Ask Amy: Not following policies

Dear Amy,

Our family spent a lot of time creating a hiring policy for all our employees, family and non-family. We (my parents, brother, aunt, and two non-family managers) thought about the issues involved and about the skills, and knowledge and experiences we would require for several of our positions. We all signed the policy on the dotted line.

I’m writing now because my aunt, who is our accountant, needed help in her department and hired her husband’s brother, who’d recently lost his job. He doesn’t have an accounting background, no one in my family really knows him, and my aunt didn’t even consult my dad or any of us about it. Dad’s annoyed, but she’s his older sister and he has trouble confronting her, even though he’s the founder and majority owner of our company… and the reason we ALL have jobs!

I’m really angry. I worked hard for my degree and I’m trying to assure that the business continues to do well. We’ve needed a hiring policy for a long time, and after all that work, this feels like a slap in the face.

How can we operate like a business if we keep making exceptions?!

~ Amanda

Amy KatzDear Amanda,

What a perfect example of a family business issue! It is often hard for entrepreneurs like your dad to realize what goes into building a business once they’ve launched it. Often they’re so used to doing things on their own that the need for policies and practices that most organizations require can feel like barriers to the “real work.” So I applaud your dad and your family for recognizing that a hiring policy was needed and that you worked on it together and put it in place.

Keep in mind that your family business is already a business-perhaps not like one you’ve worked in before, or that your friends work in, but a business nonetheless. And it sounds like it’s a successful one. I say this because talking about it as if it were not yet a “real” business may not be the best way for you to try to influence the way things are done.

I think the fact that two non-family managers were part of crafting the policy is a good sign. And that your mom and your brother were involved as well. Perhaps this is not your battle to fight. Your mom might be a better person to talk with your dad. The reality is that many “real” businesses – family and non-family – do make exceptions sometimes, and for good reasons. It would have been nice if your aunt had talked with all of you first, particularly your dad. Over time, you may all decide that consulting with other key family members needs to be a step in the process when someone wants to make an exception to the policy.

My mother was a very wise woman, and she often told me to “ration my causes.” In other words, to be thoughtful about when and how I voiced my concerns about something I was convinced needed to be changed. I’ve always thought that was good advice, and I hope you do, too. Perhaps you can “put a bug in your mom’s ear” about talking with your dad… while you sit this one out. Sometimes restraint can be the best course of action.

Take care,


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