Unfortunately, as most business attorney Tulsa know, mixing family and business has been and always will be a questionable concoction. Some families make it work. They are responsible, keep work and family separate, and prosper. I went to law school with two such individuals. Both of my friends’ fathers were attorneys who intended to bring them on as partners after they graduated. They did, and it worked out great! The firms are prospering and I am happy to see them succeed.
But I as a business attorney Tulsa have witnessed first hand the opposite more times than I can count. I have worked at three businesses where there was a father-son combo that had mixed success. One of the businesses seemed to work pretty well with this set up. The other two did not. At the other two, there constant hushed discussions surrounding obvious problems with having families work together. I honestly felt bad for the sons in these situations.
My father had a saying growing up that may resonate to describe the latter: “First generation employs. Second generation enjoys. Third generation destroys.”
If you own a family business, what happens when you have to fire your son because he will not listen? What if you have to fire your daughter because she will not stay off her phone at the office? These scenarios quickly become dicey as family is family and often end in having to consult a business attorney Tulsa.
What can you do to protect the integrity of the family business while maintaining the well-being of a coveted family relationship? Thankfully, you have a few options.
The first (and best) option is to have your family member supervised by a non-family member. If you are a very small business where there is literally no other person besides you to supervise your family member, this may not be an option. But if at all possible, have another person supervise your loved one. Let this business attorney Tulsa tell you the numerous advantages provides. First, it is a more objective opinion of the loved one as an employee. Even the most well-intentioned business owner will likely have a soft spot for the family member. An independent supervisor can honestly assess the son as a worker and not a “son-worker.”
Another added benefit of having an independent supervisor of a family member is termination becomes much smoother. If the independent supervisor gives you multiple examples of the family member not satisfying his/her expectations, there is less of an opportunity for you as the father/mother/boss to “overlook” these transgressions.
If there is not another person who can serve as supervisor, the next recommendation is to clearly document everything in writing with a business attorney Tulsa. Create an employee file for this person. Have an addendum to your employee handbook specifically drafted for the family member which clearly delineates that the family member will not receive any special attention simply due to a family relationship. Make it clear that this family member is an employee when at work and will need to conduct his/herself accordingly.
In addition to the addendum that you create with a business attorney Tulsa, make sure to objectively document each and every infraction. If the family member is late, note the file. If the family member is caught excessively using his/her cell phone, note the file. If the family member uses the company credit card for personal purposes, note the file. Always note the file.
Conduct a quarterly or periodic review of the employee file. As a family member, you may be tempted to make excuses to justify an employee’s behavior. The family member may understandably be at a difficult time in his/her life. Maybe there is a divorce, another family member struggling with addiction, or perhaps the loss of a loved one. The amount of leeway you show this person is ultimately up to you as it is your business. But when addressing the issue of leniency, ask whether you would make the same excuses/show the same leniency if a non-family member faced a similar issue. If the answer is you would treat the non-family member different, then perhaps it is time to address the issue with the family member to be fair to the other employees.
Something else to keep in mind is that your business is likely composed of other employees who are non-family members. In many cases, these non-family employees may be more loyal, harder workers, and greater assets to the company than the family member employees. If you show favoritism to the family members, the non-family members may observe this favoritism and react accordingly. They could reduce productivity, halt productivity, or even quit. Before I was a business attorney Tulsa I experienced this firsthand, I know that I have left a job because my then boss hired a family member and started giving this family member (a non-lawyer) assignments previously given to me. I was not able to bill as much and, accordingly, made less money. I also had less to do so I was much more bored.
Another option to perform when conducting your review is have a trusted, long-term, non-family member employee conduct the review with you. If you proceed with this option, have the independent person sign an addendum that you created with your business attorney Tulsa that they will keep confidential whatever is seen in the employee file of your family member. Seek the counsel of this independent person. Their review may be keener than yours and could be more objective given the lack of a family relationship. Ultimately, this independent review could clarify an internal struggle you are having about whether to retain the family member as an employee or let him/her go.
If you are a family business mixing family employees with non-family employees, your priority is to be fair with everyone, regardless of their lineage. Having certain procedures in place, such as those described above, can help keep everyone’s mind at ease. Having a business attorney Tulsa draft the proper addendums can save you countless headaches if the relationship with the family member goes south and litigation ensues.
If I as a business attorney Tulsa can do anything to help, whether it be a simple phone call to discuss an issue confidentially, conduct a site visit to observe, or draft additional documentation to your employee handbook, please do not hesitate to contact me. It could save you emotional heartache, substantial financial resources, and countless headaches in the end.