Would you work with your mum?

Earlier this week I went out for drinks with a client:  we  got into a conversation about employing staff who were related to somebody else at work.  Naturally, we started to exchange stories:

  • A husband who managed his wife;
  • A mother who managed her daughter, who subsequently told her mum what the team thought of her (not complimentary);
  • An administrator who used to cover her annual leave by employing one of her two daughters.
  • A TU rep who arranged for his daughter to work in his organisation’s HR department one summer (oh wait…that was me!)

There are lots more stories, but that isn’t a surprise, as the NHS is one big family. Every Trust I have worked in (and that’s quite a few) there has been a known family – work relationship.

It’s a thorny issue and one where NHS Trusts usually take the ostrich approach: if your head is in the sand, you don’t know it’s happening.   And I think that sometimes that’s because the issue is too hard to deal with……and if the relationship isn’t causing any problems, why rock the boat?

There can be down-sides to such relationships.  There was one family I worked with: the Mother was a Director and the son was recruited to be a service manager. The son was great at his job and I really enjoyed working with him. However, his mother’s reputation got in the way. Mum was never going to win any popularity awards, and so people quickly made a negative (and unfair) judgment about her son.

Another downside is that other staff often think that confidentiality will be compromised when there is a family relationship at work.  Another is other staff might feel that a family member is getting preferential treatment.  For example, a mum who “goes easy” on her daughter who keeps turning up for work late.

There is a plus side: family relationships are often a contributing factor when it comes to local recruitment.   I’ve interviewed many candidates who have said that they heard about the vacancy through a family member.   And in this process, is there an element of self-selection.  Do family members only choose to work together if they already have a good relationship?

Family relationships are a fact within the NHS.  On the whole, my experience has taught me that confidentiality is maintained, and conflict of interests are managed.  But when problems have arisen, this interesting twist hasn’t prevented the right and appropriate action from being taken.

But all the same….I don’t think I could work with my mum.