When your daughter is also your employee – and about to get fired

Question:

My husband and I own a family business. He handles the production staff, all men, and I oversee accounting and the girls in administration. We have two sales people, both our daughters, who we jointly supervise.

We’ve always told our daughters they’d inherit the business, but we wouldn’t just “give it” to them, they had to deserve it. One of our daughters, “Cassie,” works hard, but she’s not as good a salesperson as the other daughter, “Olivia.” It irks Cassie that Olivia can saunter in and then close a deal that Cassie worked on but couldn’t finalize.

It also infuriates Cassie that I’ve allowed Olivia to get away with murder. Olivia comes and goes as she pleases and when she wants to tell someone off, whether a customer, an employee or even me, she does. The two girls squabble.

My husband is even more of a soft touch. So when I told him this afternoon that I’d had it and planned to fire Olivia, he said he couldn’t go along with it, unless I gave her one last chance. He reminded me that we plan to leave both daughters our business and this will be awkward unless they’re both working in it. I plan to read Olivia the riot act and I need guidance.

Answer:

Before you read someone the riot act, particularly a person you care about and with whom you hope to maintain a relationship, you need to create a clear picture of the end result you want. This means that you and your husband need to come together on what “deserve it” means. From what you’ve said, one of your daughters works hard and the other brings talent and attitude to the table.

If you and your husband intend to leave the business to your daughters, you need to treat them as managers-in-training and make clear how they demonstrate they’re up to the challenge they’ll face as owners. This means that Olivia needs to become a role model in attendance and behavior. Cassie may need training in sales or to take on another role. They both need to treat each other as teammates and not quarreling siblings. Further, you have to stop calling your daughters, or any other female employees, “girls.” Would you call the men in production “boys”?

Finally, when you read Olivia the “riot act,” do so calmly and firmly. If you allow yourself to emotionally “riot,” she can respond by reacting to your behavior, when this meeting needs to be all about her and the changes she needs to make. Let her know exactly what she needs to do differently and the consequence she faces if she doesn’t. And — and here’s the hard part — you have to mean it.

© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com.

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