Parting Ways With A Family Employee

Managing Talent

What to do when you need to part ways with a family member.

Published on: December 30, 2013

By now you have all heard me preach to the choir about getting rid of employees that do not fit into the organization. I was speaking at an Ag conference recently and was going on about making a move on those employees you have been reluctantly keeping for years. At the end, one of the audience members asked, "What do you do when that employee you want to let go is family"?

My answer greatly depends on whether or not that family member also shares some type of ownership either in land or operations. I will address the owner-family scenario in the next blog; for today's blog let's assume this family member is not part-owner. There is no cookie cutter answer but let's explore some do's and don'ts.

First, dig deep and identify what is the exact reason they are not a fit. Identifying the main reason can be difficult. Is it performance? Is it more work ethics/values? Do they have the drive, but not the talent or ability to do the job they are in? Do they want to be the boss, but there is no room for two at the top?

Put your emotions to the side and concretely identify why this person is not a fit today and will not be a fit long-term.

After you feel comfortable with the 'why,' it then comes down to how the separation should be handled. I would recommend coming up with a plan in advance, but if you are open to several different scenarios, it would be great to have a few suggestions to propose, and then let the family member chose. Remember the conversation should be extremely private and, as uncomfortable as it will be, done in a manner that is the most respectful to the employee.

You could offer to keep the employee on for 6 months or until they find another position, whichever comes sooner. If you feel that is not an option, you could offer some type of severance pay to help them transition to their next job. If they have a company vehicle, maybe they get to keep it as compensation.

If they are not strong on the computer have someone in the office help them with their resume and assist them getting it up on job boards. Write them a letter of recommendation. After all, this is family and not just any employee. Whatever you can do to show that you care about their transition and well-being, the easier the transition and the more likely the families will keep in touch after.

A big 'don't' for me is bringing up old baggage and continually talking about why it wasn't working. Don't beat a dead horse - they are already leaving. After the initial discussion, all future talks should be as positive and supportive as possible. They will be hurt at first, and they may say some things that are not so professional. It is hard not to get defensive when this happens. Let those comments roll off your back - the situation is way harder on them than you.

If you have a specific situation you would like to discuss reach out to me at lori@agprovise.com.