How to Run a Fair Organization With Family Members on Staff

This quick guide will help you stay unbiased and avoid favoritism if you have family or friends working in your business.

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How to Run a Fair Organization With Family Members on Staff

Here's what you need to know:

  • If staff members notice preferential treatment of other employees, morale and productivity suffer
  • Set clear rules and expectations for all employees early on
  • Create a clear backup plan in case your relative isn't a great fit for your staff
  • Make sure your family member is qualified to be on your staff

Let’s face it: It’s tough to be objective when it comes to family. It’s even more difficult to let them go when things aren’t working out.

We can try as hard as we can to make hiring relatives work but sometimes it just doesn’t. One of the biggest reasons hiring family members doesn’t work is nepotism.

Even when we attempt to be fair, subconscious biases and emotions can interfere in ways we may not realize. None of us are immune to this. It’s natural.

But just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it’s good practice in a professional setting. In fact, almost every case of workplace nepotism has had some kind of negative impact on the organization involved. The very nature of this kind of favoritism basically guarantees some kind of adverse result.

On 1 hand, having a family member on your team can be a dream. Your in-office relationship with your relative can strike the perfect balance between playful and professional.

But if things don’t work out, you risk putting both yourself and your relative in an emotionally painful predicament. The initial fallout can be messy. Even worse, your relationship with that family member can suffer significantly.

The importance of fairness in the workplace

As an HR manager, it is your job to ensure that every member of your organization is treated fairly. It does not matter if one of your employees is your relative. If your other team members notice preferential treatment (and they will eventually), their morale will likely suffer.

Additionally, employees who are aware of favoritism directed at their coworkers are more likely to suffer from decreased productivity. It ties into the morale aspect.

If they see that other employees are being rewarded and promoted for no reason, they won’t see the point in putting in effort. They may even leave your organization completely. And can you blame them?

Here’s the thing: Nepotism is present in many businesses. Family-run and family-owned enterprises are particularly susceptible to this staffing trend, but anyone in a management position is capable of hiring someone solely because they’re a relative.

Sadly, this favoritism often results in unfair treatment and puts unqualified individuals in positions of power. You have a say in whether or not your company operates that way.

It’s in your organization’s best interests to avoid favoring family or friends over other employees. We’ll go over some of the reasons why in the article below.

As difficult as it can seem, though, it is possible to run an organization fairly with family members on your staff. We have put together a quick guide that will help you stay unbiased and fair regardless of whether or not you have family on your staff.

Make sure family members on staff know your expectations

Setting clear expectations is vital. People get into trouble when they don’t set clear parameters or boundaries with family members they have on staff.

The tricky part of this is that standing up to family can be exceedingly stressful and upsetting. It’s not something anyone wants to have to deal with but it’s something to plan for regardless.

Sure, it is unpleasant in the moment. But the long-term problems that can come up if you don’t address this early are far worse.

Bring in other managers if you have to. Consult with people you respect and ask for their advice.

It is best if you set these expectations from the get-go. If you don’t set rules and expectations early, it will be more difficult for you to implement and enforce them down the road. That way, there is little room for misunderstandings or misinterpretations to slip through the cracks and cause problems later.

The advantages of clear messaging are far-reaching; effective communication is a skill you will need in nearly every area of your life. Best to learn it sooner rather than later.

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Make a clear plan in case your relative isn’t a great fit for your staff

This is another important consideration. You need to have backup plans. Ideally, you need to have backup plans for your backup plans.

Whether it’s a contingent workforce or a game plan for potential PR crises, having plans for adverse situations is part of what separates successful businesses from struggling ones. In this specific instance, planning well can actually help you avoid a messy falling out with someone you care about.

Always be prepared for the possibility that your family member will end up being a poor fit for your staff. It’s uncomfortable to think about but it’s better than having to scramble to pick up the pieces if things fall apart.

Whether it’s a contingent workforce or a game plan for potential PR crises, having plans for adverse situations is part of what separates successful businesses from struggling ones.

Trust us. This is a plan you’ll want to have and not need rather than need and not have. Let’s be honest: This scenario is more likely than many are willing to admit. They want it to work so badly that they can’t see when it is causing more harm than good.

It’s especially important to have a plan because nepotism in the workplace has been linked to high employee turnover rates. It isn’t a guarantee but it makes sense. Why would an employee stay with your organization if they see clear evidence of favoritism?

You don’t want to lose multiple employees in a short period of time and then discover your relative isn’t a great fit for your company. That would make an already serious problem even bigger.

Make sure your family member is qualified to be on your staff

This may seem like a no-brainer but it’s still worth talking about. Nepotism is a problem because it often involves unqualified people securing positions they haven’t earned. Luckily, the solution is simple (and in many ways self-explanatory).

An easy way to avoid this situation is to make sure your family member is qualified to work for you in the 1st place. Don’t give them a job they cannot excel at. It’s unwise to hire a family member solely on the basis that you’re related to them. That is a recipe for disaster.

If you have ever observed nepotism in the workplace, you are likely aware of how harmful it can be to your employees and your organization as a whole. The core problem with nepotism is that it can result in unfair treatment, undeserved praise, unearned promotions, and other company-wide problems.

Avoiding these situations may seem easy on paper, but in practice they may be more difficult than you realize. Standing up to family takes guts. Simple conversations can become tangled in complicated emotions and an unwillingness to upset or disappoint a family member.

It’s important to remember that the problem may not even be personal. It may just be a matter of your relative not meshing well with other employees.

Either way, learning how to navigate these situations with family members in the workplace is a vital skill that a startling number of managers don’t have.

We hope this guide gives you some helpful pointers that will empower you to navigate these situations with tact, grace, and kindness. You owe it to yourself and your organization to have protocols in place that ensure every employee is treated equally. You will avoid many HR headaches this way.

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