Should I hire relatives in my startup?


My sister and I started a small company. I don't mind working with her. So far, we've been doing well and have managed to keep our professional issues separate from our family life. The problem is my relative. Now that we have some success, our mom and aunts have been pressuring us to hire some of our unemployed cousins. We know that they're qualified but we're really not sure about their own work ethic. Like I said, the only reason why my sister and I haven't killed each other yet is because we have the same work ethic and very specific goals. But what about our cousins? Should we take our aunt's word for it that they're good workers and risk our business? Or are we missing an opportunity by not hiring them.

Hiring Employees Human Resources

asked Feb 2 '12 at 18:13
March Robert Philip Serrano
152 points
  • Not sure why this has a vote to close. I think it is a valid question, – Susan Jones 12 years ago
  • If you want to ruin your relationship with your family go right ahead. – Karlson 12 years ago
  • As a general rule, avoid relatives in such cases. – Natwar Lath 12 years ago

7 Answers


Its really an impossible one to answer as it depends on you & your sisters management style, the nature of your work, your cousins work ethic and your relationships - all of which are unknown to us.

I would consider what the impact on your family relationships would be if they don't perform and have to be disciplined or even fired.

If they are unlikely to take this well and if this would then impact on family relationships is it worth the risk?

Personally I would be very wary of employing friends and family for this very reason - its emotionality hard enough (especially in a small startup) dealing with under-performing employees when they are not family. I think they have to be exceptional to be worth the risk.

answered Feb 2 '12 at 19:03
1,365 points


As much as I hate to say it, running a business has to be about making a business profitable, not about creating jobs, even if those jobs are for family.

I've been in this situation myself, where I've considered hiring family or close friends who don't have a job. They're important people in your lives, and you want to help, but giving them a job that they aren't a good fit for, or that they will underperform in, will result in them loosing the job and dragging the business down with them.

When you have a small company, it is especially important to only hire the right people. If these family members are not the right fit (and I suspect they aren't, based on the fact that you're concerned enough to ask about it online) don't hire them.

It has to be a business decision, backed by sound business logic. I'm not saying that you should never hire family members, just that whether a person is family or not should not affect your decision.

And if you do hire family that you're unsure of, you'd better be prepared to fire them if things go bad (and deal with the backlash/disruptions to your family relationships if it comes to that).

If you're unsure, I'd also recommend hiring on a contract-to-hire basis, giving them a few months to prove themselves. If they don't, then when the contract period ends, it's easier to let them go without renewing the contract or hiring full time, rather than being forced to fire them.

answered Feb 2 '12 at 23:21
3,465 points
  • I like your suggestion about hiring them on a contract basis. That way I can gauge if they can do the job and I would have valid reasons for not hiring them if they don't perform. – March Robert Philip Serrano 12 years ago
  • You will not be able to fire them without a backlash. That isn't a maybe, its a given. – Mark0978 12 years ago
  • I think Mark's right here. – rbwhitaker 12 years ago


Another factor you should consider is, do you like them? You will be spending a larger amount oftime with them so it is importnat that you like them personally and professionally. Use exactly the same criteria you would use for an outside candidate in making your choice.

You need to work out the risks of employing them and how you will mitigate them. If the downside risks are too great and can't be mitigated sufficiently, then don't employ them. For example, if you had to sack them and it might create a lot of bitterness between your mum and her sisters, and if there is no way you can think of to stop that happening - then don't go ahead. Too much pain involved. If you can mitigate the risks then go ahead. If your family has good problem solving skills and they are hard workers and qualified for the role then there may not be any problems. You can put in place mitigations such as an initial trial period or an initial period where they are paid by comission so they have to produce results to get rewarded.

answered Feb 2 '12 at 21:26
Susan Jones
4,128 points


The answer is simple really; would you have employed them if they were not family?

answered Feb 8 '12 at 06:15
21 points
  • With the caveat, how will you deal with termination if things don't work out. Families can make good business partners. In all of my experience, things go great that the beginning, and then go sour. At the end of sour you no longer have a family. I lost my family a little over 6 years ago because they preferred my sister and her husband over me, even though he did practically nothing, and I created all the software. I will never go into business with my kids because of this. They are the only family I have left. – Mark0978 12 years ago
  • Wow. I'm really sorry about that Mark. I got a lot of great advice here and to be quite honest, the pressure is still there. The temporary solution we have for now is to actively look for people outside of the family to fill our staffing problems. – March Robert Philip Serrano 12 years ago


You should take them.

I am Indian and Indians have very good family culture. I have seen successful chemistry by running business with the help of relatives and one thing is in bad time they will become your support system and not the outside professional...

answered Feb 2 '12 at 19:35
13 points
  • -1 on the big assumption that the OP is Indian, and I highly doubt if this question can be answered based on good family culture alone. – Tehnyit 12 years ago
  • it is always a question of Who will cry when you die???? if you walk first step towards your family then they will surely come towards you...There are some bad and selfish examples in this matter but as he is asking question here that means he has some interest as well as some thinking positively he should go with interest.... – Denish 12 years ago
  • All due respect, you must not have a lot of exposure to family structure/culture in the USA. Taking a step towards family does NOT always mean they will come back to you. Sometimes they will take advantage of you and become a burden on the business, simply because they can play the family card to freeload or even steal from you. – Bart Silverstrim 12 years ago
  • No, I'm not Indian. But I actually know some Indians who are going through the same problem. I don't think it has anything to do with culture. Family relationships are by nature completely different from business relationships. With family, you give and forgive as much as you could. With business, there's only so much you can give and forgive. With family, you do take advantage of the fact that you have a personal relationship with that person. And when that spills over to business, it's just chaos. – March Robert Philip Serrano 12 years ago
  • -1 on assumptions made without any reason. – Ali 12 years ago


I am an Indian too but I don't agree with what denish has posted.Business and personal relationships are two different things and should not be mixed.If you are hiring someone the criteria should be only and only suitability of the person to that particular job-His skill,aptitude,interests etc.If they are appropriate for the job go ahead and hire them but be prepared as there is a risk of straining relationships if things go wrong.My personal view is stay out of the mess..Rest is your wish.

answered Mar 3 '12 at 01:38
1 point


The key question: are you willing to fire / lay them off them if necessary? Can you face them afterwards at family events?

My answer has always been "No", which makes the answer very easy...

answered Mar 3 '12 at 07:14
Marcus Blankenship
376 points

Your Answer

  • Bold
  • Italic
  • • Bullets
  • 1. Numbers
  • Quote
Not the answer you're looking for? Ask your own question or browse other questions in these topics:

Hiring Employees Human Resources