Lessons Learned From Working With Family

It takes effort to successfully work alongside family members

I can still remember the look of horror when I told my friends I was taking a new job working with my mother. Given that I think my mother is great, I was a little surprised by their reactions. I mean, how bad could it be?

It can be really bad in some cases. They say you should never recommend a friend for a job because they are a reflection of you. So what happens when you work with your family? If everything hits the fan and you’re faced with firing them, will you be able to?

I was really lucky and that horror never became a reality. My mother and I worked really well together. We helped each other on busy days. We broke up the work when it was something really awful that no one wanted to tackle. Most of all, we backed each other up. Especially when she took over my entire workload during my maternity leave. The saddest day I have ever had at Royal Flush was the day she retired. 

Another time I got really lucky was when one of our drivers recommended his daughter as a summer intern. She was the best summer intern I have ever had. She worked hard, showed up every day and best of all, she constantly asked for more work. No one does that!

I don’t want you to think it was all unicorns and rainbows. There was many a day that we butted heads. We had one too many dinnertime conversations about work until the whole family was sick of us. But our strong bond meant that all bad things got left at work and we never allowed anything to spill over into our relationship.

But not everyone gets this lucky. At one point in the past, we hired two brothers to be drivers. One was fantastic and is still with us. He is diligent, a hard worker and does a great job. His brother only lasted three weeks before we had to let him go. 

I have seen dispatchers hire their family members to be drivers. Sometimes, when it is really hard to find good workers, you looked to the easiest solution: your friends and family. Then, when those drivers made too many mistakes, they finally had to be let go. Try explaining to your mother why you had to fire your brother and your cousin on the same day. It wasn’t pretty but it had to be done. 

When you hire within a family or even your own family, you are making a deal with the devil. As with most situations there is no way to predict the outcome. The important thing to remember is that business isn’t personal. A lot of people aren’t right for a job or right for a company. While your sister may be your best friend, she may be a horrible biller. For those reasons, it is important to be ready for the day that you have to say goodbye to them as a co-worker.

About the Author: Alexandra Townsend is co-owner of A Royal Flush, based in Philadelphia.

Good communication and leaving work at work are crucial to working with your family members. What other tips do you have for working side by side with family? 


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