Hire Power

For Better Or Worse

It's becoming more and more common: Couples meet at work, begin dating and eventually marry. And while it's not up to you to meddle in their personal lives, it's still a good idea to think about what--if anything--this means to your company.

D. Allen Miller, senior consultant with IEC Group, a human resources consulting firm in Salt Lake City, says there are advantages to having employees who are married or have other family relationships, including:

  • A likelihood of similar values, work ethic and dedication. If an employee is a strong performer, chances are the spouse or relative will be, too.
  • An automatic mentor in the organization. Miller says the best mentors are spouses, because of the strength of their mutual commitment.
  • Peer pressure. Married employees will not only want to impress their supervisors, they'll also want to impress each other, which may improve their performance.

Of course, there are also drawbacks. The most common problem, Miller says, is that a conflict with one can often mean a conflict with both--and that can be especially difficult in a small organization.

Problems can also develop when the couple's work relationship is a supervisor-subordinate one. "If a personal relationship develops between a supervisor and a subordinate," says Miller, "it's difficult to maintain objectivity." Similar problems come into play if a promotion creates a supervisor-subordinate relationship between spouses.

Miller recommends having a clear nepotism policy in place before you need it. Be sure employees know what behavior is acceptable and unacceptable. Also, be sure the rules are applied fairly. If you decide to terminate employees who marry, it's a good idea to terminate both of them, and not just one. You might also add a statement to your policy that says policies regarding spouses and relatives also apply to domestic partners.

Contact Sources

CHI/COR Information Management Inc., (800) 448-8777, clive@chicor.com

IEC Group, (801) 526-5857, fax: (801) 451-8999

William M. Mercer Inc., (305) 447-3026, fax: (305) 445-8680

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This article was originally published in the February 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Hire Power.

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