but did not lose my job either, because of the long and good records I could show. In this case, HR also must have played its part as a mitigator. So, using HR is one recourse we all have. However, I would not have high hopes of them helping you in getting what you want. They tend to side with management.

What else can we do?

1. Stick to your own values!

stick to your valuesIf you are in such a situation, it is essential that you have your own values and standards clear for yourself, and that you behave in accordance with these values and standards. In this case, a value is an ideal or motivation that you would like to pursue. This also applies to your own behavior. You must avoid copying the behavior of others.

You can only survive this if you can stay close to your own morals. You can do this by acting on the basis of your values. So it is important to know your values. Your personal values give you a very good direction on which behavior suits you and which behavior you want. So instead of reacting, you can learn to act proactively in a way that suits your view of the situation.

2. Keep your goals small

It is important to have goals. If you don’t have goals, you don’t know where you end up at all. But in an environment where there is a lot of trouble, it is often frustrating because you cannot realize your own goals. Things that are important to you are perceived as threatening. Instead of convincing the other person, just try to continue to achieve your goals. Only you have made your goals smaller. This makes your goals more realistic within the context. And you are still making progress. Slowly, but you still achieve what you want to achieve.

3. Stop thinking that you can change people

You might regularly end up in conversations about the other and how the other should change. Hours and hours are people don't changeoften put into these conversations. Stop that! It makes no sense. Changing another is very difficult. It is already difficult to change yourself. You better try to become an example of the behavior you want to see.  If you are aware of your values, and you know what behavior you want to see there, you already have a very powerful weapon. This weapon can change this situation.

Final thoughts

Personally, I am a bit skeptical about remedying a situation where the boss favors friends over capabilities. Who is to say that with his friend he will not achieve the same or even more?

In my case, I later left this boss for another within the same organization, but I never succeeded in getting what I really wanted in that company.

Apart from trying a mediator, like HR, the three courses of action mentioned are good to have for everyone, but I am not so sure that they will work with cronyism. I feel that in cases like this, the boss will always win. Or, you can win greatly yourself by just leaving this company!

A wonderful opportunity

I am suggesting that you can still beat your boss or bosses by starting your own (internet) company, working from home, and being your own boss. No need to leave immediately, but start making money on the side until you will be able to say goodbye.

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2 thoughts on “Cronyism at the workplace – Can anything be done?”

  1. Thanks so much for sharing a good article to know more about Cronyism at the workplace.

    First, I didn’t know the name of this situation at the workplace, but I can say been there a couple of times and it wasn’t any good at all, on one job, I decided to quit, as you mention on your article, I knew I couldn’t do anything to change the situation, after being on that job for a few months, I was getting sick and I decided no job worth to keep it when something is going bad. I got back to my old job and things were better, no much money but workplace was nicer.

    After reading your great article, it’s clear to me how easy this can happen on any workplace, it’s good to have this information on the internet as I’m sure it will help anyone who is living hard times at work.

    I also hope some people who are treating bad their coworkers, think a little about other people and treat them fairly. 

    • Absolutely correct, this is a very bad phenomenon and like nepotism will happen again and again and there is not much you can do to turn it around. You are free to share this article with your friends.


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