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 salespeople, both our daughters, who we 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. 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 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, especially a person you care about and with whom you hope to maintain a relationship, create a clear picture of the outcome you desire. 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 show they’re up to the challenge they’ll face as owners. This means Olivia needs to become a role model in attendance and behavior. Cassie may need training in sales or to take on another role. They need to treat each other as teammates, 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”?

When you read Olivia the “riot act,” do so calmly and firmly. If you allow yourself to emotionally “riot,” she may 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 here’s the hard part — you need to mean it.

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3 thoughts on “When Your Daughter is Also Your Employee and About to Get Fired

  1. Wise comments here. Rather than reading one daughter who doesn’t perform or show up reliably [but who seems to have talent in negotiating] the riot act and firing her, leaving the very real possibility and out come that one is written out of the business ownership and the other gets it all, opening the very real possibility of family feuds and resentments to extend down the ages–even if the business doesn’t–it would be better to do as you say. Talk about desirable outcomes and behaviors and performance and explain that the daughters as well as any other employees need to meet these targets, consistently. It makes me wonder if the secret agenda is family drama and simmering feuds, not really keeping and managing the business.

  2. “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.”

    It seems to me that you have “allowed” Olivia to “get away with murder”. Would you condone the same acts – “telling someone off. . . even me” if the “employee” was not one of your daughters?

    By your inaction in failing to discipline Olivia when she mistreats others, especially customers, as well as the owner, insubordination is a serious breach of workplace decorum, and generally results in lower morale as well as depreciating the authority of Management, you have provided her with a sense of entitlement. Even though she may be a stellar salesperson, she is still an “employee” who should be held to the rules of the organization.

    Her conduct, on the heels of your failure to discipline, has created a situation where Cassie feels she is “not as good” as her sister, even though she is a “hard worker”. (I fail to see why Olivia has intruded on Cassie’s “deal” – is she that disrespectful of her sister, or does she feel that she will be “in charge” when, and if, the transition takes place?)

    In any case, I feel that both should be counselled – Olivia for her attitude toward others and her failure to abide by the attendance policy (assuming you have one); and Cassie, to determine if she wants to be in sales, or if there is another career path within the organization she wishes to pursue. If she wants to remain in sales, and it is a good fit for the organization, then she should be provided with additional training, with emphasis on self-confidence.

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