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Why Hiring Family Members Might Not Be a Good Idea

4-minute read

Hiring a family member can be a great experience, like this father and son have discovered, but it may not always have a happy ending.
Mariah Bliss

Mariah Bliss

21 February 2019

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Every business owner has encountered this question before: “Is it worth hiring family members or friends?”

On the one hand, it seems easy to turn to the people in your life for help running your business. On the other hand, it can be a recipe for both professional and personal disaster.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the biggest reasons you shouldn’t hire family members, as well as a few tips to use if you still want to hire within the family.

5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Hire a Family Member

  1. It could potentially ruin your relationship.

    So this is probably the most obvious drawback to hiring family members or friends: If it doesn’t work out, it could potentially ruin your relationship for good. It takes a really strong and mature person to not take getting fired personally, so if you end up dismissing your family member, there’s a 99% chance your relationship will go sour.

    Consider your relationship with your family member or friend and how much it means to you. What would you do if that relationship changed? Is this a relationship that’s pivotal to your happiness?

    If there’s too much at stake, I recommend avoiding hiring that person.

  2. It could make other employees frustrated.

    Nepotism — the practice of hiring family members — can be a major complaint for employees, and for good reason. When managed improperly, nepotism can give off the appearance of favoritism, which can be frustrating and downright demoralizing to top-performing employees. This is especially true if you hire a family member who doesn’t live up to the performance standards you’ve set for the other employees.

    Talented employees are really hard to find. Nepotism can be a fast way to scare them off, so proceed with caution before hiring your cousin’s brother-in-law because he needs a job.

  3. You might be hiring for the wrong reasons.

    When I first started my copywriting business, I had a lot of people ask me if I could send work their way. Some of the more frequent askers were family members. I didn’t mind the asking, because I had no qualms about telling them I didn’t want to hire family members. Fortunately, no one took it personally, but I know I got lucky there.

    If, however, you have a harder time saying no to a family member asking to work for you, you’re already hiring for the wrong reasons. Benevolence, sympathy, and feelings of obligation are the worst reasons to hire family members. These feelings can make it difficult for you to treat that family member as you would any other employee.

  4. It could affect how customers see you.

    The people you hire communicates volumes about your business to customers. If you hire the best of the best, you’re a consummate professional who will treat customers with respect. If you hire only family members or friends, you’re running the risk of communicating to customers that you’re not as concerned with getting the best talent possible.

    While it may not be fair, it is a reality you need to be aware of, and it’s a reality that could impact your business’s bottom line.

  5. It may be tougher to enforce your rules and standards.

    As a successful small business owner, you got to where you are today because you worked hard and ensured that anyone else you hired was held to your exacting standards. If you hire a family member because they’re family — and not because they’re the best at what they do — there’s little chance they’ll meet your standards.

    And that can definitely mess things up for your business!

So You Want to Hire Family or Friends

If you read the previous section and still think that a family member or friend would make a great hire, here’s how to do it without running the risk of damaging your business or your relationship:

  1. Have a tough conversation with them.

    Let that person know upfront how you operate your business, as well as the standards you will hold them to as an employee of your business. You should outline the expectations that you’ll have of them, including what will happen if they don’t meet those expectations.

    While it doesn’t need to be an overly aggressive conversation, the point here is that you want to spell out to your family member that they will be held to the same performance expectations as any other employee.

  2. Have a tough conversation with yourself.

    I mean this, too. Ask yourself how you’ll react in situations where your family member might need to be reprimanded or, in a worst-case scenario, fired. Will you be able to have those hard conversations? Or will you be tempted to avoid them for the sake of not wanting to upset them?

    If you have the slightest inclination that you’ll be uncomfortable treating your family member as an employee, don’t hire them. It’s really as simple as that.

  3. Get your employees’ blessings.

    If you already have a team of employees in the door, it’s worth asking them if they’d be bothered by your bringing on a family member. This tip might not be useful if you’re not particularly close with your employees, but I’ve seen plenty of crews get upended because their boss hired a family member without discussing it with them first.

    Your employees are incredibly valuable to your business; don’t risk damaging their morale and productivity by bringing on a family member who might not be a good fit.

  4. Keep family issues at the door.

    Family and friends can come with their own issues and drama, so you have to be good at keeping that separate as soon as you walk through the doors of your business. For example, if there’s a huge fight going on in the family and you’re on opposite sides of the issue, don’t bring it up at work. Be sure to communicate this with your family member as well, so that you’re both on the same page.

  5. Don’t bring work home with you.

    On the opposite end from the tip above, keep any work issues where it belongs — at work. Too many family relationships and friendships are ruined when people bring work issues to family functions or outings. Work on setting up those personal and professional boundaries so you can preserve your relationships.

Have you ever hired a family member or friend? How did it turn out? Tell me in the comments below!

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Mariah Bliss

Written by

Mariah Bliss

I love writing about the small business experience because I happen to be a small business owner - I've had a freelance copywriting business for over 10 years. In addition to that, I also head up the content strategy here at Simply Business. Reach out if you have a great idea for an article or just want to say hi!

This content is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. Please obtain expert advice from industry specific professionals who may better understand your business’s needs. Read our full disclaimer

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