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Nepotism vs. Cronyism: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 13, 2023
Nepotism involves favoritism based on family relationships, while cronyism is favoritism based on friendships and acquaintances. Both can negatively impact meritocracy.

Key Differences

Nepotism embodies a particular strain of favoritism, essentially placing family members in roles or positions due to the kinship tie rather than merit. In stark contrast, cronyism incorporates a broader network, promoting friends or associates into beneficial positions due to existing relationships rather than capability or qualifications.
When dissecting nepotism, the emphasis often lays on blood relations, ensuring that family members are unduly advantaged in sectors like employment or politics. On the opposite end, cronyism is not bounded by familial ties, ensuring advantages are provided to friends and acquaintances, disregarding the broader fair and equal opportunity premises.
In a business environment, nepotism might present as a family member being undeservingly promoted within a company. Whereas cronyism might reflect a friend, perhaps even a former colleague, being elevated to a position due to shared history rather than a genuine evaluation of suitability or merit.
Nepotism, in certain cultures and contexts, might be seen as a preservation of legacy and dynasty, keeping power and influence within a family lineage. Contrarily, cronyism can forge a network of mutual back-scratching among peers, where positions and favors are reciprocally exchanged detached from familial linkage.
Ethical debates often surround both nepotism and cronyism; however, nepotism oftentimes gets slightly more acceptance in family-run businesses or enterprises. Cronyism, conversely, underpins an almost transactional understanding among friends or allies, where favoritism operates under the table, away from the scrutiny of meritocratic principles.

Comparison Chart

Basis of Favoritism

Family Relationships
Friendships and Acquaintances

Common Sectors

Family Businesses, Politics
Politics, Various Business Sectors

Perceived Legitimacy

Sometimes accepted in family businesses
Often viewed negatively


Limited to Family Members
Can Involve a Wide Network of Friends

Cultural Acceptance

Varies, sometimes seen as preserving legacy
Generally condemned for undermining meritocracy

Nepotism and Cronyism Definitions


Nepotism can manifest in various sectors including business and politics.
Voters grew weary of the political leader's apparent nepotism in appointing his niece.


Cronyism involves favoring friends or acquaintances in professional decisions.
The manager’s cronyism became evident when his golf buddies were hired without interviews.


Nepotism often neglects merit or suitability for a given position or favor.
The rampant nepotism within the organization demoralized meritorious employees.


Cronyism, in various contexts, is criticized for undermining meritocratic principles.
The scandal unveiled cronyism, exposing underqualified individuals in key positions.


Nepotism can undermine meritocracy, fostering unqualified leadership or participation.
The firm’s downfall was attributed to persistent nepotism, leading to incompetent management.


Cronyism often overlooks merit, prioritizing personal relationships over qualifications.
Despite a lack of experience, cronyism ensured he was appointed to the board.


Nepotism involves bestowing favor or advantage to family members.
The CEO was accused of nepotism when his son was swiftly promoted.


Cronyism can manifest as providing unjust advantages or favors to personal connections.
Cronyism was suspected when the senator’s friend received lucrative government contracts.


Nepotism is sometimes culturally accepted, especially within family businesses.
In certain regions, nepotism is justified as a means to preserve business within a family.


Cronyism can infiltrate various sectors, including politics, affecting fair opportunities.
Allegations of cronyism surfaced when the mayor’s friend was appointed as the chief advisor.


Favoritism shown or patronage granted to relatives, as in business.


Favoritism shown to old friends without regard for their qualifications, as in political appointments to office.


The favoring of relatives strictly]] or also personal friends broadly]] because of their relationship rather than because of their abilities.
Nepotism can get you very far in the world if you've got the right connections.


Favoritism to friends without regard for their qualifications, especially by appointing them to political positions.


Undue attachment to relations; favoritism shown to members of one's family; bestowal of patronage in consideration of relationship, rather than of merit or of legal claim.
From nepotism Alexander V. was safe; for he was without kindred or relatives. But there was another perhaps more fatal nepotism, which turned the tide of popularity against him - the nepotism of his order.


Favoritism shown to friends and associates (as by appointing them to positions without regard for their qualifications)


Favoritism shown to relatives or close friends by those in power (as by giving them jobs)


Does cronyism only relate to professional contexts?

Typically, yes; cronyism usually pertains to professional or official contexts, involving favoritism to friends.

How does cronyism differ from networking?

Cronyism involves unfair favors to friends, while networking doesn’t inherently involve unjust preferential treatment.

What is nepotism?

Nepotism is favoritism granted to relatives irrespective of merit.

How is cronyism manifested in politics?

Cronyism in politics might involve granting favors, positions, or contracts to friends or associates.

Can cronyism exist within non-profit organizations?

Yes, cronyism can occur in any sector where unfair favoritism towards friends or associates is possible.

Are nepotism and cronyism illegal?

While often unethical, nepotism and cronyism aren’t always illegal, depending on jurisdiction and context.

Can nepotism impact workplace morale?

Yes, nepotism can demoralize staff when family members are favored, overshadowing merit and fairness.

Is it possible to prevent nepotism in organizations?

Implementing stringent hiring policies and emphasizing meritocracy can help mitigate nepotism.

Why is cronyism considered harmful to organizations?

Cronyism can lead to unqualified individuals in key roles, reducing organizational efficiency and morale.

What is the cultural perspective on nepotism?

Cultural views on nepotism vary; it's more acceptable in certain societies and contexts than others.

Can cronyism influence economic structures?

Yes, pervasive cronyism can distort market dynamics and deter economic growth and fairness.

What are the ethical considerations regarding cronyism?

Cronyism is generally deemed unethical due to its disregard for merit and potential for corruption.

Can nepotism exist in family businesses?

Yes, nepotism can be prevalent in family businesses, favoring family members in decisions and positions.

What are the consequences of cronyism in government?

Cronyism in government can erode trust, misallocate resources, and foster corruption and inefficiency.

Can nepotism be perceived positively?

In some cultural and business contexts, nepotism may be viewed as preserving legacy or ensuring loyalty.

Does cronyism always involve tangible favors?

Not always; cronyism might involve intangible benefits like support, protection, or promotion.

Can nepotism and cronyism coexist?

Yes, in environments where favoritism thrives, both nepotism and cronyism can be present simultaneously.

Does nepotism only apply to familial relationships?

Predominantly yes; nepotism specifically refers to favoritism based on family relationships.

Are there legal mechanisms to challenge nepotism?

Depending on jurisdiction, certain laws might allow challenging nepotistic practices, especially in public sectors.

Is nepotism inherently negative?

While it can preserve legacies, nepotism is often critiqued for undermining meritocracy and fostering inequality.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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