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Helping Family Businesses
Prosper Across Generations®

Job Performance and Family Peace

Dear Advisor:

Five next-generation family members work in our business and four of them are doing well. One, however, has behaved and performed poorly. I think she has to go but my wife won’t accept the idea of firing a family member. Our daughter-in-law is undermining employees’ respect for the owning family, but firing her will undermine family relations. What should I do?


Yours is a tough situation. We bet you wish you’d been more thoughtful about bringing in all those family members to begin with. But too late for that now.

We suggest that you approach this problem on three simultaneous fronts. First, deal with the family member. Make sure the offending individual is getting clear performance appraisals, coaching and feedback. Ideally, the employee will recognize her shortcomings and set out to correct them. Make sure that help is available in the form of training or counseling. Perhaps the family member will improve and become a real contributor — or perhaps she will decide that the job or company is not to her liking and she will seek a new direction.

Second, help your wife. She fears the impact on the family of work-related conflicts. She needs help to understand what can happen to a business and a family when family members hold jobs for which they are ill-suited. The risks to the family of the employee inappropriately staying in the company are as great or greater than the risks of the individual leaving the company.

Finally, convene the five members of the next generation who are working in the business. Ask them to work as a team to put together a list of issues that confront the family business. Then ask them to offer answers for each issue. You’ll be asking them to develop their own vision of the family — including questions of strategy, structure, leadership, family relations and governance. And ask them to share their outcomes with you and your wife. The dynamics of this process will put the problems of one employee in perspective and may help to resolve the situation by aiding in the entire generational transition process.

The Advisor.

 

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