The Art of Firing Family


Once again, Sam was late to work. Claiming he had been at job sites, but your staff are stating otherwise. Morale is decreasing and employees are getting bitter. They have to work harder to make up for his mistakes and laissez-faire attitude. They’ve been watching to make sure that he hasn’t been receiving favoritism from you. You can’t afford to have the whole team rebel.

You have a conversation with Sam, telling him he needs to pull it together. You explain your expectations and he promises to meet them. As a manager, he needs to lead by example and you won’t accept less than his best. A week later you pull Sam into your office – it’s time to let him go. Firing him is going to be painful, but he had lied and said he was at a client’s when instead he decided to take the day off on your dime. Completely unacceptable as everyone in your company needs to work hard to get your fledgling business off the ground and lying is against your ethics.

But Sam’s your brother.

Chances. How many chances do you give someone? Perhaps you have an employee who wasn’t getting the job done. Perhaps you have an employee who is lazy, doesn’t stick to the project schedule, or even ‘skims’ a bit from your finances. Would you put them on a performance improvement plan to see if they care enough and work harder? Or would you let them go immediately because you won’t tolerate for ‘part-timers’?

What if it was your brother?

Some of the hardest decisions you will make as a business owner will be whether to employ your friends or family. And believe me, they will come out of the cracks of your life seeking employment. You better practice your skills and communication style in saying no. It’s almost easier if someone would ask you for money – your money is tied up in launching the business, obtaining better marketing or technology, or the general operations of the company. These are all true things, especially in the beginning. It’s easier if someone offers you unsolicited, and maybe ignorant, advice on how to run your business or new venture ideas. You can give them a concise ‘thank you, I appreciate the suggestions although I will be going in another direction with my business’ robotic answer.

But when someone you know asks you for a job, now that is quite personal. It is usually hard for the other person to ask as their pride is involved. Or maybe they think that working for you will be easier than a ‘real’ job. [Now, now. Don’t get offended. People automatically think that entrepreneurs have the easy life – no set schedule, no one telling them what to do, and all the profit goes in your pocket. They don’t understand that you work harder, longer, and have more stress because it all rests on you.]

And you know better than to hire a friend, not a true friend anyway. You’d like to keep them right? But family – oh, so tricky. It takes a special style to be able to explain to your mom why you won’t employ your brother. But say you make the mistake of hiring Sam-the-bro anyway. And then you fire him.

Worse yet – you hire him back a few years later. In this real-life example a business owner rehired Sam, his brother. I’d like to tell you that Sam worked very hard and was committed to the company and his job. But that’s not what happened – Sam ended up being fired once again. Don’t be jealous of that family’s Thanksgiving; talk about awkward.

Sometimes second chances aren’t worth it. At least when hiring family.


About Author

Christine Robinson

Previously having worked for start-ups, Christine G. Robinson thrives on the unequivocal pace of new ventures as well as organizing the chaos that ensues. An adventurer with a passion for saving the world, Christine loves grammar, cleaning, and Excel spreadsheets. She has panache for traveling, both domestically across the United States by car and internationally via all methods minus ballooning. Motto: "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves." (Romans 12:9,10)