Career Advice

December 26, 2013

Career advice: Nepotism par for the course in family biz

Career advice: Nepotism par for the course in family biz


Q: Two years ago, the owner of our small family business hired his son as the accounting supervisor. At the time, “Henry” had just graduated from college with a degree in fine arts. He has no business training, has never held another job and is very immature.

Despite Henry’s complete lack of experience, he has always been paid well above the average for his position. On top of that, his father just gave him a 25 percent raise, even though the company is struggling to stay afloat. How can I approach the owner about this without jeopardizing my own job?

A: Sadly, you have learned what everyone employed by a family business finds out sooner or later. In any family-owned company, there are two classes of people: relatives and everyone else. And the relatives are frequently exempt from rules that govern other employees. This may not be fair, but it’s usually true.

Before making the risky choice to talk with the owner, you must clearly understand that you are not complaining to management about an employee, but complaining to a parent about his child. Also, this particular child may very well become the future owner of the company.

If Henry’s job performance is creating significant business problems, perhaps you could describe them in a calm and constructive manner. But if you are simply irritated by his familial privileges, you should probably keep those opinions to yourself.

Submit questions to Marie G. McIntyre at

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