Too Close to Home: Hiring Is Relative

hiringSent: August 25, 3:00 p.m.
From: Karen, Founder
To: John, CEO
Subject: My Brother-in-Law


I realize we don’t have any open positions in the warehouse right now and that I’ve been asked pretty specifically not to get involved in hiring or staff decisions, but I’ve got a huge favor to ask. My brother-in-law, Kenny, is a terrific guy and is looking for a job. He’s been down on his luck for the past ten or fifteen years as he got mixed up in some shady business a while back at his previous job. He and my sister are divorced now, but I always liked Kenny, and I feel like we could really help with his re-entry into society if we offer him a job. I’ll take full responsibility for it, and the team doesn’t need to know anything about his personal life or the assault/burglary conviction. He deserves a second chance. Let’s do it.

He can start on Monday and report to Mike. I’m sure Mike will understand, and you’ll do a great job of explaining it to him.


Oh, most definitely, this is a terrific idea! You own the company and can do whatever you want. So, go for it. Jobs are hard to come by, and you’ve got plenty of them to go around, so be sure to put your friends and family at the top of the list—especially the ones that would have a hard time finding a job anywhere else. Providing jobs for your inner circle will make you feel good about yourself, secure your position as family matriarch or patriarch, and allow you to assert control over your friends and family. An important part of being a good leader is totally blurring the lines between business and personal. For you, it’s ALL business, all of the time! If you can use your friends and family to help boost your bottom line, by all means, do so.

Just like there is always a job for the hanger-on-er, there is always a job that can be created for any member of your family. The rest of your staff will be impressed by your loyalty to your family and your gigantic generous heart, particularly if your family member has no skills, relevant experience, or subject-matter expertise to contribute. If you experience any backlash from your employees, be sure to use your company values as an excuse for your decisions. For instance, if “learning” is one of your company values, you can simply explain that you’ve hired an individual with no experience to help employees learn more about things that have nothing to do with your business. “Expanding our horizons,” as they say.

If you’re hiring family members that may seem riskier than others, like Kenny, explain it away by saying you’ll take responsibility for anything that goes wrong but do everything in your power to keep any family skeletons squarely in the closet! One of the many benefits of hiring friends and family that would have a hard time finding work elsewhere is that you can pay them well below the pay grade for that position. Quid pro quo.

Your hiring managers can’t say no; it’s your company and you can do what you want. After all, hiring unqualified family and friends makes you a huge hero in your eyes. And that’s a win-win for you!


This is a tricky one, so let’s unpack it.

While there are many family-run businesses that have been well run and successful for generations, there are probably just as many that have failed as a business or caused huge fissures in the family. Those examples aside, there are private and public businesses that are not family-run and have no preconceived requirements to hire or employ members of a biological family. It’s our belief that in these businesses, hiring family and friends should be avoided at all costs. Like plague-level avoidance. It simply never works out in the long run.

More often than not, the fact that a family member or friend is available for a position seems to take precedence over their qualifications. Unless you had already instituted a work-release program in your organization, you wouldn’t hire Kenny if he was a complete stranger, so why hire Kenny since he’s family? It may be good for Kenny, but it’s not good for your company. Your duty is to the company. Regarding Kenny’s situation specifically: Please remember there are organizations and services qualified and trained to assist employees with special circumstances and needs. The ability to write a paycheck does not qualify you as an employment specialist for people with these or other types of extenuating circumstances.

On the other hand, if the family member or friend is entirely qualified for a position in your company, ask yourself these very important questions: Are they more qualified than any other candidate? Are you sure that their relation to you isn’t part of that qualification? Is it entirely based on skills and relative experience? If you still want to tell yourself that you are being objective about this decision, then continue on, but tread lightly.

Regardless of your self-perceived objectivity, your staff will most likely not feel the same. And no matter how skilled your family member or friend is, they will have to work overtime to prove themselves to a staff that suspects favoritism and nepotism. This scenario isn’t fair to anyone involved, isn’t worth the feel-good that you will temporarily receive, and in all likelihood will end up being an embarrassing blip on the employee’s résumé.

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