You’re the boss, the sales manager, the sales team leader. You’re a supervisor and a mentor. You’re on friendly terms with your sales staff and you’ve earned their respect because you treat them fairly and equally. So what could be the harm in hiring someone who is talented and qualified – but who also happens to be a family member – as your newest salesperson? The risks are plenty, and you should understand how hiring a family member could impact your workplace, your team chemistry, and your family relationship. Let’s take a look at “The Most Important Rule” when it comes to deciding whether to hire a family member, and how to make the situation work if you do make that hire:
The “Family Qualification”
When choosing among sales job candidates, you will, of course, consider their qualifications including knowledge, experience, personality and other factors. One factor that should not be considered a qualification, however, is your existing family relationship with a candidate. Simply put, you are not in business to provide opportunities for family; you are in business to succeed and serve your customers while creating opportunities for your staff to excel.
Before you are tempted to hire family, consider this litmus test: If you took away the names from the information you have about the top candidates for the sales position, would your family member be the clear best choice? If so, great. At least your current staff should be able to appreciate that the decision was based on solid credentials. Even so, however, understand that your existing relationship could lead to unique problems after the hire, so be prepared.
The Most Important Rule: Don’t Hire Someone You Can’t Fire
Every new hire is made with the expectation that the working relationship will be a success. Obviously, that isn’t always the case, for a wide variety of reasons. So when one or more of those reasons makes it clear you need to let the salesperson go, are you prepared to fire your family member? Even if dismissal isn’t required, would you be able to make other tough calls in the best interests of the sales department and the company, even if you know they would be hard on your family member? If you can’t picture yourself going through with the necessary painful tasks of being the boss, don’t hire family. Likewise, if you can’t picture your family member handling discipline or termination professionally and gracefully, the risk is not worth the hire.
Making it Work
Once you have come to terms with The Most Important Rule, make sure you understand your role with the entire sales team. They will expect you to be friendly, but not necessarily their friend. Rather, they need you to be the boss, one who helps make it possible for them to achieve their goals and the goals of the company. If you can do that equally, fairly and decisively, regardless of pre-existing relationships, you’ve got a great chance of maintaining good team chemistry.
With all your salespeople, but especially if you hire that family member, be sure to set clear expectations and demand professionalism. Make sure your family member knows the ground rules and can compartmentalize the two aspects of the relationship. Above all, don’t let personal favoritism enter your workplace culture because it can kill team morale and sales team performance.
On the other hand, it might also be tempting to hold your family member to a higher standard than your other salespeople in an effort to avoid any suspicion of favoritism. This can create conflict on its own. Your best bet is to have well-documented processes and quotas in place so you can base your decisions on rock-solid quantifiable performance measures.
In any case, supervising family will, at times, be awkward. That’s okay. That’s normal. Pretending the awkwardness is not present won’t make it go away. Instead, acknowledge it in the moment, if possible, and deal with the situation as if the relationship were not a factor. One way this awkwardness could present itself is if you have greater insight into your family member’s personal life regarding problems affecting work performance. Again, you’ll need to be neutral and fair in dealing with any performance issues, regardless of your knowledge of underlying factors. And be careful not to appear conflicted or indecisive; act with the same responsiveness regardless of the team member affected.
The Facebook Factor
Regardless of whether you hired a family member for a staff role or not, you (and your family members) will almost surely develop friendly relationships with co-workers and subordinates that extend beyond the workplace. Today it is common to connect via social media outside of work; so this raises the question: Should you become Facebook friends with co-workers or subordinates? While this could be considered on a case-by-case basis, you should realize that accepting a friend request from one employee and not accepting a request from another could create problems. In any event, you probably should not be the one initiating the requests.
Hiring and supervising a family member can work, but it takes candid upfront communications, compartmentalization of your personal and work lives; and a clear understanding of expectations and potential pitfalls. If you can’t see yourself making the tough decisions regarding family – up to and including termination – don’t make the hire. And if your family member isn’t capable of understanding that you need to maintain firm and fair control over your entire sales team, again, avoid putting both of you in that position.
At Sales Xceleration, our licensed Advisors can counsel you on matters such as working with – or ending work relationships with – family. We bring the outside perspective necessary to help you make the tough calls. To learn more about how a Sales Xceleration licensed Advisor can help your organization get on track for solid sales performance, reach out to an Advisor today; or contact us at 844.874.7253.