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Should Our Kids Have Summer Jobs When Employees Have Been Laid Off?


Dear Advisor:

Due to recent economic circumstances, we’ve had to reduce our workforce by about 20 percent. It has been our practice to provide summer jobs for our teenage family members. With employees being laid off, we are questioning whether our children should be employed. What’s your advice?
 
This question has occurred to many family businesses. The inclination of these families is to hold the young people back, fearing that they will appear insensitive, unfair or self-serving by hiring them. One family business we know well took up the subject with key non-family executives, several of whom changed their own practice of employing their kids for the summer. Their advice to the family was unanimous. The presence of these teenagers was appreciated by the employees and seen as evidence of the owners’ long-term commitment to the business. In this case, the owners’ children were specially prepared for their summer work experience. All the youngsters spent time together talking about appropriate behavior—no special privileges, working as hard and carefully as anyone else, friendly and respectful interaction, enthusiasm for the work, and openness to learning and feedback.
 
Many family businesses compensate young family members from a special account so their pay does not impact any unit’s budget. This practice minimizes resentment by managers and co-workers struggling to hold the line on costs.
 
Family businesses must function in good times and bad. Working in the business when it is challenged by a tough economy can provide important education and experience. Exposing the next generation to the realities of tough times offers lessons that can last a lifetime.
 
Craig E. Aronoff
 

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