Unfair Promotion in the Workplace


Have you gotten your promotion yet? If not, could it be that you are not your manager’s favorite. I am sure many workers are familiar with the issue of nepotism and favoritism in the workplace. They either have been victims of this moral dilemma or have heard about it from their allies and workmates. Unfair promotion is exactly what it sounds; promoting someone not based on merit and great performance but due to other reasons outside the work performance. In most cases, unfair promotion occurs in instances where the human resource professionals and managers develop other kinds of associations and correlations beyond the working place. In fact, they may have worked together or have become attached to common interests outside their work; for instance, sport activities or music, or may have a shared history. Whether the favoritism that leads to unfair promotion comes from a shared history or a newly formed bond between the manager and an employee, studies have shown that its impact is the same (Compa 17). Therefore, despite the human resource managers’ understanding of the detrimental impacts of favoritism in the workplace, it is astonishing that it has become rampant recently, especially regarding workers’ promotion.

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My aunt works for a major media company. She was hired alongside five women in their early fifties and a young lady in her early twenties about two years ago. To the young person, this was her first job, while the other women and my aunt are seasoned and accomplished journalists. In August this year, they learnt that the young woman was promoted to a position which she did not have background skills, experience, and even training. In addition, this position was not advertised or posted on the company’s website to ensure a fair competition during the promotion processes. It was just in a blink of an eye, and they were informed that the young lady had the job. They tried to complain to the human resources management about the situation, which seemed to bear some fruit. The lady was given two options, either to leave or to transfer. Her option was to be relocated. As if adding salt to an open wound, my aunt and her colleagues learned later that she had been given a better job and her pay had increased. In fact, she now has a job and a pay that requires a person with a Master’s degree. In contrast, she only has two years of experience and does not hold a Master’s degree.

The young lady is believed to have developed an affair with our manager, who happens to be a divorcee. Indeed, this is a fact that my aunt and her workmates learnt during their attempts to appeal to HR about the unfair promotion. They were told to buy a little time, and when the right project came along, they would be promoted as well. However, little did they know that complaining about the decision would put them in their manager’s wrong book, an instance that seemed to be used in sabotaging their career development. In her recent appraisal, my aunt was told that she was not a managerial department material and that if she did not wish to retain her current position, then she should resign. Important to note is that the media company they work for has a hiring freeze and a training reduction, and still, such unwarranted merit offered. Rather than the young lady sitting in the office with my aunt and colleagues, she will be moved to the corporate headquarters. In fact, she will be working in a job that she does not have the physical, emotional, and psychological skills to tackle. Moreover, she will earn more money than the other workmates with more experience and skills. As my aunt narrated her experiences at her place of work, she indicated that they all felt depressed, discouraged and lacked the morale to work.

Stakeholders Affected by Unfair Promotion

When unfair promotion is given to the “chosen few” in an organization, the employees and the organization are affected. To begin with, when workers feel that they have been passed up for a promotion based on age, gender, and other factors, they feel frustrated and angered. Their productivity is reduced following their decrease in morale. The question of why they were not picked for the promotion becomes the order of the day. The company’s morale reduces due to the fact that employees think that their efforts will never be appreciated and rewarded no matter their efforts. This feeling is followed by the sensation of resentment not only towards the manager who practices nepotism but also to the individual who is favored (Compa 17). Just as in my aunt’s case scenario, the favored employee is seen as one who takes advantage of the situation.

Overlooked potential and desertion are some of the negative impacts that face a company that exercises favoritism. When managers continue to favor some employees over others, they may miss out on the skills and talents that other employees offer the organization. Just as in the above description, managers tend to promote individuals who lack the skills and experience needed for certain levels and are not ready for the responsibilities and challenges the new career level calls for. When anger and pressure of unmerited promotion increases, the company may risk losing skilled and productive workers (Shah and Alan, 914). All these factors summed together can cause a company to experience stunted growth.

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What Would have been Considered Right and Wrong

Instead of promoting a person unfairly, companies should advertise jobs internally. In this aspect, it gives employees with the intentions of taking their career to the next level an opportunity to apply, learn more about the opportunity, and determine the areas they need to improve on to become competent for such positions in future. Internal advertisement also allows managers to familiarize themselves with their employees’ skills, knowledge, and abilities. Understanding the employees’ areas of expertise helps managers make informed decisions in case a promotion comes knocking (Gross and Lance 72). Therefore, it was wrong for the manager at the media company to give unmerited promotion to a person who lacked experience and skills vital for the position. Transferring and promoting the young woman, which is what transpired in my aunt’s workplace, was considered wrong. Indeed, this is due to the fact that she will not have enough skills and competencies to meet the requirements and challenges of the position.

Ethical Principle

Productive age could have been the ethical principle that the manager had adhered to. In most workplace environments, young-looking individuals tend to be given the priority due to the belief that they are productive and will work for the organization for a longer time as opposed to the older generations. Younger people are also flexible and tend to take home lower pay than their older counterparts, which can explain why the manager promoted the young lady as opposed to the women in their early fifties (Andersen 113). However, the decision does not match my stance today. The fact that the promotion was not advertised, both internally and externally, and the idea that the manager had an affair with the young woman turns the decision from a noble one to that which is done to fit one’s interests. In fact, the manager even broke the company’s policy through hiring an unskilled and inexperienced lady for the promotion.  

Biases that Hindered the Manager from Making the Right Decision

In our case scenario, age discrimination is a form of biases that can be applied in this context. Indeed, by not allowing the older women to compete with the young lady in the promotion processes, the manager can be viewed as one who discriminates against the older employees. In fact, this may be termed indirect ageism biases as it is characterized by giving a promotional opportunity to the young people and excluding the old ones (Gross and Lance 72). Therefore, age biases could have played a role in the unfair promotion at my aunt’s place of work.

Dealing with Unfair Promotion in an Organization

In its core and nature, unfair promotion is an unprofessional behavior and hence a moral dilemma that organizations go through. The initial step towards dealing with it is fostering high professionalism in the organization (Andersen 113). After an unfair promotion has occurred, the head managerial departments can call off the promotion and arrange for a free and fair process. Hence, this will be one way of defending the company against potential nepotism in the future. Creating a high standard professional environment would go a long way in lowering the incidences of unfair promotion.

The other way an organization can help deal with the unwarranted promotion is through training to enlighten the workforce on what favoritism is and its impact on the individuals and the organization alike. Coming up with methods of communicating about the incidences of unwarranted promotions and other forms of nepotism would also help lower the incidences to a degree. Organizations can develop communication channels aimed at allowing employees to air their voices confidentially without risking being known and hence picked upon in the future.


As evidenced by the above presentation of personal experience, favoritism refers to giving preferentiality to a person not because they deserve but due to shared histories and bonding outside the workplace. The vice has been shown to be rampant in the recent past, especially when it comes to a job promotion. As shown in the case description, favoritism has a wide range of negative impacts on both the organization and the employees. On the one hand, it lowers the employee’s morale and productivity, which is a factor that can cause the company’s stagnation and in the worst scenarios, closure. The manner in which the favored employee relates to his or her colleagues is also impacted. Any organization intending to have a nepotism-free working environment ought to educate the workers about the meaning of nepotism and foster professionalism.


Works Cited             

Andersen, Bjørn. Bringing Business Ethics to Life: Achieving Corporate Social Responsibility. Milwaukee, ASQ Quality Press, 2004.

Compa, Lance. Unfair Advantage: Workers’ Freedom of Association in the United States Under International Human Rights Standards. Cornell University Press, 2004.

Gross, James A, and Lance A. Compa. Human Rights in Labor and Employment Relations: International and Domestic Perspectives. Champaign, IL: Labor and Employment Relations Association, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2009.

Shah, Kruti, and Alan D’Souza. Advertising and Promotions: An Imc Perspective. Tata McGraw-Hill, 2009.

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