The practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs¹
The action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts. The exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business²
The month of May is best characterized by the amount of preparation that takes place during its 31 days. Students are dreaming about summer break and preparing for final exams. Parents are concocting family activities and finalizing camp arrangements. Workers are strategizing their vacation requests. Closets and suitcases are making room for warmer wardrobes. Employers are anticipating incoming graduates and summer interns. And gardeners are tending to their plots, planting new seeds and pulling out weeds in preparation for the new season.
Long before Bermuda Day, it’s not unusual to see Bermudians on the roadside picking ripe fruit such as loquats and cherries. Nepotism can be likened to climbing the branches of your family or friends’ trees to eat their fruit without having any understanding or appreciation for the time and skill involved in nurturing that tree. Unlike the relatively harmless act of taking a few loquats from a cousin’s or neighbour’s tree, nepotism has harmful consequences for businesses, individual performance and our society at large.
Studies reveal that practices of nepotism in businesses and politics foster conditions of distrust, erode organizational loyalty, and discourage individuals from working towards their full potential³. Favoritism based on kinship also works against social bonding, undermining creativity and innovation⁴. If nepotism is like eating fruit from someone else’s tree, networking is the process of planting your own seeds, patiently watering them, and learning from other gardeners what it takes to develop your own fruit.
Ciara Burrows, 25, graduated from the University of Waterloo in 2019 with a co-operative degree in legal studies and economics, followed by an Accelerated Bachelor of Laws from the University of Southampton. Ciara is completing the Legal Practice Course at BPP University, after which she will commence her legal training with the London law firm Kennedys. Her research interests include food security, organizational psychology and urban economics.
Planting your own seeds instead of eating from someone else’s tree requires more effort and time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. In smaller economies and countries, nepotism opens the door to state corruption and the overstaffing of the public sector owing to a lack of accountability and insufficient political competition⁵. The cost burden and subsequent administrative inefficiencies of these practices are ultimately felt by the average citizen.
A country that allows the roots of community and healthy networks to be overrun by the weeds of nepotism can only produce fruits that rot from the inside out. Therefore, teaching Bermudians across all industries how to network effectively and ethically must be viewed as an essential skill that preserves our social and economic framework. Building networks should not be seen as a purely individual and efficient pursuit. Instead, networking should be regarded as a patient and collective practice that is meant to benefit both the person seeking out connections as well as those being sought after.
Depending on the season, not every seed that you plant will grow into a giant loquat tree or colorful cherry bush. Our obsession with planting only seeds that are guaranteed to bear fruit is quite telling of an insatiable appetite for more and more; always asking, “What’s in it for me?” But there is something to be said about being willing to plant seeds that offer less obvious or “attractive” benefits. Not every connection we make will result in a job offer, a five-star reference or a lifelong mentorship. However, there is immeasurable value in hearing someone’s story, learning from their mistakes, and building horizontal connections in addition to vertical ones.
The most unfortunate mistake one can make in building their personal or professional network is assuming that only a select few people will be useful to them along their career paths. At best, this view is short-sighted and at worst narcissistic. This mindset ignores that people are constantly evolving over their lifetime and should be viewed as more than simply resources from which information and opportunities can be extracted. We live in an era where technology can drastically change the landscape of professions with little to no warning. Therefore, it is better to cultivate a diverse garden of connections capable of sustaining us through changing seasons with more than one type of fruit.
“A network is people you know. A community is people you know and trust”⁶. When we strengthen community ties, we can mitigate against some of the negative social problems associated with present (and future) economic shock waves. Creating both physical and metaphorical community gardens is essential to helping Bermuda overcome inflation, food insecurity and acts of violence that threaten undo social trust. While we cannot grow a forest overnight, we can begin the intentional work of sowing new seeds of accountability, co-operation and mutual trust that eventually bear fruit in the form of healthier, happier and stronger communities.
1 Lexicon. (nd). Citation. In Lexico.com dictionary. Retrieved April 21, 2022, from https://www.lexico.com/definition/nepotism
2 Merriam-Webster. (nd). Citation. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved April 21, 2022, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/networking
3 Keles, Hatice & Özkan, Tugba & Bezirci, Muhammet. (2011). A Study On The Effects Of Nepotism, Favoritism And Cronyism On Organizational Trust In The Auditing Process In Family Businesses In Turkey. International Business & Economics Research Journal (IBER). 10. 9-16. 10.19030/iber.v10i9.5622.
4 Serfraz, A., Munir, Z., Mehta, AM, & Qamruzzaman, M. (2022). Nepotism Effects on Job Satisfaction and Withdrawal Behavior: An Empirical Analysis of Social, Ethical and Economic Factors from Pakistan. The Journal of Asian Finance, Economics and Business, 9(3), 311–318. https://doi.org/10.13106/JAFEB.2022.VOL9.NO3.0311
5 Rimvydas Ragauskas & Ieva Valeškaitė (2020) Nepotism, political competition and overemployment, Political Research Exchange, 2:1, DOI: 10.1080/2474736X.2020.1781542
6 [@dionthecreative]. (2022, May 4). Interviewing Ignite Cohort 5: DionTheCreative [Reel]. Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/reel/CdJOP4ML_GM/?igshid=NWRhNmQxMjQ=
• Ciara Burrows, 25, graduated from the University of Waterloo in 2019 with a co-operative degree in legal studies and economics, followed by an Accelerated Bachelor of Laws from the University of Southampton. Ciara is completing the Legal Practice Course at BPP University, after which she will commence her legal training with the London law firm Kennedys. Her research interests include food security, organizational psychology and urban economics.