update: should I take a job working for my dad?

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer wondering whether to take a job working for her father? Here’s the update.

First of all, thanks for answering my initial letter! Your response and the comments on the post gave me a lot to think about–I actually went through the post/comments and made a long list of things I hadn’t thought about. It definitely made me reconsider how quick I was to jump on this job offer, and I spent several days hashing out those concerns with my family. However, after all that consideration, I still took the job–and the good news it, so far (6 months in) it has been a great decision!

Some of the concerns, e.g. about other employees being resentful of me as the boss’s kid, weren’t relevant because I neglected to mention that most of the other employees are family members as well, and one of my siblings has worked successfully for the company before, too. It is true that moving on to another job after this is probably going to be tricky, but I’ll just have to cross that bridge if and when I get to it (hopefully I won’t have to send another update a few years from now complaining about how hard it is to get a new job!). I’ve really enjoyed learning a new skill set, and I LOVE the flexibility of working from home. My work-life balance is incredible now, and I actually look forward to sitting down to work every day.

There are some downsides, I won’t deny that–it’s kind of awkward to ask for time off, since we don’t have an official PTO policy, so I’m very wary of abusing the flexibility, and there are times outside of working hours when I have to clarify with my dad whether he’s talking to me as an employee or as his daughter. To anyone else in a similar situation, I definitely don’t want to downplay the negative factors Alison and the commenters raised! There were more potential pitfalls than I initially considered, and it’s something I’d advise others to be extremely careful about. But I’m very happy to report that this was the right decision for me, and it’s been wonderful so far!

Thank you again!

{ 23 comments… read them below }

  1. Kheldarson*

    She’s got an incredibly lucky set up here! Good that she approached it seriously with all of the pros and cons though.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      In my opinion, her bringing up potential cons with her family to hash them out raises her professional reliability with me — and probably them.
      Good job OP!

  2. Mophie*

    In the end, it’s too easy to take the job with family, rather than strike out on your own. It’s why so many people do it. It’s great for those lucky enough to have that opportunity…

    1. J!*

      This seems unnecessarily judgy towards the letter writer, who may be fortunate to have an “easy” opportunity but is being really honest about the drawbacks of working with family and gave this update to thank the commenters/community for bringing up stuff they hadn’t considered.

        1. Silly Janet*

          Working for a family company is absolutely not the easy way out in many cases. My husband works with his family, and he works 6 days a week, 10 hour days, has no health insurance and no official PTO. The only reason he ever goes anywhere is because he is married to me. And yes, he is looking to get out of it, but that is tricky.

      1. Mollie*

        It really depends on the work ethic of the parent who hires theirkids, too. I was able to work at my dad’s company because he was the second in command, but he (figuratively) kicked my ass when I screwed up and I learned some very valuable work lessons under him. I also won’t deny I was very lucky to have that kind of opportunity.

        Meanwhile the CEO’s kids “worked” there but were lazy no-shows who got company cars.

      2. Mophie*

        It wasn’t my intent to be judgy. I was just pointing out that the person wrote in, asking for advice and every bit of advice she got from Alison was to unequivocally not take the job. The fact that she took it just speaks to how attractive the opportunities actually are. and how hard they are to turn down.

        1. Fikly*

          I’m not sure what you mean by easy – do you mean that the LW was guaranteed a job, so they went for it despite the drawbacks? Or do you mean that the perks of working for family mean it’s easy?

          I don’t think either is true. They seem to have weighed the potential negatives and positives of working for their father, and decided to try it. That’s what we all should do with all potential jobs. Deciding the benefits outweigh the costs doesn’t mean something is easy.

    2. MeepMeep*

      There are no points given for difficulty in one’s job search. If the LW is fortunate enough to have an “easy” job given to them, there’s really no need to refuse it so that one can experience a “striking out on one’s own” job search in all its glory.

    3. Kes*

      I think it’s not even just that it’s so easy to get a job with family, as much as that it can be so hard to get a job without connections, especially for ‘foot in the door’ starter positions when changing careers as OP is, or when starting out, as I was when I took a job working for my dad. It was a bit awkward at times, I won’t lie, but at the same time I got the initial work experience I needed to enable me to get other jobs, and overall it has worked out fine for me. If I had been as easily able to get a different entry position in the work I was looking for, I definitely would have taken that instead, but since I hadn’t been able to previously and wasn’t sure how long it would take me, taking my dad’s offer kind of was the best option for me at the time.

  3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Is there any way you could nudge your father into instating a PTO policy? That’s my only 2c really.

    Otherwise I say I’m glad it worked out for you. I’m pro-family businesses because I’ve only seen functional ones. My old bosses weren’t afraid to fire their kids and were strict about “you listen to the managers, I don’t care if you’re my kid, you listen to your boss, that’s the people I appointed, etc.”

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      You are very lucky, because I have seen my share of dysfunctional ones. That said, treating a family company like the real company that it is and instating a PTO policy—and making sure it applies to everyone—is an excellent idea. This may be why my experience has usually been a dumpster fire: because it’s more family than company, and if you’re not family, you’re an interloper in the family.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        My luck comes from my position really. I come in in a position of power, despite ultimately answering to the owner. Nobody who’s that dysfunctional would ever let my attitude and background in the door for the most part ;)

        My bosses have mostly been independently minded and fought for what they have. They take good care of their families but don’t want to jeopardize what they’ve built to just hand it to anyone just because they were born into it, etc.

  4. Pants*

    Happy that it’s working out! Perhaps when navigating the employee/daughter divide, you could ask him if it’s Bob or Dad talking? (Maybe sub in your dad’s first name if it’s not Bob or he’ll probably look at you funny.) It’s how I navigated doing side projects for my mom in high school. “Wait, who am I talking to? Mom or Khaleesi?” It helped out a lot.

    1. Beancounter*

      When I worked with my husband, when he talked shop at home, I’d let him finish one point and then say, “Thank you Mr. Smith, I’d like my husband back now.”

  5. Silly Janet*

    Working for a family company is absolutely not the easy way out in many cases. My husband works with his family, and he works 6 days a week, 10 hour days, has no health insurance and no official PTO. The only reason he ever goes anywhere is because he is married to me. And yes, he is looking to get out of it, but that is tricky.

  6. Tabby Baltimore*

    There were more potential pitfalls than I initially considered…

    If the OP has time, I’d appreciate it if s/he would come back and mention what those additional pitfalls–that s/he hadn’t initially considered–were.

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