Working for Family: A Job you Can’t Quit

Imagine that you have worked at the same job for several years. Imagine that for all those years, you have worked under the same person. Imagine that this job has given you large workloads and strenuous deadlines, and your work is never good enough the first time around, so you have to start over, only to end up going back to what you originally started with. Now imagine that it’s the holiday season, and you’re sitting next to your boss for Thanksgiving dinner.

For my family, this is not something that we need to imagine. This has been everyday life for as long as I can remember, because my mother works for my aunt’s (her sister-in-law’s) website-building business.

The problem here is not that my mother dislikes my aunt or the other way around. In fact, our family has always gotten along quite well. Although, due to the very nature of being in a boss-employee relationship, there is naturally going to be some animosity at times. This makes things difficult for my mother, because if she complains to my father, she would be complaining about his sister. If my father takes one side or another, he’d either be against his wife or against his sister. As a result, we have this complex web of anger tinged with not wanting to hurt each other’s feelings.

Things get even more complicated when the thought of getting another job arises. My mother now has different passions than when she originally chose her career. However, she feels as if she cannot quit her job. My aunt’s business consists of just her, my mother, and the occasional intern. The way it works is that my aunt brings in clients, and my mother makes the website. Because of the nature of the business, my mom feels that if she quits, she would be dooming my aunt’s business. Basically, the business will fail unless they are both in it. So, my mother cannot quit without having to bear the weight of having destroyed her sister-in-law’s business.

This complicated situation has been building up ever since I was a little kid, but I never realized that it was happening until high school. It is now very clear to me why so many companies have a policy against hiring family members: to combine work and family is to create a power imbalance within that family. And while you don’t need to worry about losing your job, you may not even be able to leave it.

So to all those looking for work, take this advice and DO NOT hire or TAKE A JOB from a family member! It may seem like you’re being nice or doing a favor, but one’s livelihood should not be a favor to others. It is for your own sake and you should consider your own happiness first in this regard.

Have you ever worked for family? Or know someone who has? If you’ve had a similar or even a different experience, tell me your story in the comments below!

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