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Don’t hire someone you’re not willing (or able) to fire

You and your brother get along great. Plus, he’s so smart. You share the same values. (I mean, you grew up together, right?) Plus, he needs a job — what could go wrong if you hired him?

Why hiring friends and family is a really, REALLY bad idea

Your kid comes home from her freshman year in college; she needs a job, and you need some help in the office. If she doesn’t work, it just means more money you will shell out in the fall. What could go wrong?

Your best friend since high school just lost his job. She’s indeed had a few jobs in the last couple of years, but she’s your best friend. It would be great for you two to work together. What could go wrong?

Maybe you’re right. Hiring friends and family could be okay in some situations. But in my 14+ years advising small businesses, I’ve seen more than a few that ended miserably. They all followed a pattern like this:

Step 1: Everything is fantastic. We are so excited to be working together.

Step 2: It’s clear that your new employee doesn’t really know what they are doing, but no worries, that’s what training is for!

Step 3: There is some sort of personal crisis… It doesn’t matter what it is, but they need some extra time off. You know your brother/daughter/best friend isn’t taking advantage of you. You give them extra time off.

Step 4: You begin to notice things like their performance haven’t improved and their attendance has continued to decline. The rest of your employees resent having to pick up the work of this non-performing team member. You’ve got a real mess on your hands.

Step 5: Sit down and try to work it out. They agree they will perform better and show up to work. Everything feels better until you get that call from your mom. “You said WHAT to your brother?”

Step 6: You are seriously thinking about firing him/her. In fact, you are certain that if it were anyone else, they’d be gone by now. You know what the right decision is, but you’re caught. What will Thanksgiving dinner be like? What will my friends/family think? You used to like this person, but now you resent them so much. You’re losing an employee and a friend. So you hesitate.

Step 7: The situation worsens; it demoralizes your good team members as they lose respect for you.

What do you do now? Do you fire them?

The truth is that when you work with people who are more than just employees, the relationship gets all messed up. When do you get to be boss? When do you get to be family? Instead of having one good relationship, you have two messed up ones.

Because we can’t (or won’t) use our normal progressive discipline for this employee, we switch tactics and use much more caustic tools. I often see yelling, shame, bargaining, and complaining behind their back. These are ineffective, eroding your staff’s confidence and trust in your leadership.

What else could go wrong?

Hiring someone you are close to is a dangerous business. The upside can be terrific, but so can the downside. I tell my clients that hiring family and friends is a bad idea. Never hire anyone you can’t or won’t fire.

Photo credit: Stefan

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