Does your business have a “brother-in-law” problem?
No, I don’t mean your ACTUAL brother-in-law – I’m sure he’s very nice.
What I’m talking about is the employee who wouldn’t be there except that he’s the CEO’s brother-in-law. Or the VP Finance’s long time neighbour who’s fallen on hard times. Or your biggest-producing salesperson’s babysitter’s cousin’s dog walker. You get the idea.
How many key roles are being occupied by people who didn’t get – and more importantly, couldn’t have gotten – them on their own? OR how much money is being spent creating ill-defined and mostly unnecessary roles for people who for one reason or another are on an executive’s personal favour list?
Now make no mistake – networking and connections are the best possible entry points into employment opportunities. Given the thousands of applicants that respond to online postings these days one of the best ways to break through the clutter is with a warm introduction. But that’s not what I’m talking about here.
I’m talking about the request to “make room” for someone who’s got a special relationship with a senior executive – and no other obvious reason to be there let alone add value. The ask to “find a role” for someone who, sure, has skills, and is “available” but doesn’t fit any of your current team openings. Or, as is more common these days, someone who’s a pal of the founder but who isn’t really cut out for an executive role.
These people are sometimes appreciative and well-intentioned such that they try hard to contribute – but many other times they understand that they are protected and they take advantage. Which leaves you – their “boss” – figuring out ways to keep them occupied but not getting in anyone else’s way. And it pretty much makes them exempt from the annual performance evaluation process.
And given their friends in high places, well, what choices do you have?
I don’t have the perfect answer to this one, and it’s something that numerous of my clients have had to deal with at one time or another. Anecdotally I also think it might be a growing problem, as more and more founders start to build out their organizations and use their new platforms to return favours and take care of their friends.
But unless the brother-in-law is an excellent fit for an available role, and unless you’re willing to allow them to sink or swim on their own merits once they’re in the door, hiring them is almost certainly not a good idea.