10 Things to Consider Before Working With Your Child

US News

With graduation approaching or having just passed, your son or daughter is in need of a job. As the owner of a family business or manager at the company you work for, you're thinking about using your clout to get your child the new entry-level position. But the dynamics of being colleagues are vastly different from the parent-child relationship.

Drew Mendoza, managing principal of the Family Business Consulting Group, a company that advises family-owned businesses, says a relationship can take on a new level of complexity when a parent becomes an employer and a son or daughter turns into an employee.

Before deciding to work alongside your kin, consider these questions:

1. Is he or she enthusiastic? Being the heir to the throne of the family business isn't enough to guarantee your child's success as an employee. He or she must glow with enthusiasm about the prospect of working for, and one day succeeding, you. As the adult, you should begin instilling that interest from a young age.

[Read: 5 Interview Tips for New Grads.]

"If you want a child to work in your business, you need to program them at an early age about the business. It can't be their fail-safe decision ? it's got to be somewhere where they come in and bring value," says Larry Colin, co-author of "Family, Inc.: How to Manage Siblings, Spouses, Children and In-Laws in the Family Business." Colin worked with his dad for 37 years and became chairman of the New York-based facility services company Colin Service Systems.

2. Is he or she a promising employee? A shared last name doesn't always translate into shared talent or work ethic. Your child should have a skill set and demonstrate his or her worth as a prospective employee. "You wouldn't hire somebody if they didn't have something to bring of value or some potential," Colin says.

3. Have you considered the implications for your personal relationship? Having a transparent dialogue about work values and the broader effect laboring side by side will have on your relationship is key. The conversation gives both of you a chance to air out what you may or may not see eye-to-eye on.

Mendoza says a parent should take charge and lead the conversation. He suggests starting the talk with, "Our lives are about to change and we need to talk about ... the ways in which it will change." Then discuss potential changes and how both sides plan to handle the working relationship.

4. Are you on good terms? It's easy to feel sympathetic for anyone struggling to find a job, let alone your own child. But if the state of affairs between the two of you at home is testy, bringing that baggage into the workplace may be a bad idea.

"If you [don't] have a good relationship with your family and you work with them, it's never going to work," Colin says. This is particularly true in a family-owned business, Colin notes, where "money, blood and power" all intertwine.

5. What happens if the professional poisons the personal? The personal relationship between you and your child may be in fantastic shape, but it will have to be durable enough to sustain the possibility of headbutting and office politics. If it can't, family gatherings could become marked by awkward tension rather than jocular camaraderie. "If your father tells you how to barbecue just the way he tells you to do something around the office, it wears thin," Colin says.

6. Can you delegate discipline? At the first sign of a mistake, your parental instinct may be to reprimand your child. But the disciplinary tone that worked in high school may not sit well with the 20-something wanting some independence at work. Coming from you, the criticism may not be taken as "clean" and "objective," Colin says. Having an experienced peer who holds the same position or another supervisor hand down the critique "makes it less accusatory" and "better received," he adds.

[Read: 10 Key Job Search Tips For New Graduates.]

7. Have you explained that special privileges will be nonexistent? If you become your child's direct boss, make it clear that any promotions or salary increases will be the result of merit, rather than a shared last name. Emphasize that as your employee, he or she "will have responsibilities and be held accountable," Mendoza says.

8. How will it play with other family members? If you're the head of a family business, hiring your child over another relative's child could leave some in the tribe crying favoritism, Mendoza notes. "[Family members] may become jealous. They may want to campaign or lobby for their own direct offspring," he says, adding that it's a good idea to have policies in place to avoid things "turning messy."

9. Are you ready for charges of nepotism? Promoting your child to the company's high command may irk colleagues who have worked there for years. They may come to view your managerial style as one high on favoritism and low on merit. "If your kid's not stellar, you're going to have that label," Colin says. Still, he says, other rank-and-file employees shouldn't be surprised when the "royalty factor" kicks in once promotional decisions are weighed, particularly if the business is family-owned.

[Read: 4 Ways College Grads Can Make a Lasting Impression on Employers.]

10. Could your reputation be damaged if it doesn't pan out? If your son or daughter turns out to be a first-rate employee or starts rough but turns it around under your tutelage, then you'll look great for picking such prime personnel, Mendoza notes.

But if the experiment goes awry, it could cast lasting doubt over your professional judgment. "You certainly don't want to put yourself in the position of having to defend your son or daughter's poor work habits to your boss," he says.



More From US News & World Report
View Comments