Hiring family and friends
You’re looking through about a dozen or so resumes from top candidates, each with an impressive array of skills and the right experience. But your nephew really needs a job and has a pretty good handle on your industry. You’ve heard other small business owners say that you should never hire family or friends; they have a point, but it shouldn’t be a hard and fast rule.
Point is, you should hire the most qualified candidate who’s the best fit for your organization. If that’s your nephew, then go for it. But you also want to make sure long-simmering family tensions or other such factors don’t seep into the employment relationship. Hiring friends presents similar challenges.
You want the best people for the job, regardless of family or personal relationships. Still, there are some important things to consider before hiring family or friends.
Reasons why you shouldn’t hire family and friends
First, let’s look at some of the good reasons why adding a family member or a friend to your company could backfire. Problems typically arise when either party has a difficult time separating the needs of the company and the person’s performance from the underlying relationship. No one wants to fire the person who was the maid of honor at their wedding, right?
Here are some potential conflicts to consider before hiring a friend or family member:
- The transition from friend (or uncle) to boss can be jarring, especially if they’re underperforming and you have to take corrective action. Can you fire that person if necessary? Can you make difficult decisions and remain friends?
- The appearance of nepotism or favoritism can undermine morale among your other employees, even if you’re being completely fair.
- Emotions will always come into play when you’re working with a friend or family member. Are you prepared?
- Family members (or friend networks) will know your business, perhaps more than you’d like. Mutual friends or other family members will be curious, so you’ll need to set boundaries and quash rumors early and often.
- They may believe their special relationship to you extends to the workplace, even if they agree in advance that they’re not getting any special treatment.
When family members or friends may be the best fit
On the other hand, there may be instances where your nephew or best friend from college actually is the most qualified hire for the job. Sometimes the relationship itself is one of the reasons they’re a good fit, such as the case with family-owned businesses where the next generation is trained and groomed for the role at a young age. Or perhaps your initial friendship grew out of a mutual passion that’s at the core of your business.
Family succession is the norm in certain industries, such as the funeral home business, which requires a delicate and uniquely personal touch with clients. Customers may feel more comfortable working with a family-run business. Also, certain tricks of the trade typically are passed down through the generations.
As far as friends are concerned, you need to ask whether you can imagine declining a job offer to your buddy. If not, then you shouldn’t even start the conversation. If you have any reason to believe they won’t respect work/friendship boundaries, that’s another red flag. And finally, ask yourself whether they’re really the best person for the job. If so, and you don’t anticipate relationship issues, then it may be the right move.
Take extra precautions when hiring family and friends
After deciding whether your nephew or college roommate is actually the best fit for a particular role in your company, you’ll want to make the effort to avoid some of the most common pitfalls discussed earlier. Some tips for ensuring a successful work relationship include the following:
- Set clear expectations early – Explain what’s expected of them and make it clear that they won’t get a pass just because you’re their uncle or best friend.
- Rehearse the boundaries – If you’re hiring a friend or relative, ask how they’d handle certain situations, such as getting a negative performance review or being denied a raise.
- Stay professional – It sounds obvious, but save the off-color jokes or friendly punches to the gut for after hours. Remember, you want to avoid any appearance that your friend or family member has special status.
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