should I take a job where my father works?

A reader writes:

I am currently job searching and my dad let me know about an opening at his workplace that I qualify for. He works for a really cool organization that I’d love to work for regardless of his involvement. We wouldn’t be in the same department, but it’s a very small office and I’d have the cube next to his. I am working out my own comfort level with working right next to my dad every day until he retires in a few years, but I’m wondering if there are any pitfalls in general that I should think about when considering this.

Well, you’re asking for pitfalls, so I’m going to give you a big, scary list — but be aware that none of them might come to fruition. But you asked, so here goes:

For starters, if his company is smart, they’ll be very wary of doing this, because what if they hire you, it doesn’t work out, and they have to fire you? How’s that going to impact your dad? Is he really going to stay happy at a workplace that fired his daughter? Are they willing to accept that the price of hiring you could be to potentially lose your dad, who’s probably fairly senior, or deal with him being unhappy? (They probably shouldn’t be willing to make that trade-off, not unless your skills are unusually impressive and hard to find.)  And are you willing to potentially put your dad in that position? (You probably shouldn’t be.)

You might think that’s a non-issue because of course you’ll never get fired, but no one ever takes a job thinking they’re going to lose it … and yet, people do get fired, all the time. You could have a crazy boss (and even if your father tells you the boss you’d have is great, she could quit tomorrow and be replaced by a loon), or it could just end up being the wrong fit. You can’t predict this stuff with certainty.

Pitfalls aside from that … You risk people thinking that you only got the job because of your father. You risk overhearing people saying things about your dad that you really don’t want to hear. You risk seeing your dad in a new light, one that isn’t necessarily flattering. (What if you find out he’s incompetent?) You risk your relationship with your dad changing in ways that you may or may not like, because he’ll see you at work, potentially have opinions about your work, and potentially have opinions about how you carry yourself at work — and vice versa.

Of course, none of it might play out like this, and you might discover that you both love working together. It might bring you closer in ways that you really appreciate. It might show you a different side of your dad that you value getting to see.

But you asked for pitfalls, so there they are. Let us know what happens!

{ 116 comments… read them below }

  1. fposte

    I’ll add one that would likely have been my dad–you risk having to manage your dad away from intervening in your supervisory chain.

    1. LJL

      Or the risk of your dad giving you advice that may or may not be accurate and relevant for your role/position. But that is always something to be aware of with parents and careers.

      1. Another Emily

        The difference is though if you work with your parent, you can’t just say “I’ll think about it” to their well meaning advice and then not follow it. They’ll know if you don’t do it.

        This wouldn’t be a problem with the OP’s dad necessarily but it is a pitfall.

  2. Kelly O

    Speaking as someone who works for a company that fired my spouse, I can say it is truly the hardest thing I deal with.

    Neither one of us expected things to wind up this way, and while we didn’t have issues working for the same company (in roles that did not normally have a ton of interaction) we were in a small office, and I think other people had more issues with things than we did.

    So even though you may not expect things to wind up in a particular way, they very well might. And trust me, you can put on your professional’s hat and try to deal as best you can, but it is still strange to me, and he’s been gone a year and a half now.

    1. The B

      This. My parents worked together at a job. They got a divorce and it was hell on Earth. Eventually he was fired from that job. The stress of the job issue only compounded an already volatile situation, as he blamed her for getting him fired and she blamed him equally for getting her in trouble at the office (when a restructure took place a few months later, she was let go).
      Nobody thinks this will happen to them but when it does…well, let’s just say I believe you shouldn’t keep all your eggs in our basket. Work for different companies.

  3. la fille

    thanks for the feedback, this was my question. i definitely wanted a big list of why i shouldn’t do it because i couldn’t see the drawbacks beyond just feeling weird about spending so much time with my dad as a grown woman. it’s definitely a lot to think about but i think i am probably still going to at least apply.

    1. mm

      My sister and I have worked together at the same large non-profit for over 20 years and have had no problems. I had been working here 2 years before she got hired and my boss at the time had a long talk with me about the possible pitfalls, but they hired her anyway. We work in different departments but see each other often throughout the day and we carpool together every day. Her boss is also a close friend of mine. It’s worked well for us.

  4. Jamie

    I’ve seen this work well once. They were extraordinarily good at compartmentalizing work from personal life and both were extremely competent and the jobs were pretty autonomous.

    I know with my dad it would have been unthinkable. He would have been my absolute harshest critic – in private – and he wouldn’t have tolerated one word of criticism or less than glowing feedback from anyone else toward me.

    I would almost think it would be easier to report to your dad than to work along side him, though. If you’re co-workers (even with him being more senior) there is a peer relationship that’s I can’t imagine establishing with my own dad. He would always be the boss.

    It really comes down to the nature of your relationship – but since the consequences for him could be severe if this breaks bad I’d give it a lot of thought before risking it.

    1. Zahra

      “I’ve seen this work well once. They were extraordinarily good at compartmentalizing work from personal life and both were extremely competent and the jobs were pretty autonomous.”

      Yes. This. Most of my aunts and uncles worked at some point in the family business. The only reason it went so well was that there was an unspoken agreement that business talk happened at work and non-work settings was to be devoid of business talk.

      Oh, we still asked how work was at Christmas and such, but it was just small talk and the reply usually was “Fine and yours?”. We would move on to the next small talk subject after that (kids, studies, home renovation projects, vacations past and future, etc.).

      I’ve heard of many families not being able to separate work and personal life and work would overshadow every aspect of their family life. I even know of one person who was reluctant to go on vacation with his parents (we’re talking a grown son with parents that were the age of my grandparents) because he knew they would talk business and work the whole time when all he wanted to do was relax and get away from work obligations.

    2. SCW

      I worked for my dad in the summers growing up, and I can tell you he was harder on me than any manager I’ve ever had. You did not call in sick unless you were going to the hospital, and you can forget about leaving work at the door. He’d come home at 8 pm with a list of things for me to do before I went to bed. He paid well, but it was crazy!

  5. AdAgencyChick

    AAM says: If his company is smart, they’ll be very wary of doing this.

    AAC says: There’s a high likelihood his company is NOT smart about this!

    When I saw the title of the post, I assumed OP was going to be writing about a large company where there’d be little or no *working* relationship between OP and her dad. But then I saw “very small office” and red flags started waving in my head. OP, is your office one that likes to pretend you’re all one happy family? I worked at one of those, and they did sometimes hire both halves of a couple. This sometimes worked out, and was sometimes a hot mess disaster, especially if one of them were good at the job and the other wasn’t.

    Consider those pitfalls very carefully. It might be worth it, but don’t assume none of what AAM said will happen to you.

  6. CoffeeLover

    We had a lot of summer students working at my company and many were the kids of employees. Some of the summer students were hard workers and really proved themselves. I think that’s a big thing you’ll have to overcome. As AAM mentioned, people are likely to think you only go the job because of your dad. I’m sure they wouldn’t hire you if you didn’t have the skills, but being honest with yourself, you’re dad working there will definitely give you an advantage over other candidates.

    As a somewhat side note (since I’m sure you’re more professional than this OP), there were also quiet a few summer students that made you want to say “eek”. I’m talking mini skirts, texting in meetings and just flat out not doing their work. I couldn’t believe these kids and the kind of damage they were doing to their parents. When you have a senior person’s kid acting like a hooligan (for lack of a better word) it really makes you question the seniors judgement. I mean if they can’t manage their kid, how are they managing their department. Moreover, they lack judgement for not being able to see their kid isn’t ready for the professional office environment.

    Well, at least there was plenty to talk about over the summer slow months. :P

    1. the gold digger

      if they can’t manage their kid, how are they managing their department

      When a kid gets in trouble on a military base, they call his dad’s boss. (Or did when I was a kid living on base.) The military has the same attitude – can’t manage your family? Then how are you going to lead soldiers to battle?

    2. Ali

      Yep, this is how I got my first job! Although my dad and I didn’t work in the same department because it wasn’t allowed, so I worked even in a separate building from him until my last two summers at the company (the company was kind of spread out on a campus, I guess you could say, so different departments were in different buildings). I had lunch with my dad occasionally, but there was never any added stress as a result of me working there. I hated the job at the time, but looking back, it was nice to have a day job during summers and not be working nights and weekends waiting tables or something!

  7. la fille

    I definitely don’t have a very stratified relationship with my dad as it stands. As his kids have become adults, he treats us like adults and doesn’t really have any authority over us anymore. When I turned 18 I didn’t have a curfew anymore but I had to pay rent, that’s basically the way he works.

    The biggest issue for me is if I got fired, especially if it wasn’t fair. If it was for a good reason (like a bad fit or poor performance), I don’t think it would be an issue – I might be mad/disappointed but I think he’s professional enough that . If it was just crazy boss issues, that might be a problem. My dad is pretty professional and not super emotional so he might be able to divorce himself from the situation. I might have a talk with him and see how he thinks he would feel about it.

    1. Legal Eagle

      I think this is a tough call. Your father sounds like my mother. I worked in the same office as her and there were no problems – we are both competent and have a solid relationship. BUT it was short term for me. I would not continue indefinitely.

      1. la fille

        Yeah, one thing that makes this more appealing to me is then fact that my dad is only a couple of years at most from retirement.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Keep in mind that if you talk to your dad about this, his attitude is likely to be, “Oh, you won’t get fired; you’re worrying for nothing. But if you did, it would be fine.” Because that’s most people’s attitude … until it happens.

      1. la fille

        Haha, close! This is what he said:

        I’m not worried because

        a. If it didn’t work out, I could claim you weren’t really related to me after all (“She told you what?”)
        b. I ‘m too old too give a flying f— what people think of me
        c. But most of all, I know you would do the job ably and admirably, and indeed are overqualified for it. They would be lucky if you did consent to work for them. They’d be getting a bargain.

        love,
        Dad

          1. la fille

            Yeah and he didn’t really get the crux of things, which is that he might get mad at his employer if they let me go and he considered it unfair, not that he might be embarrassed on my behalf for recommending me.

      2. Risa

        This recently happened in my workplace. The dad has a specialized position and was a long-term employee and the son was hired for a front line seasonal position. The son was caught stealing and was fired. I’m sure the father never thought in a million years that the son would steal from the company.

        When he first heard about it, he heard it from the son and came storming into the manager’s office in full protective mode. Fortunately, the manager kept a really cool head and explained that there really wasn’t a choice. The dad stormed back out of the office.

        A few days later, the dad sent the manager an email, thanking him for the way he handled the situation and that he was calm in dealing with his behavior. He apologized and said he understood why the company took the position they did. I’m sure he got home that night and got the real story out of his son. The son also sent an email later, apologizing and taking responsibility for his actions.

  8. AnotherAlison

    There was a situation in my group where a senior sales guy’s son was hired, & it didn’t work out. The company did a lot of things to try to make it work (moved him into several different roles, even in different states and offices), but ultimately he left. It was difficult to work with someone who was good (the dad) and someone who briefly was in the same group and was not so good (the son). I think it made it difficult for our boss to manage the son in the same way he would have a similarly non-performing person who had no other ties to the company.

    That said, we have lots of other father/son employees (and brother/brother, husband/wife) in our very big company who have worked out well. A lot of them are in different states, or at least different departments, and don’t interact.

  9. Anonymous

    Well, we just interviewed the Sales Manager’s father who, if hired, will report directly to his son. Yikes!

    1. fposte

      Yeah, we’ve reshuffled org charts when relatives or spouses would otherwise end up reporting to each other. That’s just not viable.

      1. Jamie

        I don’t understand how even in the most impartial of familial relationships that would work.

        I mean a parent, spouse, child has a vested interest in the financial well being of a child, spouse, or parent…how do you set that aside for discussions about raises or bonuses? Even if one managed to be perfectly fair the perception would always be tainted.

        It’s smart that your place restructures.

        1. Joey

          I worked for a small company once where the owner employed two cousins and his wife. Everybody knew they made more and were favorites, but we kind of accepted it- at least as best we could. It helped that they were both really nice and did their jobs well. There was always this feeling that no matter what we did we’d never be in the inner circle. Probaby the best thing was that they could more easily say the things that others were thinking, but were apprehensive to say.

        2. Xander

          I worked for my dad for a while, and it was opposite. I knew he would not give me a raise, no matter how deserved, because of the perception. So I didn’t dare ask. But I knew this going in, was fine with it, and it was temporary.

  10. DA

    The perception of nepotism is the biggest issue here. Even if your father has nothing more to do with you getting the job than by pointing it out to you, once people are aware that your father works there, it’s going to be difficult to gain the respect of your coworkers.

    Your best bet would be to utilize your father as a networker for other companies. If he is a leader at the company, he likely knows other firms and can use his connections that way, to help you get into a different company where these issues would not be a concern.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Yeah, I have to say, surely this isn’t the only job out there for you. If you want to work at this company, why not wait until your dad retires in a few year, rather than risking all these problems?

      1. la fille

        Well, it’s a small organization, people tend to stick around, and openings don’t come around very often! My dad is not super senior (he changed careers a few years ago) but I don’t really qualify for his job.

        For a little more clarification, it’s a fairly prestigious museum.

        1. fposte

          Ah, those can be hard to get into. I think I’m with you on your approach–accept and stay alert to drawbacks.

    2. Anonymous

      That’s exactly what I was going to say, but you said it better.

      I wonder if nepotism is common in OPs dad’s workplace. If so, then her coworkers may not think too much of it and just accept it as how the company works. But if it’s rare, that could be a huge problem and could lead to coworkers thinking she’s not qualified for the job.

      She’d be better off in another company or at least a different department, but it could work if strict guidelines of acceptable behavior and involvement are agreed upon beforehand.

    3. LMW

      At my last job, I had a bright young coworker whose mother was a high-ranking VP. Everyone was fairly confident that nepotism had a huge role in her being hired and in the work arrangement (remote) that was worked out for her (she was entry level and we had a ton of very qualified local candidates, which would have been easier). However, she’s great at her job. I think she actually has to work twice as hard and accomplish twice as much as a regular employee for this impression to register because everyone thinks she just has the job because of her mom. I’m honestly puzzled as to why this young woman put herself in this position. It’s a lot to overcome.

      1. A Bug!

        This is a good point. The appearance of nepotism doesn’t always confirm the presence of nepotism, but appearances really do count when there’s an apparent conflict of interest. When you’re in an apparent position to benefit from nepotism, you’ll never be on truly equal ground with your peers, because any inequality in your favor will be assumed to be the result of your relationship, regardless of the truth of the situation.

        And in a small office, it only takes one person who decides “You’re only here because of your dad” to potentially poison the whole working environment, and harm the working reputations of both parent and child.

  11. KellyK

    I actually did this (sort of) for a couple summers, and it went really well. My dad works at a refinery, and I had a summer job there as an office assistant. Best summer job I ever had by a long shot, and if I hadn’t gotten carpal tunnel halfway through my second summer, I’d have happily done it the whole time I was in college.

    But I think all the things that made it good are things that wouldn’t apply in your situation. We had absolutely no connection to each other’s work or any ability to have an opinion on what the other was doing. We worked in separate buildings, and the most interaction we had was the occasional lunch. (We didn’t even carpool because the office staff were on an 8-4:30 schedule rather than the plant guys’ 7-3, and my dad wasn’t always on days.) It gave us something to talk about that we wouldn’t have otherwise (like griping about really silly safety meetings). And while technically an adult, I was an 18/19-year-old “college kid” working a deliberately short-term summer job, so there wasn’t that weirdness of being your dad’s professional peer that would happen if I were to go work in that same office now as an adult.

    Another potential pitfall is that having the cube right next to him is likely to be awkward. You’ll be working *together* even if you’re not *working together* in terms of job duties. All the ways in which coworkers annoy or distract each other will probably be harder to deal with with your dad.

    1. Jamie

      Oh yes, this is a totally different situation.

      My kids work with me over shut down doing general office stuff and the phones, since it’s a skeleton crew. It’s really helpful to us and they get a feel for office tasks (although in a ghost town environment). And it’s awesome having them here – but I think it works because it’s for a defined short period of time and we’re definitely not peers. Just instead of being home and my asking them to empty the dishwasher we’re here and I’m asking them to file invoices.

      They’ve all decided that they would rather be hobos than do what I do for a living…so I succeeded in scaring them away from IT. :(

    2. AnotherAlison

      I also worked for my mom in the summer in HS and between college and HS. She worked in the office and I worked in production, so we didn’t cross paths much, either. BUT…

      I did manage to make it awkward for her. I started dating a F/T employee there who didn’t have the best reputation. Then he knocked me up in college and I married him. He got serious at work & changed his rep & we’re still married 15 yrs later, but since I was a straight-A high school student that she bragged about to all her work friends, I’m sure my mom was mortified at the time (not that I cared).

      Of course this doesn’t apply to the OP, but you never know what your foolish young kids will do to embarrass you at work.

  12. Anon

    I can give an example of the other side of the coin. A side where it all worked out really well. I went to school where my mother was in administrator position-fairly high up. To the point that she was referred to as the voice of God. Get the picture? So, being a student where you mom saw your grades before you did was interesting but was wonderful. After graduating, I started working there as an admin assist in an academic department. Everyone knew I was her daughter but it wasn’t a big deal. Then I worked my way up to the point that I was working with her office on a regular basis, almost an honorary member. We served on committees together and because I didn’t refer to her as mom in work situations, she treated me like any other colleague and we were both extremely professional about it, it was all a great experience. As I worked my way up I grew out of her really impressive shadow and created my own. Do I think it’s entirely possible that I got that job because I was her daughter (in addition to being qualified)? Sure but in the end I more than proved my worth. And now that I’ve been gone for 5 years, they all want me to come back. This is probably the one situation where a parent and child could totally work together and there not be issues. I do realize this is the really huge exception to the rule. Being able to work with my mom, having us both in the same field has been an amazing resource. Being able to talk shop with her. I love that we are in the same field.

    If your gut says that doing this would be weird, then trust your gut.

    1. Anonymous

      This is yet another way Academia is different from other industries, as hiring of relatives happens more frequently then other places. I can count at least a dozen examples of this in my department alone, and it’s not a big department or school. (usually spousal faculty hires, but also children of faculty and staff)

  13. Sam

    Another issue is the size of the town/industry and the number of comparable job opportunities. I live in a bigger city so there’s plenty of companies beyond my parents’ places of employment. On the other hand, my extended family lives in a small town with only 1 large employer. It sounds like it’s very common for relatives to work together at the plant. In such a small town, strict nepotism policies aren’t all that feasible.

      1. Sam

        Yep, you’re right. Though I suppose industry may still play a role in a hypothetical example. If it’s a small town, they may only have one small office involved with [blank] industry.

        I suppose the point I’m trying to make is more about the abundance or lack of comparable job opportunities. My knee-jerk reaction was to say, “Don’t work with your parents!” But after thinking about it a little, I realized there may be exceptions when there aren’t any other good employment options.

        1. K

          The OP said above it’s a prestigious museum; in that case, I think even in a large town there aren’t going to be comparable opportunities elsewhere (unless you’re in London or New York City).

  14. T

    I’m currently working for my dad (he’s the boss, but I’m in HR and don’t directly report to him). I’ve enjoyed wrong for him because we get along, have the same vision, etc., but we had to have a long talk ahead of time going over our working relationship. At work, he’s not my dad but my boss, and Im an employee, which means I have to treat him like I would any boss. It didn’t work for my brother because he couldnt make that work/home distinction, so it’s not for everyone, however I think working next to my dad like the OP would be too much togetherness.

  15. myswtghst

    Funny enough, I work for the same company as my father, and have done so for almost 8 years now. While I started in an entry level position and he was much higher up the chain, through the years, we have had some professional interaction / overlap, based on the projects he has worked on. Plus, he’s good friends with several of my former managers (I’ve moved roles / managers several times). There are moments which can be awkward (people have preconceived notions about me, based on knowing my father; people may assume nepotism played a role in my being hired / promoted), but it’s also been beneficial, because he’s been able to give me really useful advice / recommendations, and to help my networking.

    The best advice I can give is to go for it, if you’re really interested in the job, and then do your best to keep any interactions at work professional. Make sure you (and your father) are aware of the risks and rewards, and are on the same page. And maybe see if there is any way to get a desk which isn’t next to his. ;)

  16. Frances

    Heh. I do not work with my father, but a girl I grew up with does (we were on the same soccer team — that my dad coached — when we were seven). Before my mom got on Facebook, I knew anything I posted there would still get back to my parents because my friend would see it and might mention it to my dad.

    So you might keep that in mind, too, if your dad sees your social media postings and you are inclined to complain about your job in those forums. (Or vice versa, if your coworkers might see Twitter/FB complaints about your parents.)

  17. ExceptionToTheRule

    I worked FOR my mother a couple of summers when I was in college doing retail. I had worked for the company all through high school and worked at one of the stores in the city where I was going to college during the school year, but come the first two summers, I had to move home and there was only one store in that town. It was very, very weird and had I not need to keep working during the summer to keep my service continuous, I’d have never done it. I also don’t recommend it. She was harder on me than she was on any other employee and I couldn’t go home and complain about my boss. I was very happy when the fall semester started those two years.

    1. SCW

      My dad was the same–SO much harder on us than any other boss I’ve ever had. People think it is always a cakewalk working for family, but my dad had super high expectations and was SO much harder on us than any other boss–plus he was unrelenting with the work stuff!

  18. Ellie H.

    My experience: I work at a university where my mom is a professor. I did get the job because of her – she heard that they needed help in a particular office that she interacted with a lot, and after it was restructured I parlayed that into a different (higher up) position. I come into contact with my mom some in the course of work – she’s a member of, and used to chair, one of the committees I am the administrator for, and things like that. She’s been at the university for a long time and being able to tap her for institutional knowledge has been invaluable to me, just a huge advantage at work. I basically entered the position with a good knowledge of how the university works which I would have had to learn from scratch otherwise. I have a hyphenated last name but I only use my dad’s last name professionally so nobody who doesn’t happen to know we’re related can “tell” she’s my mom, and I kind of like it that way. On a personal note, I LOVE getting to see my mom so frequently – I often stop by her office on my way walking home from work, I can ride with her when I visit my parent’s house, she says hi to me when she has a meeting in my building, etc. If you have a good relationship it can be really nice to work with family, though I realize it’s not for everyone.

    Amusingly, right while I was typing this comment one of the deans I work for walked over and asked me for my mom’s number and if I thought she was in her office right now because she needed to ask her a question about how they handle something in her department . . .

    1. Joey

      Im not trying to be condescending. I always wonder these things because I’ve never been in the situation. Do you ever worry that you got the job because of your mom and not on your own merits? Does it matter? Do you ever feel like proving to yourself that you could succeed without your moms help?

      1. Ellie H.

        No offense taken – I absolutely got the job because of my mom and not on my own merits but not in a way that bothers me. It wasn’t a posted job that they conducted interview for, it was an ad hoc temporary position, so it wasn’t like I got hired in front of someone else due to nepotism. They needed extra help but hadn’t looked into seriously attempting to hire someone yet, and my mom let them know that I had just moved back to the area, was looking for work and had skills well suited to the position, so it was a right place right time thing. My current position which is different, but related, I feel I definitely did get on my own merits/initiative. I don’t really feel the need to prove I can succeed without my mom’s help, it’s just an added plus. It’s more like when I ask my parents for advice about some work issue (which I don’t think I do too much, probably about as much as the typical person who has a good relationship with his or her parents) she’s able to give an extra informed opinion. But my parents are both professors and I work in academic administration, so that would kind of be the case anyway.

        1. Blue Dog

          Your recognition of the realities involving your hire and your ability to deal with the issue directly in a professional way is both impressive and refreshing.

          Although she may have gotten you in the front door, the rest is up to you. Don’t let her down.

          1. Ellie H.

            Thank you! I really love my job. It’s hard work and stressful at this time of year – I’ve woken up at 4 am thinking about work almost every night for the past couple weeks – but it is so rewarding and intellectually stimulating. I really love everything about it and it makes me happy to go to work every day. I’m planning on leaving after another year or so to pursue my own graduate degree but right now I could not be happier and I am really grateful to have been given the opportunity to get my foot in the door and end up doing meaningful work I enjoy.

      2. Jamie

        I would imagine this is the kind of thing that adult children in family businesses face all the time. I work for a family business and if you meet my boss in less than 10 minutes you realize the business was lucky to have him since he could be successful anywhere.

        I think if you work with someone it’s readily apparent who is there because of nepotism and who stands on their merits – regardless of how they got in originally.

        1. Anonymous

          We have a similar issue here in which a very successful producer brought his daughter into the firm. How is she doing? Well, let’s just say Her Royal Highnesssssssss The Duchess of Windsor, York, et al is doing just nicely. Patronizing and condescending beyond belief.

        2. Anonymous

          Successful people expect privilege that might take the form of nepotism and are only upset when they are not extended that privilege, not the reverse. Only the middle class and others wring their hands in guilt and doubt over such things.

          1. Joey

            I’d be interested to see how many agree with this.

            I’ve always felt I would somehow be cheating if my parents got me an unfair advantage.

          2. Ask a Manager Post author

            I’m interested to see “middle class” defined as separate from “successful people” (and think that’s a pretty privileged viewpoint in itself!). But I’ve spoken to people from rich families (which I suspect is what you mean by “successful”) who definitely did feel uneasy about whether their career success was really their own.

          3. Jamie

            My opinion is that I would have no problem taking an opportunity based on connections or who I know – and I wouldn’t have a problem helping my kids this way.

            I wouldn’t call it nepotism due to the “without merit” portion of the definition as I wouldn’t want a job for which I was unqualified – but family or personal connections? I have no issue with that.

            The proof is in the performance.

            That said, if the perception would be an issue or if I were unable to work normally with them (as I wouldn’t be able to with my dad) that’s another thing. That would be a bad fit.

            How are we definining middle class vs successful?

  19. mel

    I would probably do it. It would be nice to have at least one familiar person around while getting a foothold in a brand new environment.

    if they have such little faith in your skills, I suppose it’s quite likely that coworkers would think you got the job because of dad (which would only really make sense if he was the hiring manager)… but if he wasn’t your dad at all, they’d come up with some other sinister hiring rumour about you otherwise, wouldn’t they?

  20. Joey

    I almost hired a co workers daughter. Except she didnt make it through processing and I retracted the offer. I’m glad I wasn’t there when daughter told mom why she never started. You could tell when it happened. Mom was super pissed all day.

    1. CoffeeLover

      What do you mean she didn’t make it through processing? Like she didn’t pass the drug/background/financial/whateverelse test? In which case, yes, that would be quiet awkward. “Sorry Jane, we didn’t hire your daughter because she was arrested for public indecency.” :P

        1. CoffeeLover

          Ouch! I thought it was common sense to gracefully pull out when your PARENT’S company asks for a background check and you know you’re not gonna make it. After which you proceed to make up a bogus reason for not continuing the process. Kids these days.

          1. K

            Eh, who knows – plenty of parents are well aware their adult children, say, smoke pot and couldn’t care less. Maybe the mother was just annoyed that her seemingly-rational workplace screens potential employees out over things like that.

            1. Joey

              Nope. Daughter dropped out of school the previous year. Mom didn’t know and had been paying all living expenses.

  21. Dang

    One small department I worked in consisted of me and two sisters (their mother worked for the same company and had a desk down the hall). I always thought it was weird. Not that they weren’t professional, but it was an awkward work environment for me.

  22. saro

    I worked at a restaurant where the owner fired his step-daughter for being late. We were all afraid of him.

      1. JL

        No kidding…I knew of a couple who worked together. While he didn’t fire his girlfriend, he was really tough on her and gave her a mediocre performance review. She ended up quitting (there were other reasons why she wanted to leave, but I’m sure this had something to do with it).
        But hey, as far as I know, they are still together.

  23. Just a Reader

    My sister works at the same company where my dad is an exec, in a quasi related department. He helped her get the job but they’re happy with her performance.

    That said, she has a rep as being favored because of Dad’s position, and worst of all, if he gets wind of difficulties pertaining to her department he goes and “helps” her by talking to people without her permission–in other words, meddling. Basically his presence undermines any reputation she would have made on her own.

    It’s been a nightmare for her on all fronts but because Dad helped her get the job, she’s got a golden handcuff thing going on too and doesn’t want to leave right now.

    Good times all around!

  24. Anon

    This is tough. I’ve seen this work out well, only in situations where child has been able to establish a good degree of independence and autonomy, financially and emotionally, prior to working together. Also, aside from what your dads colleagues may think, future employers may not take this job that seriously if its pretty evident you worked for your dad. I’m not saying its true, but it could be viewed more lightly and cause future employers to wonder if references are genuine and if you really did any substantial work. If your dad has clout with this company, even more so

    1. la fille

      I wouldn’t be working for him – he has a more senior position than the one I’m applying for, but in a different department. I don’t think anyone reports to him. There wouldn’t be any reason that future employers would know that I worked with him. If this was a job working FOR him, there’d be no question, I wouldn’t do it.

  25. BKW

    I was hired at a small company where my father worked. He had been at the company for about 15 years and was one of their top engineers. I was definitely hired because of my dad – they basically created a job for me. I was hired at a fairly low salary. There were a couple other cases in the company of relatives of existing employees being hired. I think they had mixed success with hired relatives.

    In my case it worked out quite well, I was able to prove myself and after about 3 months was given a 30% raise to bring my salary in line with what other people in similar positions at the company made. One adjustment was referring to my dad by his first name instead of “dad”.

    I worked there for about 3 years until I decided I wanted to move my career in a direction that didn’t exist in the company. I left on good terms and my dad ended up retiring from the company a few years later.

  26. Your Mileage May Vary

    What are you going to call him while at work? I assume his first name. Are you able to do that consistently without it sounding weird? It would be horrible to slip up on that. Can you imagine saying to a client, “Well, I’ll just get my dad to crunch these numbers and we’ll get back to you”?

    1. fposte

      I had a staffer whose mother worked in our department as well (which I didn’t know when I hired her) and who actually had a fair bit of work contact with her. She always very carefully referred to her mother by her first name.

    2. la fille

      This didn’t occur to me until BKW posted about it above. It would definitely feel weird but yes, I would need to call him by his first name. It would feel strange, but I think I could get used to it.

      1. FreeThinkerTX

        Be careful that you don’t get *too* used to it! My brother and my mom worked together for 6-7 years and he referred to her by her first name in the office. It was really weird for me at Thanksgiving to hear him say to her, “Marge, could you pass me the potatoes?”
        :-)

  27. Lily in NYC

    I used to work in the same office as my dad! I was already working there when they recruited him after he retired young (he is an expert in that field and my working there had nothing to do with his being hired). It worked out fabulously, but we didn’t sit on the same floor, which helped. It was great having him in the office the time I got food poisoning and another time I had to go get stitches – there’s nothing better than having dad around when you need him! The worst part? Watching female coworkers try to flirt with him (it made him very uncomfortable, let alone how gross it was for me to see). Thank god I didn’t find out until years later that one of my best friends at that job flat out told my dad she wanted to have an affair with him. I was very young and probably would not have handled it well if I had found out when it happened.

    1. Jamie

      Flirting? Yikes! Even without that involved it can be weird (although interesting usually) to see who your parents are outside of the Mom and Dad roles.

      I’m the youngest by a lot – a later in life baby – so this is my sister’s story from back in the mid-70’s. She had just graduated high school and my dad who was upper management at one of the biggest companies in the world – (I have many Good Hands awards stored away in boxes at my home :)) got her a job in the typing pool.

      To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what that even was – but she described it as this huge room where a lot of women were just typing away in kind of desk clusters.

      Anyway they were mostly younger women and they taught her this code – when someone said “SUIT!” they’d all stop talking and get back to work – heads down. (Slacking – 70’s style)

      So someone yelled SUIT and my sister looked up and said “those aren’t suits. That’s my dad and Uncle Friend of Dad.”

      She said after that the other typists totally treated her differently and weren’t as friendly. She only worked there for a couple of weeks – but that story always stuck with me because it’s so weird when people see your daddy as this important intimidating guy and to you he’s just dad.

      1. Lily in NYC

        Hi Jamie, you are so right that it was weird to find out that women found my dad attractive – especially considering most of them were only a couple of years older than I was at the time (early 20s). I can imagine the dynamic would be more difficult in your sister’s situation when dad is upper management. Even if people don’t treat you differently to your face, you just know there’s always a few gossiping behind your back saying you only got the job because of daddy. Now I want to work in a typing pool! I love to type. And, I’m going to yell “SUIT” when my boss walks by me this morning.

  28. Chase

    I worked in a student contract position in a small organization where my mum worked…one thing I haven’t seen mentioned is that if the company is really small, be aware that everyone will know you as “la fille, Your Dad’s Daughter”, and probably will have heard him tell stories about you. I found it really difficult to comfortably make a place for myself in the organization when they’d been hearing stories about me for years! It turned out fine, but it really wasn’t ideal.

  29. fposte

    I think the field makes a big difference here, because good opportunities in museums are really tough to get. If it were a law firm or something else where there are a million others, I’d say skip it, but I’d say the risk of not getting a museum job at all if you pass this one up is likely higher than the risk of your working with your dad (given that you both sound fairly sane).

  30. Jesicka309

    I’ve come to this issue before, and applied for the job. I didn’t make it past application, but I’ve had second thoughts since then.

    My dad is my biggest career coach, my career cheerleader. He’s the only one who gets what it’s like to study whilst working, to feel trapped in a role below my talents, and he actually knows what it’s like to work in an office. He’s one of the few parents who break the “don’t listen to your parents as they’re wrong” rule. I don’t know what I would do without him. To lose that relationship because I worked with him would be horrible.

    So OP, while you may think you *can* seperate work and family, maybe consider whether you actually want to lose that source of support and advice.

  31. Jill

    Ugh. I worked with my dad and I was referred to as, “Paul’s kid”, “Paul’s little girl”, “Hey kid”.

    I also got the “Oh how nice – you work with your dad! Are you going into engineering just like him?” (As if the only reason I was there was to be his protegee).

    It’s the same thing as going to the same school as your big brother/suister. It is so hard to get people to see you in your OWN light, instead of seeing you as your mommy/daddy’s shadow.

  32. WFBP

    I was laid off and having a terrible time finding a job in my industry (construction) due to the economy. There was a position that came up in the same company my dad works for (completely different industry – great, as I was burned out), and he put my resume in front of the hiring manager. I got the job – I’d say 50% because of him, and 50% based on my own merits, as this is a project management job and I had experience managing multiple projects.

    In this economy – and after 6 months of unemployement – I had absolutely no business turning something down that fit my skill set nicely, was with a great company with room to grow, and actually paid the bills! At first I was introduced to everyone as “Dad’s Daughter, My Name”, but as time has gone on, I have earned my own great reputation based on my performance and interactions with the people here. Now, I am no longer “Dad’s Daughter” but just “My Name” and stand on my own merits.

    Interestingly enough, my dad has another opportunity for me in a different part of the company, where I would be working directly with him. I have to say I am a bit nervous to work alongside him (my boss would be on Dad’s level), knowing how hard Dad will be on me, but if anything it will encourage me to perform at an even higher level, knowing that everything I do can reflect on him and the whole nepotism thing. He, too, is just a few years away from retirement. As he is one of the most highly regarded people in this company, I feel I would be foolish not to take the opportunity to learn from him and to make connections with people I would otherwise never be introduced to. Interestingly, the man I would be working for was hired by his father as well. Also, something to note about my father is that he would never consider hiring me if he didn’t feel I could do the job well.

    Yes, this might be challenging and very stressful, but in the end, I feel the benefits will far outweigh the drawbacks. I say go for it! You may not get another opportunity to work at a prestigious museum. If you can distinguish yourself, people will remember about your dad, but you will stand on your own. The fact that you’re your dad’s kid will become an amusing story to tell, should you be so inclined.

    1. myswtghst

      “At first I was introduced to everyone as ‘Dad’s Daughter, My Name'”

      I’ll never forget the first time someone referred to my father as “myswtghst’s Dad, Dad’s Name”, instead of the other way around! Thankfully, after 8 years, no one really makes a big deal anymore, unless they recognize my last name and ask if we’re related.

  33. But then I have to ask...

    OP, if you are overqualified for the job, why aren’t you focusing more on looking for different opportunities? (There might be a good reason, but it’s sounding to me that this job is just a “low hanging fruit”, since your father works there and it could be your way in.

    If you can get something more in line with the skills you have, to me it would be a better idea to pursue such opportunities. Perhaps you can come back in the future to this company, but then in a more senior position, better aligned with your skill set?

    1. la fille

      Well, when I say I’m overqualified, I mean I could do a higher-up job with no problem. But I don’t have a degree and I spent a good part of my 20s working at retail jobs and doing the things I really care about in my free time instead of concentrating on my career (I don’t really regret this, either). So generally, when I’m starting out at a new organization I have to take an admin/assistant type position and prove myself. At my last nonprofit position I started out as a temp and ended up running 2 programs and writing grants. I am starting to accumulate enough experience that my lack of a degree doesn’t matter as much, but it’s always going to matter to some degree (pun!)

      1. But then I have to ask...

        Got it — in this case, I agree that this job can open many doors for you. I think it’s worth the risks that AAM described :-). Go for it, and good luck!

  34. Hannah

    A lot of companies will set aside internships, temp jobs, etc. for the children of employees, and I think most people react neutrally to that. For me, I would take a job that a family member hooked me up with for the money or experience, but I would think twice if I was trying to advance my career in that job. It might be hard to get recognition that isn’t overshadowed by being someone’s son or daughter (or other relationship).

    My company just hired another employee’s son. I have nothing to do with either of their departments, so it doesn’t affect me, but something about the situation has rubbed me the wrong way. Whether it’s fair or not, I think people will be extra critical of you because they assume that you were hired without having to prove your abilities.

  35. XT

    I worked for a company with my sister for almost 2 years. It had its ups and its downs- we were different roles and I’m so very very glad we were b/c if I were her boss I would have had to fire her! The worst thing about this (aside from the fact that we shared an apartment as well) was when people would call ME when it concerned HER. For example, she was a no-show/late show a few different times and I would end up getting called when people wondered where she was. I either had to let them know where I thought she was- and trust me that was hard when sometimes I did have a clue and it wasn’t good (her poor judgements later earned her a demotion, unplanned pregnancy, an arrest…to make the stories short) but I was always really irritated that they contacted me for HER issues. After she calmed down a bit and we thankfully ended up having management that was unaware of past issues, we worked together very well. She would help me make sales, we would help each other with projects and it was nice to have some camaraderie. So I definitely think that it depends on the situation and relationship, and what kind of role each of you would have in the company.

    1. Lindsay

      When I worked with my SO we always made it clear that we were not going to be involved in the other’s work or problems – if someone had a problem with him they could talk to him, if they wanted to know where I was on a project they could talk to me. After being told a few times that we wouldn’t speak for each other people got it and it led to a lot fewer issues or awkward situations in the long run.

  36. la fille

    Oh, in case anyone was wondering, I did apply. If they decide to consider me, I’ll think long and hard about the final decision and take everyone’s advice into consideration when the time comes.

  37. AG

    At my last company, the CEO’s son was an employee and it didn’t seem like a big deal. He started there before me so I don’t know what it was like when he first started but he came across as very competent, and right before I left he was promoted to a position that I had direct contact with, and I was very impressed with his performance. I’m sure he got hired initially because of who he was but that’s not why he moved up.

    Come to think of it, we had a fair number of family members at that company. As dysfunctional as a company as it was overall, the family-member aspect wasn’t a problem. My boss got married to someone he had initially met at an industry conference and had a long distance relationship with, and when she moved to be with him it made sense that she would work for us because it’s a fairly small industry. She is very smart and capable and great at her job, and they had very little professional interaction, so it was fine. I do know that she felt insecure about being hired only because she was his wife, but nobody else felt like that.

    One girl in my department was the daughter-in-law of a longtime employee, and I think it was more a problem for her than any of us. Her MIL is very nosy (and was the scheduling coordinator so she knew a lot of people’s business) and I think that was difficult for *her*, but she was a good employee. It was her first real job so there was some of that adjustment as she matured but that is true of many young people.

  38. Elizabeth

    I wonder why this works so well and is so common in some fields, and so uncommon and discouraged in others.

    Academia has already been pointed out- spousal hires are normal, and a good portion of employees at universities are married to other employees.

    Then there are family partnerships, like contracting companies, law firms, plumbers, etc. As far as I know, it’s fairly common to hire family members into these kinds of arrangements. (How many construction companies are called Joe Shmoe and Sons?).

    1. Jamie

      For some reason it’s really common in manufacturing as well. A lot of manufacturing SMBs are family owned – so I think there is less reticence in hiring family members of employees.

      I’ve been in meetings of > 10 people where I was the only one not related to someone else in the room.

    2. Liz T

      Well in academia, people often move for the job–and their spouses need work, too. If they’re professors, they also probably spent their courtin’ years in grad school with other future professors, so it makes sense that they’d end up married to colleagues.

      1. Anonymous

        Sure, the faculty and higher level admins tend to move for academic jobs, but a lot of the staff (janitorial, food service, secretaries) are local, so the moving for a job doesn’t entirely explain the prevalence of relatives working for the same institution. It may just be that for a lot of places that an university is one of the largest employers in a given area, and given that universities aren’t (usually) subject to things like bankruptcy or downsizining, they’re usually a more stable employer too, so people are more interested in working there.

  39. KS

    I work at a family owned and operated business. It’s pretty easy to spot the family members, they all have VP titles–start the day at 11, take a 3 hour lunch and leave at 4.

  40. Jessica

    Just don’t. I was in nearly the same situation except my dad is in a manager position in the same building. Him and my manager talk about everything it turns out. I found that out because my mom was hounding me about my job performance and I put two and two together. Unless you like having your parents in your business 24/7 just don’t. The only reason I stay is for the money- and I’m looking elsewhere believe me. I’ve never felt more insulted as a highly competent 27 year old woman than when my mommy was telling me to do my job better. Hopefully I find something soon. This situation is a nightmare.

  41. jennifer

    I get paid really well at my father’s business. It is just him, my brother and I. He is a control freak and is super critical. I do a great job but rarely hear any appreciation. I have also seen and heard him do many things that have upset me and made me think less of him. So, be prepared for it to possibly have an impact on your relationship. When you see each other every day and if you work FOR him, it could change.

  42. Annon

    I get paid really well at my father’s business. It is just him, my brother and I. He is a control freak and is super critical. I do a great job but rarely hear any appreciation. I have also seen and heard him do many things that have upset me and made me think less of him. So, be prepared for it to possibly have an impact on your relationship. When you see each other every day and if you work FOR him, it could change.

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