Firing a Family Member

Hiring a family member to work in your business offers some true benefits; you have someone on the team you can trust, you’ll get to work with someone you know well and even keep parents or other relatives happy in the process. Sometimes, though, the new hire just doesn’t work out – and you are forced to choose between working with someone who is not pulling his own weight or having a cringe-worthy conversation. Firing a family member is always going to be awkward, but there are some ways to make things easier on you both.

Firing a Family Member

Whether your family member hire stops taking the job seriously because of your connection, simply doesn’t have the skills for the job or even causes strife with your team, the only option may be to let them go. Firing someone is never easy, but firing a family member you’ll still have to see at least occasionally adds a layer of complexity and awkwardness to the process.

  • Take Preventative Measures: If you are just in the considering stage, make sure that the family member you are intending to hire truly has the skills to do the job. If they are having trouble finding work because of their existing skill set or personality, they may have difficulty from the start. Hire only those family members who are fully qualified for the job and you’ll be far less likely to have problems or need to terminate them later.
  • Outline Expectations: You should have a written job description and list of criteria for each employee; a family member is no exception. If you did not come up with a list of your expectations and how you will measure success, your family member could be floundering. Providing a clear outline of what you expect gives your niece, sister-in-law or cousin a blueprint to follow and makes it easier for you to measure their success in an objective way.
  • Provide Feedback: Don’t fire your family member out of the blue. The firing should come after you’ve let them know what you expect and outlined what areas you think they need to work on. Be as objective but specific as possible. If you still must fire them, they will not be surprised when it happens. Bring along a trusted HR supervisor or the family member’s manager with you to make sure your conversation is documented and that you have support.
  • Don’t be Vague: Dropping hints that things are not working and hoping that your nephew will quit won’t work; you’ll need to specifically address the issue.
  • Give Them Time: After the feedback session, give your family member a few weeks to show signs of improvement; if there is no change (or a change for the worse), you’ll at least know you gave them every chance to continue working for you.
  • Get Creative: Your cousin is just not a great salesperson, but he is very skilled at customer support; consider switching his role to one that is better suited to him could be the answer you need.
  • Provide a Reason: Why are you letting them go? Just as with any other employee you should be able to let your cousin or in-law know why you are parting ways. Be specific and objective, but prepare to spend more time discussing both the family relationship and the job performance.
  • Provide Resources: Lessen the blow by providing additional support after they have been fired; a great recommendation, and help transitioning to a new job can go a long way towards softening the impact of the firing.
  • Expect it to be Awkward: It is not going to be a fun conversation and you’ll feel even more awkward as your family finds out. If you have done everything right and things simply didn’t work out, it is time to move on.

Even though firing a family member is not going to be the highlight of your year, getting it over with and moving on will allow you to move on. If you’ve done everything you can to make things work, your relationship will heal over time and you’ll be able to get back to business as usual.

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