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You Can’t Fire Family

Image of man stepping into danger

© Sergej Khackimullin –

Well, actually, you can. The problem is that when family causes workplace dysfunction, most people in management positions either don’t recognize the dysfunction comes from nepotism or can’t find it in themselves to take action.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes family members (or good friends for that matter) are the best people for the job. In those instances, open communication, a collaborative environment, and respect for the chain of command if you disagree about issues guide relationships.

If a family member or BFF turns out to be the right person for the job, then avoiding a double standard is the the only way to prevent the formation of a toxic work environment. Employees resent a company when things smack of unfairness… like when ‘pets’ get extra time off, a lighter workload, a higher pay rate, or aren’t held accountable to the same degree as everyone else. Guaranteed that if employees perceive double standards in the workplace, a toxic work environment will quickly permeate the organization and bad attitude will embed itself in the culture. Performance will nosedive and not return until you address nepotism-related issues appropriately.

If you’re reading this and thinking, yeah, this fits our company, then you might want to check out Does Someone Have to Go? Fox has aired six episodes of this new, unscripted reality show that puts employees in charge of identifying and determining the fate of the three biggest problem employees within a 48-hour period.

Frankly, upon watching the pilot I was mortified that companies had begun to make decisions about employee’s livelihood in this manner. After streaming the first five episodes, I’m still opposed to dealing with people in this manner. In addition to underscoring a severe lack of leadership, it puts the entire staff through a couple days of hellish turmoil. And takes dignity completely off the table for poor performers.

Despite my objections to the approach, it’s interesting to watch the interpersonal dynamics across all aspects of the organization. The employees consistently make sound decisions. In the end, it appears as if the act of going through the process forges strong, healthy relationships for those employees that remain. And no, not everyone gets fired…

I’m still opposed to this method because every employee has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Moreover, there’s no reason to allow or perpetuate toxic work environments. Unfortunately, a lot of companies (large and small) have more dysfunction than they should tolerate. So, if I have piqued your interest about how to transform your culture through tough love, then take a peek at the show and share your thoughts below. Thumbs up or thumbs down?

Concurrently published on Modern DC Business Magazine.

©2013. All rights reserved.

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