When the founder of a manufacturing company hired his son-in-law to manage a department, it was with high hopes and expectations.


He felt secure that someday he could turn his business over to his son-in-law who was well educated and appeared to be highly qualified for the position.

But it wasn’t long before it became evident that his daughter’s husband simply was not capable of handling the position. He spoke to his son-in-law on many occasions about his gross errors and sloppy work, and even offered additional training.

But the work didn’t improve, and it became clear that his son-in-law had to go.

Unfortunately, if you hire relatives, you may find yourself facing a similar scenario. In such a situation, how do you as the owner of a business balance your business responsibilities with your personal family relationships?

Make policies and procedures clear

It should be made clear to family members hired by the company that they will be expected to adhere to the company’s rules and policies. Communicate hiring and firing policies beforehand.

Then, follow through, even it may be emotionally difficult to do so. Enabling a relative to produce shoddy work or receive special treatment does not benefit anyone and can cause a great deal of harm to the business, the individual and the family.

Talk to trusted advisers to get their perspective

With family members, it is too easy to let emotions dictate actions. Talking to someone outside the family can provide insight and help you to make a more focused decision about whether to terminate a relative.

Prepare your reasons for dismissal

In a society such as ours where lawsuits are rampant, it isn’t unreasonable to assume that even a son or daughter might sue after being terminated.

Even if you feel that would never happen in your family, your best defense is to have a clearly written procedure for “employment of close relatives.” It should define “close relative” and include such topics as authority to supervise and methods for review of work.

You should document performance or policy issues that justify termination. Information on poor attendance, disciplinary action or any meetings with the individual to discuss poor performance should be kept on file. The standards must be communicated, understood and consistent.

Be sure to always maintain a professional demeanor when talking to the family member.

Create an opportunity for the person to save face

Your relative may not be a member of your staff for long, but he or she will still be part of the family. So, start with any positives the person brought to the job. Then explain why it isn’t working out, and possibly suggest areas of improvement. But don’t leave any room for negotiation.

If you present the problem in a “This just isn’t working out” manner, your family member has the opportunity to make the decision to leave, rather than be fired.

Be very careful not to intentionally create or appear to have intentionally created a work environment that causes the employee to become disgruntled and quit.

Expressing love and support, and perhaps offering to write a letter of recommendation or helping the individual find other work, can help to reduce any damage to your personal relationship.

Stand firm for your company

Once the dismissal has taken place, you could find yourself barraged with pleas and guilt trips, not only from the employee but from other members of the family. But many aspects concerning the operation of a business are not open to family discussion.

It’s important not to be swayed and to stand firm for the best interests of your company.