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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics


Katherine Getao

Katherine Getao

A View From Kenya

Katherine W. Getao serves the government of Kenya as the ICT Secretary, the strategic head of the Information and Communication Technology Authority. After reading an article on our website, Favoritism, Cronyism, and Nepotism, Getao sent us her own thoughts about how cronyism works in Kenya:

I come from a country where such favours are expected, indeed part of the social contract. It is expected that the strong support that family members and friends accord to one another will be repaid with favours in the workplace and elsewhere. A person who does not show special preference for his or her associates for "ethical reasons" is viewed as selfish, ungrateful or "jealous" (wanting to enjoy benefits alone and afraid that the success of close associates will detract from his/her superiority.)
In terms of the negative impacts of nepotism and cronyism, I would like to add the following to your list:
1. Cronyism/nepotism in the workplace strongly demotivates workers who are not part of the contract. In this sense it is an even stronger de-motivator than other forms of corruption since bribing for a favour can be done by anyone who can raise the funds, whereas becoming a relative or friend is much harder!
2. Cronyism/nepotism in the workplace creates a cycle of obligation. It is difficult for any issue to be dealt with objectively because of the multiple favours that the participants owe to each other.
3. When cronies who are clearly not the best qualified persons are placed in high position, corrosive disrespect reduces the effectiveness of leadership in and beyond the organization. Apathy and cynicism may become a common attitude towards all leadership.
4. Beneficiaries of nepotism/cronyism tend to resort to "run to mummy" strategies when faced with challenges in the workplace. Their leadership muscle for facing problems is compromised.
5. Discipline is also compromised by cronyism/nepotism. The leader hesitates to take appropriate action against erring associates because of fear of the wider impacts in the circle of friends/family.
6. Employing cronies and relatives at lower levels is also not without challenges. It is often a recipe for gossip, childish threats and tale-bearing strategies employed by the unsophisticated cronies in the lower echelons!
Have you had experience with favoritism either in government or the workplace?  How would you parse the ethical issues?


Sep 21, 2016

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