“I love you, but you’re fired.”
Those are not words any of us ever want to say to a family member, but when we employ our relatives in our businesses, it’s a situation we may someday face.
How do you fire someone you love?
Recognizing when a family member is bad for business:
If you’ve worked in a family owned business you may have, at some time, wished that the owners took better care of the business by getting rid of a family member.
At one time, I worked for a business in which the wife terrorized most of the staff. Whenever she was present, morale plummeted as she yelled, pouted, and threw fits. Her husband’s inability to deal with the situation harmed the business and cost him good employees.
Start by hiring family the right way:
When you hire family, start out by setting expectations.
Establish policies for how family will be hired, supervised, promoted, compensated, evaluated, disciplined, and terminated. If everyone understands this upfront, it will make it much easier if, and when, it needs to be done.
Family members have the same employment protections as other workers:
If you do find that you have to terminate a family member, keep in mind that they retain all of the protections the law provides to any employee.
You can’t fire dad because he’s just getting old and you’d like someone younger in that job. And you can’t fire your sister because she’s pregnant and you’re worried that she shouldn’t be lifting boxes right now. You’ll get yourself in trouble for firing your brother because you don’t like the religious choices he’s making.
Sometimes, firing family matters can cross the border into illegal territories!
Minimizing drama when firing a relative:
Letting a family member go has a lot of potential for drama within the family itself.
Be very honest and upfront with your employee, so they have complete understanding of the circumstances. Hopefully, you’ve given them feedback all along the way, so this isn’t a surprise to them.
Remain professional and give them the opportunity to process the information. Don’t engage in an argument.
Because this is family, your employee will likely have a comfort level that enables them to say things another employee might hold back. Let them vent and process, while you remain cordial and hold your ground.
Remember that once the event passes, you will still be family.
Take the sting out of firing a family member:
If you do end up letting a family member go, there’s no reason that you can’t be kind and generous with them. After all, they are family.
You may want to give them a generous severance package, or put them on paid leave to tide them over until they find a new job. Perhaps you have a business friend who is hiring that you can refer them to.
Although it didn’t work in your business, you can still offer them support and encouragement for their career.
The repercussions of hiring & firing a family member:
One risk with hiring family members is the repercussions within the entire family if things don’t work out. For example, if you fire your son-in-law, will your daughter still speak to you, and will you still get to see your grandkids?
These concerns may be good reasons to not hire family members in the first place. And they may give you an incentive to work harder to find ways to make it work out with your son-in-law on the job.
Having a frank discussion with all of the concerned family members before you make the hiring decision, setting up appropriate expectations, and having continuous, honest dialogue is essential for your family’s success at work and at home.