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Hiring family members – the do’s and don’ts (and things you definitely should avoid)

Kate Allen, Executive Chair and Marketing Director, Allen Associates

Before it becomes a reality, working with a family member may seem like an ideal scenario: finally, someone you like and trust will be on board to help the business achieve its objectives. You can’t imagine anyone better suited for the role. Yet, often that’s just the problem.

Having rushed through the hiring process to get your family member through the door, the bar is set high when they enter the workplace. From the moment they join the company, the temptation to treat them differently will be unavoidable.

Allow the lines to blur between your personal and professional relationship however, and you’ll find yourself in an incredibly uncomfortable situation. If you want this to work, there are a few things you should consider before making any hiring decisions.

Don’t overlook their qualifications

Before you bring them into the business, it’s necessary to answer some tough questions – for example, whether or not the Candidate is equipped with the skills and experience necessary to contribute to the business. They may be one of your nearest and dearest, but unfortunately, this shouldn’t be enough to get them the job. After all, you’d be unlikely to hire an under-qualified stranger.

Don’t mistake familiarity for expertise: if your family member’s CV doesn’t align with the requirements for the role, you’ll simply be setting them up to fail. If they do happen to be qualified, ensure you interview your relative in the same way you would a standard applicant.

Do set boundaries from day one

If you’ve decided to hire a family member, establishing certain ground rules will be essential in encouraging a professional working relationship from the get go. The last thing you want is to end up having one set of rules for Employees, and another set for your relative: they may have a seat at the table during Christmas dinner, but between Monday and Friday they are a regular Employee.

With this in mind, an airtight contract that defines the job scope clearly and includes non-disclosure clauses will be useful in ensuring your new hire knows where they stand, despite your history.

Don't confuse family decisions and business decisions

With the level of emotion involved, separating work and home life won’t come without its challenges. If the business is to benefit from their contribution, you mustn’t allow your judgement to be clouded by your feelings towards the individual.

If, for example, your relative starts taking a few too many Mondays off, this should be raised and addressed as it would with any other Employee. If your family member has requested time off at the same time as another Employee in their team, they shouldn’t automatically get the advantage due to their relationship with you. In any case, taking an objective view to the situation will help to prevent bias from impacting business decisions.

Do measure their success on results

Your new hire enters the workplace with an advantage: rather than starting out a complete stranger, they have an ally to show them the ropes. Nevertheless, their relationship with you does not remove the need for a probation period, nor does it take away the need to track their performance against established standards.

If you’ve made the decision to recruit a family member, be prepared to measure their success on facts and figures just like the rest of your Employees. If you’ve hired them on merit, they may live up to your expectations. If they don’t, however, this must be addressed.

Never ever bring family disputes to the workplace

There’s nothing worse than airing your dirty laundry in your place of work. It may go without saying, but a dispute with a family member concerning a personal issue should not under any circumstances take place at work, nor should feelings from this conflict be allowed to spill into either of your professional careers. Should arguments or family drama prevent either you or your family member from performing to a high standard, there’s a problem.

Not only will a public display of family drama reflect badly on your relative, it will ensure the rest of the workforce know you can’t separate home and work.  If you’re both able to let it slide for the sake of maintaining professional integrity – fine. Nothing can be plain sailing at all times, but how you handle the situation will determine the outcome of their hire.

Hiring family members is risky business, but with the right management and a mutual understanding of expectations, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t go on to succeed and help the company do the same.

Over the last 20 years, we have grown as a business to become one of the leading independent Recruitment agencies in Oxfordshire, and in 2018 have opened our first London office, to service Clients in the capital.

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