Managing an underperforming family member

Working with family is often part-and-parcel of running a small business or franchise. It can often be a successful way to secure trusted employees – after all; they have a significant interest in seeing the business thrive.

What happens when the family member is underperforming in their role?

Firstly, it is essential that the idea of a family member is separated from being any other employee. Yes, they are family at home, but at work, they are an employee. This is important to help ensure impartiality and deal with the situation in a professional manner.


Ideally, it doesn’t come to having to fire any staff member for underperformance – family or otherwise. This is where you need to ensure that all team members are set up for success via:

  • Successful onboarding to ensure that the business mission, values and goals are understood.
  • Adequate training so tasks can be completed.
  • A clear position description, including any expectations of sales targets or specific tasks to ensure all employees are clear on what they need to be undertaking or achieving.
  • Regular performance reviews that examine any gaps and set plans in place such as training or coaching to help improve performance.


If, after this, there are issues around underperformance, it’s important to take action.

There is little doubt that exiting any team member is tough, especially when they are family. It can be tempting to consider ‘carrying’ them for the sake of harmony, but this is not a healthy or smart approach. After all, they are costing the business time, money and letting others down, including your clients. It’s also easy for resentment to build amongst other team members and add stress and pressure on others who may be covering for them. Effectively, the team member has disengaged from the business and the foundations of healthy relationships (confidence, respect and trust) are no longer intact.

The reality is this situation requires leadership and the business leader must take responsibility to call it out and move the employee on with dignity and respect. As a leader would do with any employee.