Family Businesses

Hiring Family Members

Hiring relatives is usually a recipe for disaster, especially if the relative has no relevant skills. But sometimes you have to make the best of a bad situation.

In family businesses, a common challenge is a requirement to hire relatives who you would not hire if they were not related to you.

Hiring Family Members

We are talking about your having to hire relatives who lack an aptitude for the business, and, for that matter, lack any apparent usable talent or skill.

Nonetheless, it's very tough to go up against the family pressures and not give the relative a job. There are times when you simply cannot say no.

Accept the challenge with your eyes open. It will be difficult to fire this relative even if his or her employment costs the company more than it earns. If you don't play your cards right, hiring a relative could demoralize other employees if he or she loafs on the job, avoids unpleasant tasks, takes special privileges or otherwise exhibits a poor attitude.

Training this particular relative may require extra effort, but few people are totally unskilled.

Give it your best shot to convert your relative into a valued employee. Here are a few things you should try to do:

  • Endeavor to cultivate a talent the family member possesses that will contribute to the business.
  • Provide special training.
  • Assign the relative to special projects to reduce negative contact with other employees and to provide an opportunity for developing skills.
  • Arrange for the relative to work under a nonfamily supervisor who is a top producer.

Remember, the key is to transform the untalented, minimally skilled relative into a productive employee, as quickly as possible.

If you do your job well enough, you might even be lucky enough to have another company recruit your relative away from you.

Share this article

Additional Resources for Entrepreneurs

Lists of Venture Capital and Private Equity Firms

Franchise Opportunities


Business Glossary


Conversation Board

Have any stories about hiring relatives you'd care to share? We welcome all comments, questions and suggestions.

  • Ken posted on 8/17/2010
    Is it illegal to say I will not hire a family member of another employee?
  • Ken Gaebler posted on 8/17/2010
    Ken Gaebler
    Ken, it depends on a number of factors. Are you doing this for one person on a one-time basis or is this a general anti-nepotism rule you are putting in place? Is the person otherwise qualified for the job? If you could provide more details, we can provide a better response, but the short answer is that in some instances in some states, some applications of some anti-nepotism policies have been found to be discriminatory. So, it really depends on your specifics. Although it might cost a few bucks, your best bet is to ask a local employment lawyer for their advice.
  • Kathy posted on 3/13/2011
    Is it legal to cut hours of current skilled employees to allow an opening in the schedule for a family member whom is untrained and unskilled?
  • Ken Gaebler posted on 3/14/2011
    Ken Gaebler
    Kathy, although it's extremely annoying and no doubt hurts you financially, there's nothing illegal about a family business owner hiring a relative and giving them work that would otherwise go to a non-family member.

Leave a Reply

Questions, Comments, Tips, and Advice

Email will not be posted or shared
Code Image - Please contact webmaster if you have problems seeing this image code

Problem Viewing Image? Load New Code