Corporate Culture, Internal Recruiting & Workforce Planning

The Dangers of Hiring Friends and Family

Hiring those from within our close personal network—i.e., friends and family—has been a common practice since the earliest days of specialized work. We feel like we can trust people we know, want to give them a means of income, and want to groom someone to take over after we, or other employees, leave the company. But there are also many challenges inherent in such relationships.family

We’ll look at some of those here, and in a follow-up post, we’ll talk about some strategies for navigating the relationship.

Are You Hiring the Best Person?

In an article for Entrepreneur, Doug and Polly White note that business owners should really think first and foremost about the success of the business. “[Y]our business is your livelihood. You should hire the person who is best for the job. Perhaps that is a friend or family member, but often it isn’t.”

That seems obvious, but it can be tempting to err on the side of hiring a known commodity, and bringing them up to speed, versus hiring someone less familiar—even if he or she brings more tangible skills and experience to the recruitment process.

Keeping Professional and Personal Separate

Blending the personal and the professional can become extremely messy. Personal relationships can bleed into the professional and vice versa. For example, a supervisor or manager may find at some point that he or she simply needs to terminate the friend or family member, which can damage or destroy personal relationships. Or, arguments and bad feelings from personal lives and tensions may lead to tension at work, impacting the business.

Toxic Perception of Nepotism

The impacts of hiring friends and relatives aren’t only felt by those in the immediate relationship—colleagues may be impacted, as well, in not-so-positive ways.

Sometimes, a business’s only employees are the owner and that owner’s friends and family. Often, however, there are other employees who don’t have these personal relationships.

These are people you likely hired out of merit, and they may come to feel resentful of family and friend employees, who they feel are being given unfair treatment relative to the “outsiders.” This can have a toxic effect on the entire company.

As we’ve discussed, it can be challenging to hire those we know well—friends and family. However, it’s also difficult to separate the professional from the personal, and other nonconnected employees may feel resentful. In a future post, we’ll discuss some tips for making these potentially “too close for comfort” relationships work.