Working in a family-owned business is unique. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s just different. How you view the situation could depend on whether you’re a member of the “family” or not.
Today, many organizations allow family members to work together. Maybe not in the same department, but for the same company. Especially in larger organizations where family members might not have daily contact.
However, one thing that can be challenging when you mix work and family is when HR is either part of the family that owns the company or they have family members working for the company. That’s what today’s reader note is about.
We’re a small company. The human resources manager is married to an executive and their daughter is an employee. The daughter is being promoted to positions that she is not qualified.
The company has pretty high turnover, and staff do not feel the HR manager would maintain confidentiality if an issue were brought to them. The company was recently bought by a larger company where the company’s HR manager is also related to an executive.
Let me start off with a tough comment. We do not know whether or not the daughter is qualified or not qualified. It’s also possible that employees viewing this situation from the outside don’t know either. As a HR professional, I’ve had employees complain about a co-worker’s promotion (i.e. saying they’re not qualified) and the employee was qualified. The person complaining just didn’t know it. So it’s hard to address this. I certainly understand the perception.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, we can talk about what makes working with family unique. I’ve written a few pieces on HR Bartender before about the benefits and challenges:
What struck me about this reader note was the comment on confidentiality. Human resources, regardless of their relationships, has to maintain the right amount of confidentiality. Especially if they are conducting an investigation. I love this interview with Jonathan Segal, partner at Duane Morris LLP about what happens during an investigation. Conducting ourselves in a proper way involves ethics. And ethics needs to exist at every level of the organization. Here are a few articles about ethics to consider:
I don’t want to say that HR cannot have friendships or relationships within the organization. There are many HR pros who do it successfully. HR does need to be perceived as ethical. Employees need to feel that HR will do the right thing, including keeping information confidential (as appropriate.) This isn’t a requirement of HR only in family-owned businesses. It’s a requirement of HR at any organization.
When HR isn’t trusted within the organization, there’s a problem. And companies have to figure out how to fix it.
Image taken by Sharlyn Lauby on the streets of Washington, DC1