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How important is nepotism for hiring or PIP?

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Entry-Level Software Engineer at Taro Communitya month ago

This may come off as a strange question.

It seems to me that there is a lot of nepotism for hiring and PIP. Teams I have been on seem to have a lot of the same race or religion. I notice hiring managers that have similar background to me are more inclined to give me interviews. My name gives a lot away about my background. I have low YOE but I notice that managers usually PIP people that have a different race and religion. I know this is why companies have committees for big decisions, but one person on the committee that plays favorites can make the difference.

Just wondering what your experiences have been with nepotism.



  • 12
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    a month ago

    This is one of the elephants in the room when it comes to working in tech: Most engineering teams have god-awful diversity. It's getting better, but there's a long way to go before I would call the overall environment "good".

    I used to work at a company that was almost entirely 1 certain ethnicity within its engineering department. I was the only person on my team not of that ethnicity. While I wasn't treated terribly, I noticed that favorites among engineering leadership (manager, director, and VP) tended to be the same race of those execs and to be 100% honest, I think a lot of those engineers didn't deserve that favoritism. This showed in hiring as well; many managers wouldn't even consider candidates of a different race. This is all unfortunately hard to prevent: People generally have more empathy towards folks who come from a similar walk of life to theirs.

    A lot of leaders may not even consciously realize they are doing this - It's easy to naturally prefer talking to and hanging out with people who are the same race/religion/gender identity as you. This is why I generally don't take it personally when it happens to me and assume good intent.

    Wrapping this all up, you have 2 options here:

    1. Try to overcome being of a different background by doing good work and treating others with respect
    2. Switch to a more diverse team (this often requires a company change)
  • 8
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    a month ago

    The answer to "How important is nepotism for hiring or PIP?" should be zero. But some (many) companies show favoritism based on race/religion.

    One observation, purely anecdotal, is that I see a correlation between companies with nepotism and substandard engineering quality.

    When a company is in hyper-growth and struggling to keep up with customer demands, they'll pay top dollar for the best engineers, and usually that'll contain a mix of race/gender.

    The companies that can afford favoritism are the large older companies (e.g. Oracle, Cisco) which have mostly stopped innovating.

  • 8
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    Head of Sustainability & oldster lady
    a month ago

    Hi, so first "nepotism" means specifically hiring one's family member. I think you're thinking of "cronyism" which is hiring one's friends.

    The root cause that's underscoring this idea is that people want to see "fit." If they don't have enough proof that you'll fit in, they're going to rely on superficial similarities or differences. The less experienced the manager is, and the less professionalized the team is, the more they'll have "implicit bias" and select people who are like them.... or just like who they wish they were!

    So yes, this happens all the time.

    Basically there are risks and benefits to a heterogeneous culture (mixed) or a homogeneous one. Generally, homogeneous workplaces move quicker and are "tighter," but they can move quickly into the wrong direction because they all have the same sense of perspective. (This is how you get a whole movie with a male cow. Or you name a car "Chevy Nova" (no va = doesn't go in Spanish.)

    If you have a heterogeneous culture, then everyone has to become sophisticated at identifying and crossing interpersonal boundaries. It's a skill and it takes time to learn and when the culture cares about it, that means anyone can fail if they don't have this skill. Communicating in a way that is inclusive is difficult and slows things down, but it also absolutely makes the company better able to relate to a wide variety of customers and in different countries and contexts.

    But from a practical perspective, as you grow your career, you may want to look for organizations who value the ability to interact with many cultures. Most of those are large and global, but you can find smaller ones as well. Check out the founding teams and the most senior executives.

    As you've noticed, it doesn't matter which group everyone is from -- in the US, an all-White leadership is bad, but so is an all-Indian one. I'm a woman but I wouldn't feel comfortable if there were an all-Female leadership. The trick is to avoid a homogeneous culture and find one that explicitly learns how to communicate across any variety of differences: ability, age, race, etc.

    For your PIP, I think there are some good materials here about how to navigate a PIP.

  • 2
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    Team Lead (people manager) at Mistplay
    a month ago

    Situations where the CEO and board are all white men is a great way to see that a company is not hiring the best talent, but instead people who look like themselves.

    As an employee involved in the hiring process its an opportunity to call this out and make sure that the company has a broad pool of applicants. If 90% of the applicants are men, then clearly you are only posting in a narrow set of areas and missing out on great software engineering talent that will make the company much stronger and deliver better results to the users. There are lots of studies that prove this somewhat obvious fact like from Forbes and McKinsey.

    One more thought is someone could be the majority race and/or gender, yet have come from extreme poverty in childhood. Or maybe they deal with a debilitating mental health issue. Or they have a different sexual orientation. So I think it is important to think about a variety of ways to be diverse. An anecdote where race and gender align yet there is discrimination is based on this article. It is technically illegal to discriminate for hiring based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability status, but caste was not listed there. Apparently this has been or was a problem at Apple, Google, Microsoft. So we can all work together to help our companies succeed by advocating for all types of under represented and discriminated against people.