Is It OK To Hire Your Child? Why Nepotism Hurts and Helps
The recent news of the university admissions scandal perhaps has many amazed how some students with a career already laid out can skip classes for a trip to Fiji.
But for the rest of us, helping out a relative—whether that is a son, daughter or cousin—with an internship, recommendation or entry level position is a family requirement.
The family business does not have to be as nefarious as “The Family Business” TV series where a car dealership run by family is more than a car dealership run by family.
My father inherited his automotive parts manufacturing company from his father, and my one of my brothers has been at the helm since our father’s death in 1988. His two grown daughters and one son have no interest in being a part of the company. So sometimes a legacy is not automatic.
According to the Guardian, “The Survey of Income and Program Participation of the Census Bureau found that by the time they’re 30, about 22 percent of sons will be working for the same employer at the same time as their fathers. The same study found that only 13 percent of daughters work at the same place as their dads by the time they’re 30.”
Many early career workers get help from fam. A “ recent study by the Debrett’s Foundationfound seven in every 10 young people aged 16-25 use family connections to get their first job,” writes Charlotte Seager in The Guardian.
Legacy in the workplace can be good or bad.
“Sons or daughters at family firms may rotate through a number of positions to learn the business, applying what they learned at previous companies. Other employees understand and accept the family succession objective of the owner — the continuation of the family firm by the next generation,” writes Stan Silverman in BizJournals.
“At public and larger private companies, no such succession objective exists. The objective of these companies is to hire the very best people so the company can effectively compete with what are in many cases world-class competitors,” he writes.
According to Silverman, “Where nepotism at these public and private companies can be problematic is in its potential to undermine morale and perhaps inhibit the best from rising to the top. Nepotism at these companies could raise conflict-of-interest issues, have a toxic impact on the workforce, and ultimately affect the company’s performance.”
When the expectation is that the culture is a meritocracy, to have constant reminders that the family last name is a permission slip to do as little as possible without consequence, it can make workers not feel incentivized to work hard and perform. If performance is not rewarded fairly, people will stop caring.
But it is also possible that if an ambitious relative is doing his or best to make the most of a granted opportunity, it could possibly serve as a link to leadership and a way to unite the organization. Everyone understands the urge to help out a deserving relative. And if as a summer intern, the CEO’s daughter turns out to be creative, innovative and productive, then everyone benefits.
Here are tips from leaders on making the most of hiring in the family way.
No starting from scratch. “Avoid creating positions for family members: Though it may seem like a nice gesture, most experts agree that creating a position just to bring on a family member is a bad idea. Doing so can cause a variety of issues, including ones that can negatively impact everything from your bottom line to your employee morale,” writes Jennifer Lobb in Nav.
Treat everyone the same. “It’s easy to want to appease a family member or make changes that better accommodate your relationship, but doing so can quickly turn into nepotism, create an expected pattern of behavior, and lead to further issues down the road. Family members should be expected to adhere to the universal rules of the workplace, including those that regulate training, promotions, and disciplinary actions,” Lobb writes.
Make sure the family business is not the only experience. “We have a rule here, they each are allowed to do one summer internship here, but they have to get a job somewhere else. They have to have their own experience outside the family business.” Marina DiDomenico, co-founder of Amora, tells Take The Lead.
Be transparent. Communicate clearly that the person you hire needs to step up. Whether or not you are related to the people you hire, you need to do your best to communicate that you expect the best from everyone and that communicating about challenges is critical. “It is important to know yourself and your strengths and weaknesses. It is equally, if not more important, to take risks and seize new opportunities. Your path to leadership may change over time but each experience along the way will make you a stronger person,” says Marygrace Sexton, CEO of Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Co., where she employs her brothers and her daughters.
If you have the opportunity to help out a family member, most of us will. But remember to be ethical at all costs and to have the same standards apply to every employee at every level of the organization. If you do so, you will not be inheriting a disaster, but rather, creating a legacy of leadership for generations.
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