Financial Times - workplace cronyism

ended 15. November 2021

A journalist at the FT is writing a piece on the distorting effects of workplace cronyism and in-groups. She's looking for people with experience of, or who has done research on, this topic, e.g.

  • Any evidence on how some people use/cultivate workplace allies and friends for self-serving purposes, e.g. creating an internal power base by favouring loyalists with preferential workloads and promotions.
  • The impact this has on the morale and performance of other employees and organisational productivity.
  • Whether there is any evidence that people are prepared to dump their moral codes for friends and the impact this has on workplace ethics.
  • How to distinguish between work friendships that make the workplace a more pleasant place and friendships that subvert its purpose for self-interested ends.

She is also keen to hear about people's personal experiences of working in organisations where cronyism has got the upper-hand and what happened as a result, e.g. mis-allocation of budgets, disadvantaging talented people outside the in-group, suppression of independent voices with valid criticisms of management, overlooking of good ideas that don't come from the favoured few, wrong-doing that is allowed to flourish

Any thoughts and insights, send them over!

2 responses from the Newspage community

I worked for a large charity which suffered from cronyism at its worst. Profit making and lining the pockets of the upper echelon whilst disadvantaging not only staff that called them out (me) but also the grass roots element. All this whilst presenting a public image of being all about the kids, with no discrimination. How much did this cost you might ask? Hundreds of thousands of pounds each year for at least ten years. Whilst I dislike being undermined it did strengthen my determination to only work for companies that walk the walk with their public values not just talk the talk. Want more specific info? I can do that.
It is hard to create groups of people in organisations that don’t splinter off into cliques, but when this behaviour comes ‘from the top down’ it results in a toxic working environment. A natural reaction of most employees is to find common ground with peers to oil the wheels of industry. It is also human nature to connect with others. It’s easier to get things done if there is a rapport within the working population, but it needs not to be open to corruption. Workplace friendships that step over the line into more intimate relationships - whether that is romantically or by being confirmed heavy drinking buddies - can quickly turn sour when the balance of power alters and the demands of the workplace challenge that friendship. I have seen cases of people being promoted over their friends and suddenly not knowing what to do with their new found power status. With so much knowledge of the history of the friendship that has taken place (including ‘adventures’ that have included excessive drinking, drug taking, promiscuity etc), an unfair knowledge of what could be deemed to be their personal lives suddenly gets used in a move against that person to ostracise them. Equally in the race to the top, what might’ve once been a harmless friendship circle becomes a jostle for power that excludes people who we’re never a part of that circle in the first place. The cost of this to a business is that the group dynamic is never challenged and nothing new can be injected in, as holding onto power then becomes more important than doing what’s right for the business. Nepotism, cronyism and unfair discriminations are still common enough in business, kept alive by people who have interests in doing so. Working now as an agency servicing multiple businesses it is always amazing to see the difference in workplace culture from one business to the next. It’s all about the culture created by the people at the very top that dictate this. Some workplaces are amazing, and others are enough to make you shudder when the phone rings. We tend to try and make very short relationships with the latter as I didn’t go into business to continue to get dragged into other people’s murky office politics.