Yelling "Fire" in a Crowded Family

The recent WSJ article, “"How Do You Fire a Family Member?"” by Veronica Dagher, made some useful suggestions, e.g., have private conversations with the problematic family member ("PFM") and don'’t create any scenes in front of non-family employees. The article had an intentional limitation, as it was focused on events after-the-fact, i.e., after whatever might precipitate a firing. I would urge that such problems can be avoided, or at least minimized, with proper preparation, i.e., taking the right steps before-the-fact. A few such steps are:

  1. Establish standards and rules of behavior. If all family employees are fully apprised, before they are hired, of the expectations and the consequences of errant behavior, it reduces the likelihood of there being PFMs, as well as the occurrence of adverse reactions. Similarly others—namely, non-employee family members and non-family employees—who are often affected by PFM problems, will be more accepting of outcomes if informed in advance of expectations and consequences of misbehavior.
  2. Develop the infrastructure and procedures to help prevent family member employees becoming PFMs and to deal with problems at the first signs of trouble and continually thereafter. This may include internal assistance from non-family executives, who should be trained to deal effectively, and where appropriate, outside coaches and consultants.
  3. Establish procedures, up front, for dealing with problems when they arise, to assure actual and perceived fairness and to reduce embarrassment.

The above is but a partial list, intended as examples.

Some may feel that doing the right things before-the-fact may constitute a waste of precious time and money. In the long run, however, they help prevent and reduce otherwise exorbitant costs of solving problems. And those costs are no’t just monetary. They include negative impacts on non-family employees, with resulting inefficiencies and loss of good people, as well as complications in and even destruction of family relationships.