Small business owners often resort to employing family members because they are available, known, and trusted. But workplace problems are more difficult to solve when they involve family members, requiring special attention to management tools and techniques.
The word “family” is positive. It conjures up images of teamwork that are wholesome, loyal, friendly, etc. Many employers talk about their workforce as family. But anyone who is actually in a family – that would be most of us! – has felt family discomfort too. All the relationship issues in real families crop up in workplace families as well: sibling rivalry, feeling unappreciated, expecting forgiveness for repeated trespasses.
When the workplace family has some real family relationships as well, there are some rewards, but the risks resulting from dysfunction can be many times more serious. This risk is multiplied again where there are only a few employees – when the teapot is smaller, the tempest brews more quickly and explosively. And who does the most family hiring? You guessed it – the companies with the fewest employees: small business.
The Best Person for the Job
Why hire family? As Willie Nelson sang, “I’ve got a long list of real good reasons…” Some are trust; the devil you know; loyalty (he needed a job); tax benefits; and the expectation that family will be committed and willing to sacrifice from time to time when the business needs it.
Unfortunately, one does not often hear that the family member was the most competent candidate: “I needed a marketer, and my son Bill is the best marketing guy I’ve ever met.” Small businesses live on the edge. They are the businesses who can least afford mediocre employees. Small businesses need committed multi-talented people.
What Can Go Wrong?
The reasons to avoid hiring family are mostly about what can go wrong. The employee might feel exploited, and let that dissatisfaction show, poisoning the workplace atmosphere. Managing a family employee is only easy when it is not needed!Correcting and coaching a family member is a touchy area that can spark issues outside the office on the home front.
Family employees may have issues from home (arguments, rivalries, jealousies) that they cannot ignore when they work with the same people. Non-family employees feel out of the loop and less influential when they must compete with family members for the boss’s ear. They may also perceive unfair treatment compared to a family member, in terms of privileges or pay compared to competence and/or effort.
What should a small business do? Should it take advantage of the obvious benefits of depending on a trusted family member, especially when there are some tax benefits involved? Or should it avoid family employees to avoid the extra-difficult morale and relationship issues that result when all is not rosy? Are there some tools that a smart small business can use to employ family yet minimize the downside risk?
Yes, some techniques are available. The next two articles explain them.
What do you think? Do some tools and techniques for managing family employees work especially well for you?
Tom Gray helps owners save and grow their companies. He is a management consultant focused on small business and telecom, a Certified Turnaround Professional (CTP), and a SCORE Mentor. He can be reached at 630-512-0406 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on the scope of Tom’s activities, see www.tom-gray.com. For more on SCORE services, see www.scorefoxvalley.org.Employing Family, Small Business Techniques
Tags: employing family members, hire family, managing family employees, managing family members, small business, techniques, tools