When it’s a Family Affair

What was your experience employing or working with a family member in the same company you work?

I’m most interested in hearing from human resource professionals on this area who are tasked with balancing the needs of the company and that of the rest of the staff, together with now maintaining a family relationship with the said relative. As Africans, we have been raised up in a community set up where you grow up around your cousins, aunts, uncles and so on. It is therefore expected that when you ‘make it in life’, you pull up the rest of your relatives who are most likely not in the same level as you by getting them jobs or assisting them start some source of income venture. As much as this is the expectation of the society (it’s more of a psychological contract than anything else) some family members actually demand for it. After all, you are a community baby. There is a lot of pressure that comes with this responsibility however. That’s because sometimes, you getting these jobs for the said people is not based on their qualifications or ability to deliver but on the mere fact that you are related.

So what happens when you succeed? There are a variety of outcomes here. Either the kin will put in their best and advance themselves or some will look at it as a favor they are doing to you and as a result use your personal relationship with them to their advantage every chance they can.

When you choose to work with your relative in an organization, especially that company that you do not own, it is important to maintain a certain level of professionalism especially at work. When you are the HRM for that company, the pressure to maintain the same doubles. That’s because every move you make for or against the relative is closely watched by the rest of the team. There is bound to be allegations of favoritism even in instances where non exist. On the other hand, your kin might also decide not to make it very easy for you by continuously behaving in a manner that takes advantage of that relationship or by simply just embarrassing you with their actions.

In HR practice, there may be instances where you are required to take disciplinary action against an employee who also happens to be a relative of yours for a misconduct. Your objectivity in the process will always be in question, no matter how professional you conduct yourself. Should the case be ruled in favor of the employee, there will be accusations of favoritism from some quotas and if it is ruled against the employee, well, it could end up being a family subject of discussion on the next family gathering, a whole new disciplinary hearing for you.

There is no crime or problem in hiring or working with a relative in the same organization. However, it is very important for you to weigh the pros and cons of this decision before you make it. Aside from the fact that family relationships are generally complicated, when that complication is brought to work and mixed up with the daily work related stresses, there is bound to be fireworks. You need to be able to assess the character of the person you are looking to engage, just as you would do for a normal job seeker. In the end, whether you like it or not, once you have this kin at work and you are the HR, everything and anything they do will always be tied to you.

I therefore believe that it is not advisable to mix work with family. However, if it works for you, well and good. If you got doubts on the same, you can always seek other alternatives.

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