Hiring friends or family members can seem like a great idea — after all, who knows you and your business dreams better? However, there are several things to consider before you bring your closest relationships into the business realm.
“Ordinary business concerns are going to crop up, even with family and friends,” says Jane Beddall of Dovetail Resolutions, which provides mediation and facilitation services for family businesses. “When hiring friends and family, the risk is bigger, both to the relationship and the business. But the reward can be bigger too — you have someone who’s willing to go above and beyond.”
Here are three pitfalls to avoid when hiring friends and family.
Lack of Self-Awareness
While we’ve all heard stories of business partnerships with friends or family that go terribly wrong, it’s easy for owners who hire those close to them to believe they won’t run into personnel issues, Beddall says. There’s a danger of when we know and like someone that we allow ourselves to project a little, she says. “ ‘They’re a good person; of course they understand my point of view.’ Well, maybe they do, maybe they don’t.”
If you decide to hire friends or family members, commit to leaving some of those connections at the office door. Bottom-line issues like productivity, quality of customer service and attendance can arise with friends and family, just as they do with any employee, and you need to be ready to act as a manager, not a friend, when they do.
Lack of Consistency
Beddall says there’s a tendency for managers who hire friends and family to be more lenient with them, even if they’re not aware of it. For example, if a sibling needs to leave early to take care of a sick child, that’s your family who needs care. But treating employees inconsistently can create resentment quickly, particularly if someone gets perks that other employees aren’t allowed access to.
Strong HR policies and consistent application will help, Beddall says. Whether it’s performance, promotion, benefits or other policies, everyone should follow the same procedures in the organization. “Discuss the details and expectations, and record them,” she says. Doing so will help protect your business and ensure no one is treated overly leniently.
Lack of Clarity
You may be able to finish the sentences of the longtime friend you hired, but you really don’t know what they’re thinking — unless you talk about it. “You have to have careful and complete conversations about things that seem obvious,” Beddall says. She notes that one family company she worked with had made a change to a process. When she spoke separately to different members of the family who worked there, she found that each of them had a completely different idea about how long that change would last. “One said ‘forever,’ another said ‘five years,’ and another said ‘I never thought about it,’ ” Beddall says. “It was clear there had been no conversation.”
Communication with employees is always important, but when dealing with close relationships in the workplace it becomes even more so. The friends and family you hire are employees just like your other ones, and they need to know your plans for them, their work and the business.
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