Scott Huntington is an entrepreneur, writer, and blogger specializing in small business.
6 min. read
Updated October 27, 2023
It would seem like an ideal situation to work with close friends and family members. You can’t imagine people who would be more invested in your happiness and success. Not only that, but you actually like each other.
These are the people you care about and easily socialize with. If you count on these people through personal hardships, surely they’ll deliver in a professional capacity, right?
Before you go about hiring friends and family, it’s necessary to answer some tough questions as to whether or not they will contribute to your business. This isn’t to say you should automatically fear hiring (or firing) a close family member or friend. Just take these factors into consideration before you move forward with the hiring process:
When I was about to break ground for a new office on my property, I was trying to decide between Johnson Machinery (a Caterpillar construction group) and my brother-in-law (who had done a little bit of landscaping before and was looking for work).
I was torn between the two, but then I got to thinking: I very likely would not hire a total stranger that was woefully under-qualified for an open position. I would probably be puzzled—and a little amused—that someone would ask for a job while lacking the requirements asked for. Yet, it is remarkably common for this attitude to go out the window when familiarity becomes an issue. Why would I put such a major project in the hands of somebody that was so inexperienced?
You are not doing yourself or your business any favors by giving a job to a friend or family member that simply cannot do it.
You are not doing yourself or your business any favors by giving a job to a friend or family member that simply cannot do it. You may even be hurting the friend in question. This goes for both physical skills like building a new office as well as mental skills like handling the accounting.
It can lead to that friend having to cope with a lot of pressure. They may also be the target of a great deal of resentment, especially if co-workers know they were only hired due to their connection to you.
If the relative or friend is qualified for the job, this shouldn’t be a problem. Simply let them know that you expect him or her to do their best.
One man found himself in quite a pickle after caving to his wife’s request to hire her nephew. The nephew caused a problematic situation to develop that put both this man’s workplace and marriage in jeopardy.
Hiring a family member strictly as a favor is not a good reason to give someone a job.
This could have been avoided if he hired the nephew for the right reasons. Hiring a family member strictly as a favor is not a good reason to give someone a job.
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In this situation, it’s not about getting the best person for the job. It may not even be about helping the relative in question. It’s about using a professional situation to solve a personal problem. What usually happens is because the relative or family member came to work for you for personal reasons rather than professional ones, it is impossible to completely transition to a professional relationship.
Notice that the man in question is now dealing with the personal consequences of giving a professional position to his nephew? This is why it’s important to emphasize professional standards and expectations at the beginning of the hiring process.
If you hire someone based on their professional capabilities and experience, you can usually steer clear of unnecessary personal drama.
If you know from personal experience that the individual has a polarizing personality, it’s best to pass on hiring him or her. You cannot afford to create an environment that could cost you good workers. Stick to working with friends and family members who you know can operate in a professional capacity without alienating or angering others.
If you know from personal experience that the individual has a polarizing personality, it’s best to pass on hiring him or her.
It’s also a good idea to have a conversation about acceptable workplace behavior. Let the person know you will not tolerate them using their connection to you to bully or blackmail other co-workers. That person should respect you enough to come to work on their best behavior.
As close as you are to the person, you may feel that trustworthiness isn’t an issue. Under ideal circumstances, it actually might not be. If it’s someone you know intimately, a background check might not even be necessary.
If you know that there are “issues” that could arise, you may want to avoid hiring them.
If this isn’t the case, treat them as you would any other potential employee. Give them a probationary period and keep an eye on how they behave. Some people are fortunate enough to know and trust their friends and family and have these feelings validated.
But, if you know that there are “issues” that could arise, you may want to avoid hiring them. For instance, was your family member fired because they were caught stealing money? While you’d like to think you would be exempt from embezzlement, it’s best to err on the side of caution. They might have the mindset that being related to you gives them a longer leash.
If it’s your job to hire them, then there’s a good chance it will also be your job to fire them should things go badly. Be proactive here—tell them from the beginning that they are just like any other employee. Like any other employee, they can earn raises, get bonuses, fall into a probationary period, or even get fired. Be very clear that they need to live up to the same standards as everyone else, and if they don’t, they’ll have the same consequences as everyone else.
If it’s your job to hire them, then there’s a good chance it will also be your job to fire them should things go badly.
If, unfortunately, you find that you do have to fire them, be sure the appropriate paperwork has been filled out and with detailed explanations as to why the person is being let go. If you worry things could get personal, have a third party present. Perhaps use a video or audio recorder for additional documentation.
However much the process may hurt, keep your emotions in check. Keep the entire conversation about the job and do not allow yourself to be pulled or guilted into a personal discussion.
It’s your own behavior that lends itself to whether or not working with friends and family members goes well. The bottom line is that you cannot confuse a professional relationship with a personal one. If you hire someone for personal reasons and do not hold them to professional standards, you’re being unfair and will likely create bad feelings.
Take these factors into consideration before you hire a loved one. If you are honest with yourself and that person throughout the hiring process, you can avoid a number of unnecessary problems and have a great professional relationship with your friend or family member.