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When You Can’t Fire Your Family, But Want To

Had lunch with a CEO of a company today who has several family members on their senior management team. While sharing some of the challenges they’re having with this team, they mentioned that they would very much like to terminate these family members but know the consequences of taking such actions.

As you might imagine, firing siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins might create a strain on family outings and get-togethers, as well as divide the family as kinfolks begin to take sides (imagine the fun those side eyes will be at the Thanksgiving dinner table). So for obvious reasons you may not want to rock the boat and create a space of discomfort, which will impact your personal life. Likewise, you may also be reluctant to have the “do better or else” conversation with a senior manager, who is not a family member. If you find yourself between this rock and hard place, please allow me to share with you the advice I gave to the CEO.

  1. Build core competencies specifically for that role (well, build them for all roles, but especially for your senior managers so they’re clear on your expectations).

  1. Don’t make the very common mistake of building core competencies and then doing nothing with them. Define behaviors that match those competencies so that both you and your employee are clear about what those competencies actually look like (there is an assessment for this).

  1. Assess your leaders so they can discover their strengths and behaviors needing improvement, and then develop Individual Development Plans (IDPs) based on those areas of improvement. Lastly, and most importantly,

  1. Use the IDPs as the basis for your performance review discussion. Doing so will encourage an objective discussion and your family member, or employee, will be less likely to accuse you of picking on them or trying to get rid of them.

Of course you do not have to be the CEO of your company to use this information. This applies to any senior manager with direct reports.

For more information you can reach Dr. Robin Johnson at 630-396-7709 or by email at

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