Nothing But Children

1320860269108_9774616There are a lot of ruffled feathers at NBC thanks to the recent¬†announcement that network news anchor, Lester Holt’s, 29-year-old son had just been handed a plum anchoring job on the network’s flagship NYC station.

Holt’s 29-year-old son was chosen over many older, more qualified candidates, according to disgruntled sources. But, industry analysts say, NBC has always been notorious for playing the nepotism game when it comes to hiring the offspring of their top journalists, celebrities or national political figures. In fact, insiders say NBC stands for Nothing But Children.

To wit:
– Luke Russert (son of the late Tim Russert, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press”)
– Allison Williams (daughter of the disgraced Brian Williams, who was selected for the lead role in NBC’s production of Peter Pan)
– Ronan Farrow (Son of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow)
– Chelsea Clinton
– Jenna Bush
– Maria Shriver

The list goes on and on.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with hiring family members or close relatives. We have a fair number of relatives in our Peppercomm family, many of whom start in junior positions and work their way through the organization based on skill and merit.

NBC’s big mistake is to immediately place these lightweights in positions of power (thereby undermining the network’s credibility as well as stirring up a hornet’s nest of resentment within the hard working, rank and file who HAVE paid their dues).

This type of myopic favoritism isn’t unique to broadcasting. Several PR firms are absolutely notorious for following the NBC pattern. One is overrun with all sorts of family members who have been appointed by the CEO, and placed in positions of power.

A friend of mine who worked at this particular agency, and happened to lead the technology practice, said he was told in no uncertain terms to let the CEO’s daughter (a recent college graduate) determine which accounts she’d work on, as well as how many hours she’d work each week. Imagine the impact on other members of the group.

In other, high profile instances, we’ve seen large agencies first split into factions and then burst at the seams because the founder’s kids refused to play nice with one another.

Nepotism can be a slippery slope if it isn’t managed properly. We currently have three employees who are related to senior management. But, each started at the very bottom of the barrel, proved their worth and received raises and promotions in line with their accomplishments.

Leapfrogging deserving candidates to award positions of power to friends and family of the high and mighty is not only wrong, it calls into question the overall judgment of the senior management team.

I think the NBC saga is a great wake-up call for CEOs of every organization. Talent should always trump bloodlines.

3 thoughts on “Nothing But Children

  1. I worked at a mid-sized PR agency where the co-founder’s daughter worked on new biz and, it seemed, to interfere with the running of accounts. Prior to that, her parent called in 1-2 chits from heads of other agencies to give the daughter some “seasoning.” If she absorbed any humility from those experiences as a mere plebe, it went out the door as soon as she came “home.” You can imagine that it was a difficult tightrope balancing act for several years.

  2. Never a good idea. Should be based on merit — not birthright. If the candidate has both, that’s fine. But many times that’s not the case. It undermines the other more experienced employees.

  3. Regrettably we experience this much too often. I saw it in a prior agency where the CEO’s wife was brought on to work in a practice area and it broke trust with our people. He couldn’t see the problem we all understood. Ultimately, his credibility and integrity suffered, and his resistance was ultimately overturned by he HR team and higher leaders. A real shame.