should I hire family members for my new business?

A reader writes:

I run a popular website and have decided to expand my business by getting office space and taking on two employees. I have never managed anyone in my career, so I know this is going to be a challenge. I am looking to hire someone in a digital marketing role, full-time, and an administrator for two hours per day.

My sister-in-law has got in touch asking if I would hire her for this admin role, and my gut reaction is “NOPE” (not because of her in particular, just because of the thought of hiring family in general). I’m at a loss as to how to reply to her, and wondering whether I am right or not.

I answer this question — and three others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • My employees come in late and blow off meetings
  • Calling candidates without warning for surprise phone interviews
  • Catching up on emails and explaining why I dropped the ball

{ 97 comments… read them below }

  1. Aggresuko*

    Not if your family member is going to be difficult, no.

    I know one family business that a friend of mine works in (his mother owns it, his dad does the tech stuff) and that’s a business where everyone seems chill, nice and sane. But a lot of other family businesses…I dunno there. I’d be a bit concerned.

    1. SixTigers*

      I’ve seen both kinds, and when it was good, it was very very good and when it was bad it was horrid.

      My ‘favorite’ was when the husband and wife would stand at either end of the store and scream at each other. I knew a LOT more about their marriage, and about their individual weaknesses and failings than I EVER wanted to know.

    2. JustaTech*

      Even if the family member isn’t going to be difficult, it can still be hard. My in-laws have owned a business together forever (my FIL very much runs it and my MIL has always taken a support role) and even with their well-defined roles and spheres, it can still be really hard on both of them when business isn’t going well, or one person has a bad day at the office because they *can’t* just leave it at work and vent over dinner.

      Before my FIL started his business he worked for his brother-in-law, and one day the BIL just decided he hated my FIL and fired him in such a spectacular way that the entire community assumed that my FIL must have done something completely terrible, and it took him years to repair all the relationships.

      Then there are all the times when the expectations of a good business owner are in conflict with the expectations of a supportive family member (giving one more chance to an employee who just can’t do the job, for example).

    1. Drago Cucina*

      Yeah, my gut instinct is not to do business with friends and family. Because if there is ever a problem there is no good way to handle. Few people can keep work and family/friendship separate.
      In my work I’ve had problems when someone we’re doing business with is close friends with a board member. I’ve never been allowed to address the problem in the way it should because of those relationships. They other person really messes up and I have to fix it rather than holding them accountable.

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        And you’re not getting a good look at who else you could get — unless you have deep knowledge of the current candidate pool and of the family member’s ranking within it, there’s a good chance that you’ll miss out on other very good candidates.

    2. Snark*

      Yes. Never hire anyone you’d hesitate to fire on the basis of non-business/professional considerations. You cannot effectively manage someone who you’d be afraid to face at the next family reunion, or who you’d be tempted to manage more or less leniently on the basis of their relationship to you.

      1. Reluctant Mezzo*

        Besides, if you hire anyone besides family and friends, they *will* feel like the red-headed stepchild. Been there, done that (I was let go in an office and the daughter kept. Little did the father know just how little work she actually did, but hey, he found out–and the office closed about a year later).

    3. Velawciraptor*

      And there’s a way to make it about OP to spare SIL’s feelings. Alison’s script is a great start, but OP could also add in “I know that as a new manager, I’m going to have some growing pains as I learn that new role. I don’t want to use you as the lab rat I learn how to manage on. Our relationship means too much to me for that.”

    4. Artemesia*

      As a new manager it is particularly disastrous to have to learn management by managing a family member. Possibly if you were an old hand and well established you could risk it, although a no family policy is not a bad idea. But the way to handle it is exactly as Alison suggested –‘it is a policy you have — you feel strongly about it’ — end of discussion. It is like lending a car. Hard to say ‘no’ to a friend, but easier if you can say ‘oh I never lend my car.’ ‘Oh I never attend sales parties, but thanks for asking.’ rinse and repeat for other things you never want to do — make it a firm policy and don’t explain yourself.

    5. P*

      I agree. I think it’s telling that the first reaction was NOPE. If the SIL was a real sweetheart and you knew she was competent then that would not be my reaction to the idea. There’s something there that the OP recognises as making it a bad idea even if they weren’t related and even if they can’t articulate it.

  2. tamarak & fireweed*

    A lot of people are probably in the situation of LW1 – and it’s hard to stay firm. Maybe supplying the sister-in-law with some literature about how working *for* family can be a minefield can help.

    The reason I’m commenting: The LW recognizes their inexperience in managing people. I have a hard time overstating how much I benefitted from being sent to training by my (otherwise quite mediocre, ups-and-downs type) employer as soon as I had a team to lead. The LW’s local small business development people (could be run by the local government, state, non-profits, even chamber of commerce) are likely to have low-cost or free resources to help with that, as may a local community college. It’s really really worth it.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      Sending literature seems a bit over the top to me.
      I also feel like it provides an opportunity for them to explain why they’d be an exception and what the literature describes would NEVER happen with them.

      I’d simply frame it as valuing the relationship too much to risk hurting it by bringing business into it.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I think the lit will help OP shut down the JADE arguments from SIL.
        “I read it all in this and know I’m not the person to manage family or friends. But I appreciate the offer.”

      2. Artemesia*

        This — the more explaining the lamer it becomes. Make it your policy and be done with it. There is no argument for ‘I have a firm policy against hiring friends and family.’

        I know two people who nearly lost small businesses due to embezzlement. One was a relative and the other was a close friend.

    2. anonymous73*

      It may be difficult to be firm but it needs to happen. “I want to keep personal and business separate” is a perfectly reasonable explanation for saying no. If she pushes, “I’ve explained my position and I’m not going to change my mind.” If you can’t set boundaries with family, good luck setting boundaries with future employees.

    3. Reluctant Mezzo*

      “I might be tempted to pay you less than you’re worth because you’re family and I know you’d put up with it for a while”–that’s one possible script.

  3. KHB*

    Q2: The level of these employees’ disrespect makes me wonder if there’s something deeper going on. Did they apply for the management role themselves, and they resent you because you got it? Did their previous manager have a very different management style (e.g., with a lot fewer meetings) so now they’re bristling against the way you want to do things?

    Blowing off meetings is a big deal, but I suspect this problem might not be fixable without first understanding why they’re doing it.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I wonder if the office has come to just function around the LW? Which could have a variety of backstories.

      The worry that stating basic work expectations will be passive aggressive is just really unusual. I can’t picture a functional office/management system where this came about.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        This jumped out to me. I expected the question to be “how do I set expectations?” How do I not sound passive-aggressive reads like, “I don’t want to come out and say, stop doing this. I want to suggest they stop doing this in a way that makes them stop doing it, but not be mad about it.”

        1. Artemesia*

          Yes giant red flag. It shouldn’t sound passive aggressive because it should be very frank — blunt even. No suggestions or hint; clear message of expectations and concern about why they aren’t being met.

    2. soontoberetired*

      oh, I’ve worked with people who consistently ignored meetings and came and left as they pleased because they were used to managing managers instead of a manager managing them. they were long term employees that the managers felt they couldn’t hold to the same standards as everyone else. The managers should have, these long term employees weren’t that special, they just convinced management they were. The rest of us did not agree, and I had many conversations with the managers in question about all of the behavior they let these employees get away with, that they wouldn’t let others get away with.

  4. Richard Hershberger*

    Hiring family: A few years ago my church’s secretary position was vacant. We hired a longtime member, who is related to one of the big families in the congregation. I was concerned. It worked out fine. Better than fine, actually. She already knew everybody and how things worked, and turned out to be excellent. But Zounds, the potential for it to go very, very bad was huge! The problem is the same in both cases: What if you decide you need to fire this person? It can work, but I wouldn’t take the risk, were it up to me.

    1. Scandinavian Vacationer*

      Another perspective: this could possibly work, with caveats built in ahead of time. Especially since LW wants 2 hours/day for administrator role (not easy to fill, I suspect), sis-in-law could fill in for a temp period (say 3 months) and then re-evaluate and/or post for external candidates. In general, yes, hiring family is fraught, but with a slow ramping up period, it could work. Depends what LW knows/thinks of relative + her work style. Could be after intro period, LW will realize more hours/difference skills are needed for this role.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Ooh yes, that’s a big what-if!

      Once long ago, I interviewed for an admin position with a church that specified it did NOT want members working in the office, for exactly that reason. If they had to let the person go, they didn’t want it to turn into a mess with them showing up to services on Sunday. I don’t know if they’d tried it previously and it went very wrong, or if they enacted that policy from the beginning, but they were pretty firm on it.

      I think if your gut is telling you it’s a bad idea, you should pay attention to it.

      1. saf*

        It’s a good policy.

        I fell into a church job (had just been laid off, long-time admin had retired, and we desperately needed an admin NOW. I have a nonprofit management background.) It has worked out, but when we revised the description, I made sure it read non-member, and I think that is very important. Whoever comes after me will not be a member.

      2. Heffalump*

        I remember you mentioning that in the comments on Alison’s “You can’t be held hostage to a bad employee” post.

      3. EmmaPoet*

        I know a local synagogue who have had that policy for decades, and it’s saved them from massive drama. If you have to fired Beloved Member, then prepare for disaster. If you have to fire Employee X, at least they don’t show up for services that Friday night.

      4. Ann Nonymous*

        I took over an office manager person from a member of the congregation who had filled the role for many years. She practically ran out with her hair on fire! Everyone has seen the wisdom of having me, who is not a member or attendee of the church, in the position…no more hard feelings or awkwardness.

  5. Richard Hershberger*

    Impromptu interviews: For my current job, I received the initial call in response to my resume while I was in the recovery room with my wife and newborn. A full phone interview would not have gone well. Fortunately, my boss being a reasonable person, we have a very brief conversation setting up a longer one a bit later.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Honestly, a life-long Pavlovian response to the telephone. I still find not answering a call very challenging. I now have a phone with the swipe-left option. This helps, but my automatic response still is to answer the call.

    1. anonymous73*

      Getting an unscheduled phone call in response to an application you submitted is normal. Not answering the phone when you’re unavailable is also normal. Making an unscheduled call for an on the spot interview is not normal and not okay.

  6. CatCat*

    I once was a candidate subjected to a surprise phone interview.

    It went about as well as one would expect for an interview on a cell phone with spotty service as I sat in my rental car at a gas station in an unfamiliar area after being on the road for hours with more drive time ahead of me.

  7. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    Phone interviews: So, if the person screens their call they get to prepare themselves for a scheduled phone interview (or at least one they know they’re going to have) vs the people who answer the phone and are suddenly required to do a full and technical interview on the spot?

    Not a fair process at all, and not likely to get decent results.

    1. Dancing Donkey*

      This is what jumped out at me. The hiring manager is treating candidates differently based on whether they pick up the phone or not! That’s a terrible practice on top of the already-terrible practice of cold-call phone screens, and it means he isn’t evaluating people equally, so he can’t make good comparisons between different candidates.

      1. Melicious*

        Yes yes yes! This manager is screening for people who either screen their calls or perform well under no-notice pressure. That’s what’s being evaluated here, far more than the actual answers to the interview questions. I perform terribly when put on the spot with no notice! Fortunately, my job does not require this, so pay me the courtesy of preparing for your call!

    2. anonymous73*

      It is okay to say no if asked for an on the spot interview. This has nothing to do with fairness. This has to do with someone who is severely out of touch with what’s okay in the professional world.

  8. And why did you apply?*

    As someone who has gotten cold calls for interviews, they can be quite off-putting.

    “So what about this job did you find interesting?”
    “What skills do you bring?”

    Great for a standard interview, but I applied to 20 jobs last week and looked at even more, your job and company had no red flags, so I decided to apply. Since I didn’t have prep time to review the job, I can’t really say.

    If you are going to do this, you need to drop the open ended question and ask direct questions.
    “Tell me about your SQL experience.”
    “Tell me about your leadership experience.”
    “Tell me about your experience with llama grooming.”

    1. LT*

      Ugh agreed, they should not use questions one would have to prepare for like that. Even if you applied to 1 job, I would not expect someone to have done that much research yet.
      When I first reach out for phone screenings, I explain about the organization and what I am looking for in the role we’re hiring for. Gives them more information to prepare for a full interview.

  9. ArtK*

    I’m wondering what the cold-call interviewers think that they are getting from this, vs setting up a time and letting a candidate be prepared.

      1. SweetestCin*

        Gonna roll with a lot of recruiters not liking my version of authenticity under these circumstances.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, I’ll give you authenticity, while I’m trying to answer your questions in Walmart with somebody’s toddler having a screaming fit in the background.

        1. irene adler*

          All the while, I’d be tempted to move the phone closer to the toddler fussing. Lots closer. Hearing damage closer.

          1. SweetestCin*

            I *might* hand my phone to said toddler in a heroic attempt to calm said toddler ::wicked grin::

      3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        my mind read that first as “authority” and I think my mind might be correct.

    1. irene adler*

      Maybe they think they can suss out those who might otherwise try to bluff their way through the interview by boning up on the knowledge called for in the job ad.
      Cuz we’re all cheaters, right?

    2. Antilles*

      Most likely, the interviewer is thinking “I have some spare time, let’s knock some calls out” and that’s the entire end of the thought process right there – nothing about the candidate’s preparation or what produces the best result, just five seconds of fitting the task in where it’s convenient for you.

      1. Miss Muffet*

        yeah, I have a feeling it’s much less malicious than we’d like to think. More just the convenience of the hiring manager.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        I strongly suspect this is it: yet another failure of abstract thinking, in this case being able to imagine the interaction from the other side.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      My first thought was that this is some management thing that is supposed to see how these people “think on their feet”, which is just a big load of llama dung, because unless your clients suddenly show up AT YOUR HOME with no warning, you go into work, you sit at your desk with your coffee and your industry resources around you, and THEN you answer phone calls or take meetings with clients! No one gets totally ambushed with questions like that in any job I’ve heard of.

    4. Nanani*

      Probably just the time savings of a few minutes of planning for that one person one time.

    5. Lady Pomona*

      Well, the cold-call-on-the-spot-interviewer is giving the cold-called-job-applicant some very valuable information about their company! Namely, that if they proceed any further with the application process that this is what they can expect to find – a company with no regard for the applicant’s / employee’s time and one that expects their people to hop to it and drop everything at the snap of the boss’s fingers. I’d find it VERY helpful to know this if I were job hunting! It’s always useful to know which companies to cross off your list before you waste any more of your time even thinking about working for them.

      Wonder if the powers that be know that this person is conducting interviews in this way? Because if they’ve got any sense at all, they’ll know that this is NOT the impression that they want their company to project if they want to hire even halfway good employees!

  10. Abby*

    Dear OP. Look at letters previously relating to hiring family members. The answer is no no no. You are simply going to introduce a problem that doesn’t need to be one. Be careful about hiring someone 2 hours per day. That is very specific. If you can manage it for full time 1-2 days it might be better. Whoever you hire don’t hire family.

    1. Snuck*

      As a person who works in a family business, with my family… I’d say “not if you can help it!”

      The reality is that you wont’ stop talking about work, even over Christmas Dinner or your kids birthday parties. Someone will say something work related and it changes your family dynamic.

      If your sister relies on this wage then you have a lot more power over her than is helpful (even at a few hours a day), it changes your dynamic too.

      Look at how you generally handle conflict in the family – you all have a conflict pattern/dynamic going – what won’t change is that. Whatever happens now to cause stress will get on your nerves at work, with the added fun bonus of spilling over into home. And her behaviour (good or bad) is predictable – what she does now is what you’ll see then.

      If your business struggles a little the admin role is probably the first to get reduced hours. It sounds like the other role brings in money and makes money for you, so you will reduce that later. You don’t want to be in the position of having to make decisions to support your sister over the need to make effective business decisions for the future strength of your company. That mental space is problematic.

  11. El l*

    Yeah, LW1, you’re right. How to explain to her – here’s my rule, for what it’s worth:

    “I have a rule: I don’t mix money with friends and family. And being a boss is money. I don’t want to have to choose between money and family – and make no mistake, it’d be only a matter of time before I had to choose. If I hit tough times and had to fire you to keep my business afloat, I wouldn’t want to be reminded of it every time I saw you at family functions. I wouldn’t want other employees wondering if you really were a good employee, or just that you were family. I don’t want to be in that position. This’ll be hard enough as it is, I just want to keep it simple.”

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      “I don’t want to have to choose between money and family” and if I do, remember how that worked for Fredo…

  12. Melicious*

    “A family emergency” doesn’t sound like making excuses unless you’re already known as a person who frequently makes excuses for dropping balls. If that’s not the case, you’re completely fine.

    1. Queen of the Introverts*

      Also it’s not making excuses if it’s actually true. All those things happening at once? Yeah, don’t feel bad for dropping the ball.

    2. Work From Homer Simpson*

      Exactly my thought. If you’re generally responsive and accountable, then people will understand when outside life interferes on occasion. It’s only if you have a track record of being flaky (whether for good reasons or not) that people might starting doubting and feeling like you’re making excuses.

      I’m wondering if since LW knows there were actually several major life events in that few week span that she thinks it might be seen as a pattern. Like she’s coming off as flaky because there were a few events over the course of a few weeks. In reality, most people won’t be paying that close of attention unless they work with you really closely. They probably just noticed you’ve been a bit absent/slow to respond lately but will think of it as one block of time/one event rather than the several events she knows it to be. I say just acknowledge it with whatever catchall you’d like (family emergency is just fine) and then get back to business. Most people will just follow your lead and move on without a second thought.

    3. Your genderqueer dad*

      I felt terrible reading this LW’s letter and hope they take the advice to heart that it really is ok to say it was a family emergency!

  13. Selina Luna*

    My parents owned a computer store together for 20 years. I worked for them for 4 years. Here is what I learned: it is a terrible idea to work for your parents, especially if you also live with them. I’m grateful I had the chance to learn how to repair and how to build computers. I’m glad I know how to destroy computer viruses… in anything older than Windows 10. I’m very glad I graduated from college with zero debt (because my parents paid for my tuition 100% out of my wages, which is also why I graduated with no savings). And in addition to all that, I will never work for my parents again. My dad is a nightmare boss. My mom is a complete wet blanket.
    Will everyone’s experience be like mine? No, I like my parents. Many people do not like their parents, so their experiences will be worse than mine.

  14. I Need a 9 Hour Nap*

    For LW1, if the family member is already pushing back against a business decision and they haven’t even been hired, I’d take it as reinforcing the importance of not hiring family.

    1. Cruciatus*

      I was basically typing up that exact thing when I saw your post. I hope she takes it well! But if she doesn’t then…confirmation that it wouldn’t have worked out in an every day work environment.

    2. Alan*

      I was going to say a similar thing. If you can’t say no and have it stick, that right there is why you don’t hire family.

  15. Sad Desk Salad*

    This is a drum I continue to beat and will continue to beat (possibly also as a reminder to myself), but no one will set or enforce your boundaries for you. LW 4: please stop beating yourself up about your family emergencies. You can explain to your clients, not that you dropped a ball, but in way of acknowledgment that a delay has occurred, and that it was due to a family emergency. Anyone who gives you a hard time about not pushing through literal emergencies is not a client worth your time. I know I say that from a place of privilege that not everyone has–but as a work force we have become accustomed to giving up our lives for work, and the current climate is one ripe for change. In a situation where you do not need to do so, you have the social capital to spend to push back on such insistence. Setting and enforcing clear boundaries, such as taking the time you need for emergencies, and politely excusing yourself with your very understandable reason, is one way to do that. And I’m sorry for your loss.

    I once worked at a very toxic company, which all acknowledged was a hard one to work for. Once, my manager was on an early call in her kitchen, and her elderly dog walked into the room, promptly laid down, and died. She stayed on the call and when her teen daughter came into the kitchen, started crying, her mom/my manager SHUSHED her and told her “I’m on a call–we can’t do anything about that now, she’s already dead.” She similarly missed out on her husband’s medical emergency because she was in a meeting that already had coverage from our department.

    When I met this manager a year or so prior, she was a lovely, warm, kind person who cared about people. In a year, she was turned into a cold, unfeeling person who let the stress of work come before comforting her teenager or grieving her longtime pet. Had she drawn some boundaries early on, she might have been afforded some level of work-life balance.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      The story about the manager and the dog … and the husband. Ouch.

  16. JSN*

    I too have been the recipient of cold calling interviewing. It’s rude, inconsiderate, and a huge red flag on how the company/hiring manager views their employees’ personal time. When I’m job hunting, I apply for several companies and when someone calls me and just launches into an interview, there’s no way for me to have my notes/resume ready. I actually had an interviewer get upset with me for not being prepared when she did something like this to me, she called me unexpectedly for an interview when I was at the urgent care with my child. I didn’t even remember applying because it was about a month prior to that call. I even asked nicely if we can please reschedule for later in the day because I’m unable to talk at the moment, she got pissy and said she can’t do that and I’m unprepared for the interview. Well, I have no tolerance for that type of nonsense so she got an earful from me. I guess I was taken out of consideration after that LOL!

    Hiring managers: stop doing this! You would not like if candidates just called you to ask questions so why on earth do you feel it’s ok to just call a candidate and start asking interview questions? Do you not understand that people have lives outside of just waiting by the phone for *your* interview? It’s really not that hard to set up a time to do a proper phone interview. I know you’re busy and have other candidates but we’re also busy with families and lives and things to do. You don’t do this for in person interviews so why are you doing this for phone interviews? Have some consideration.

    1. snarkitect*

      I have to say, the idea of a hiring manager showing up at a candidate’s house for an impromptu in-person interview has me cackling right now.

  17. Family affair*

    My Uncle runs a successful business and my parents always pushed me to work for him. But I will not. My Uncle is a great dude and good business person but I am too afraid to mix business and family. If anything happens and it would divide the family, I would feel terrible!

  18. Aarti*

    I don’t understand what I am to get out of cold calling interviewees, as a manager. I really really wanted to hear a baby calling, or the grocery store, or maybe you are sitting in your car. I always schedule them.

  19. anonymous73*

    #1 Stick with your gut and don’t hire family (or friends). Tell her you want to keep your business and personal life separate. Repeat as necessary.
    #3 Unscheduled calls from recruiters after submitting an application are fine. If you can’t talk don’t answer the phone and call them back when you’re able. Unscheduled calls with an impromptu interview is not fine*. And it is perfectly acceptable to tell them that it’s not a good time to talk and to schedule something for later.
    * I do not consider a quick phone screen from a recruiter and impromptu interview, but again if you aren’t able to talk, tell them. They get it and are always (at least IME) willing to schedule a time more convenient for you.
    #4 You didn’t just have 1 family emergency, you had several and it’s perfectly okay to say that. “I apologize for not getting back to you sooner, but I’ve had a few family emergencies this last month.” It’s the truth and not an excuse.

  20. Jay*

    My first ever office job cold called me for an interview and I had literally just woken up and was still in bed. I couldn’t even remember what the company was or the position I’d applied for because I’d applied for so many! Thankfully I got it but like….. why do this haha it just stresses people out.

  21. DeeBeeDubz*

    For LW3 I would really like to know how the hiring manager responds if the candidate realizes it’s a surprise interview and pushes back. Like what if they are at the grocery store or driving and they say “I am interested but now is not a great time. Can we set a time for a longer phone call later this week?” Does that person get a scheduled interview or do they get dropped entirely?

    1. Just stoppin' by to chat*

      I have a haunch they’re dropped entirely. Hopefully I’m wrong, but I’m envisioning a hiring manager that believes in “gumption” and that everyone should be ready to interview at any time. This may be extrapolating, but maybe it’s in an industry where people apply in-person, or per the letter, the organizing is growing very quickly. So maybe these are either new hiring managers, or again, assume everyone is prioritizing their company.

      1. Ariaflame*

        Whereas true gumption is being willing to tell the hiring manager that an unscheduled interview is not appropriate or possible right now.

  22. JM in England*

    Just one phrase springs to mind when it comes to hiring family…….conflict of interests!

  23. Bean*

    For what it’s worth, i will blow off meetings that I don’t think are valuable though usually i’ll do it overtly by declining the meeting invite. Maybe take a moment to consider whether your employees find value in these meetings.

    1. Mr. Shark*

      Yes, I can understand that, but not with your manager. If your manager invites you to a meeting, you should be showing up, and on time.

  24. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    I mean, you’ll get a sense of what a relative would be like to work with based on how they react when you say you don’t want to hire family.

  25. pcake*

    I have successfully hired and managed family members and friends, but before I have considered each one, I explained that while I’m working, they aren’t family or friends to me. They’ll be treated like anyone else in the job, which means we won’t have family gossip, and they won’t get preferential treatment. I told them straight up that while I don’t want to change our relationships, they need to be aware that at work, we’ll be on a work basis – after work, we can chat as usual. One friend needed a periodic reminder of our agreement, but when reminded, she was fine with it.

    The couple of people who questioned this I chose not to hire, and that did , sadly, change our relationships. But it was obvious they weren’t going to respect my boundaries, which would have made my life harder, I’d have had to let them go, which would have changed our relationships even more and maybe affected my relationship with some others who they talked to, as well.

    1. Loremipsum*

      That seems pragmatic. If the LW thinks that the business would benefit by the SILs skills, and acknowledging it can be tough to hire employees in certain roles currently, it is worth considering her as a candidate with a caveat like this.

      Close / family relationships can prompt strong and passionate responses, which is why your gut is telling you this situation might not be ideal.

      I am glad it can work for some managers. I have known people who run businesses with family and there have been crises and differences of opinion on running things, causing some of them to leave the companies.

  26. Zephy*

    Situations like LW4 are a perfect opportunity to start replacing “sorry” with “thank you” – not “sorry for the delay,” but “thank you for your patience, I’ve been away dealing with a family emergency these past few days/weeks/etc.” None of the multiple(!) “family emergencies” this person had to handle were due to anything they personally did wrong.

    1. Alexis Rosay*

      There are a lot of cases where saying “thank you” instead of “sorry” is obnoxious, but this is actually a good occasion for it.

  27. Youngten*

    Op 2: I’m going to have to come at this even stronger than Alison did. Don’t leave room for the possibility of change by saying “I’ll let you know if anything changes.” Stick with “As a professional policy of mine, I Don’t work with family!” EVER! Like Alison said, it’s not about her as a person but about her position within your life. Usually your gut reaction is the one you need to stick with. DO NOT CAVE!!!!!!!

  28. raida7*

    You tell her that you are specifically looking to recruit this position from [service], to get their experience in defining what the important things are in a good applicant, as you have no background in recruitment.

    Also so that you have support if there’s an issue, as this person coming from an agency/headhunter it will be a lot easier to replace them or leverage (if it’s an agency) the company’s existing feedback/HR processes to deal with issues that could arise.

    So no, you are not comfortable hiring someone without the support of this service, including an existing framework *if needed* to get someone new.

    Kinds of things to define: is it a full-time admin role? Could it become part-time after a setup period? Would someone with bookkeeping be high value? Office management? Customer service? Do they need to be in-person or would a virtual assistant be practical?

    And do keep in mind that being able to hire the right person is a skill that is developed, plenty of smaller businesses go through several people in admin roles because they aren’t picking up on red flags or are looking for the wrong skills. So it isn’t just a case of “don’t work with family”, it legitimately of value to your business and to you as a manager/business owner to consider these alternatives and improving your own recruitment skillset.

  29. Mary Ellen*

    This stage of your business is what UpWork is for. Hire experienced contractors.

  30. Waving not Drowning*

    I’ve worked for a close family member before (my sister) in the little store she then owned. It was only supposed to be for a week. I’d been retrenched from my admin job, and she was looking for a casual in a hurry. Turns out, I had a flair for selling, and I ended up working for her for the next 18 months. My husband was worried about how it might potentially affect our relationship, but, it worked out really well, in fact, made our relationship stronger. She still had other team members with key responsiblities – I didn’t do the entering of stock, or the pricing of items, but I did do opening shifts. It did cause confusion with customers, because we evidently look identical to them (we are not twins, but, very close in age, and there is a very very VERY strong genetic resemblance!).

    She was devastated when the global financial crisis came and the shop was no longer viable. She said afterwards she felt awful cutting my hours (along with other staff), by the time the shop closed, I’d found another job doing admin which was a whole new minefield for me – working with one of my very close friends, and intially I didn’t want the job because I didn’t want it to impact on our (then 20 year) friendship. It was only supposed to be for 4 weeks (surprise surprise, 10 years later, and I’m still here) so I thought I could deal with it for a short period – turns out our roles didn’t really collaborate, so I didn’t have to worry about losing a longstanding friendship.

    For every couple of stories of things not working out, there are stories like mine, where it has been amazing.

  31. Justin*

    I don’t get these kinds of recruiters or managers. People aren’t sitting around waiting for you to call! It shouldn’t even need explanation.

  32. I’m the teapot*

    I’ve reached my article limit at Inc. Is there another way to read these articles?

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