Whether you own a business or work for a company, often there are opportunities to recommend or hire a family member. Maybe there is a job opening and one of your family members is a perfect fit. If you are the owner, perhaps you have a sibling, child, spouse, etc., that needs a job and you create a position for them. There are numerous opportunities where a family member could be hired by the company.
The question, however, is hiring family members a good decision? There is no right or wrong answer to this questions. Many factors go into the equation. I’ve listed a few pros and cons for hiring family members. You make the decision that makes sense for you and your company.
- Top talent is difficult to find. If a family member has the skills and temperament to succeed in a role, why not hire them? They may be more qualified than anyone else and/or at the salary range you are willing to pay.
- It helps family members. If someone needs a job, and they are qualified for what is needed, it helps not only the individual but the family. Your child living at home unemployed isn’t helping anyone so if they can become gainfully employed it’s a win.
- For part-time positions they can be compensated less. I’m not saying you should not treat them fairly, but finding a part-time position is difficult unless it’s retail or food service. Many relatives would take a bit less in pay to work in a different environment.
- They have a unique set of skills. Their skills are unique in some way that is valuable to the organization and are difficult to find.
- Opportunity to try them out. As a business owner maybe you want to expand and need a partner. Or you are thinking of a succession plan and want to see if junior or your daughter, brother, etc., is capable of taking over in the future. In an organization there may be a need to build bench strength in certain areas; bringing on a family member allows the company to test the waters.
Of course, there are other reasons. My daughter works for me part time. She has a full-time job and needs additional income. I need her skills and would hire someone else to do the work she is doing anyhow. I’ve just recently hired my granddaughter who is turning 14. There are tons of administrative tasks that need to be done that I can’t do, nor should do, and many are just not happening. For minimum wage and 10-15 hours a week for her, it’s a win/win for both of us.
- Other staff perceive it as nepotism. Whether family members actually get treated differently from others is irrelevant. Perception is reality. Some of the staff will make assumptions about the person’s skills, differences in rules, or even getting the juiciest work. Once that thinking is in place, it’s difficult to change and it will affect productivity.
- Handling poor performance. It’s challenging enough for most managers to discuss poor performance. When it’s a family member it becomes more difficult. Which means that they are given a pass more often than they should.
- Other family members involved. You don’t simply hire the one family member, you often hire their entire extended family, even though they aren’t on the payroll. Spouses argue about the children and the expectations, your brother’s wife has a say-so in what goes on, others get involved and it becomes more complicated.
- You overestimated their skills. It turns out that they aren’t as skilled as you thought, and training, coaching, and mentoring doesn’t seem to help. Now what? Firing a family member is never pretty.
- They take advantage of the relationship. They assume you will understand if they are late, or need to leave early, or take long lunches. Whatever the circumstances, they think the rules don’t apply to them or certainly not in the same way they apply to others.
- They overstretch the boundaries of their role. Happens all the time in small businesses. You hired the family member for position X and all of a sudden they are butting into other areas of the company. Worse yet, they get frustrated when you request they butt out.
There is no way to completely avoid dealing with the cons of hiring a family member. There are, however, some ways to limit the impact, and in some cases prevent them altogether. It all starts with communication. Before bringing a family member into the company (whether it’s your company or not) you need to have the conversation about expectations and boundaries. Discuss the importance of following the rules everyone else does, that you expect them to perform at a high standard as you do other staff members and will discuss poor performance with them. It’s important to remind them to learn to handle their own challenges and problems in the workplace and not bring them to you. Don’t overlook telling them that others might see hiring them as nepotism and the behavior that might occur, and how to handle it.
If you are going to hire family members, or suggest to your organization they do, then make sure to give them all the tools and information to be successful. The quote by Benjamin Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is one to remember before having a family member join your company.
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