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"Fire Your Brother!"

Dear Advisor:

My brother and I are executives in a business my father founded. Dad is CEO, I'm president and my brother is vice president. Recently Dad came to me and demanded I fire my brother. Frankly, he has been performing in a less than satisfactory fashion and doesn't seem happy. How should I handle this?


You're in a tough spot but there are several ways to go. One option is to tell your father that he's CEO and he can do his own firing. While that might get you off the hook temporarily, it solves nothing and fans the flames of family conflict. Or you can do the deed as your father asks-with all the pain and scars and a potential permanent family schism.

Another approach is to have a heart-to-heart with your brother-away from work. You should observe that he seems to be having some problems on the job. Ask him to talk about what he sees happening and whether he is having problems or finding happiness in his work and his life.

If he indicates problems-and we suspect that he will-we suggest the following approach:

  1. Suggest he take a month off with pay--a chance to sort things out and gain perspective;
  2. Suggest he visit with an industrial psychologist and be evaluated at company expense (assure him that the results will be confidential and the psychologist need not report back to the company);
  3. At the end of the month, he should decide whether he wants to continue with the company and should he decide to continue, he should;
  4. Produce a written report indicating how he intends to improve his performance that will serve as the basis for future reviews. Assure him that you are available to talk with him at any time.

Finally, tell your father how you've decided to handle the situation. If he objects, explain your reasoning and remind him that he delegated the responsibility to you.

Good luck with a tough situation. The Advisor




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