How to Review Your Siblings

Rating your sibling's performance means treading on delicate--and potentially explosive--ground. In fact, maybe it's better to call the whole thing off.

If you're the head of a family firm, you've heard it over and over again: Regular performance reviews of all employees--both family and others--are important if a family business wants to grow and professionalize its operation.

So what makes Ron Ernst, president of Leadership Horizons, an executive coaching firm in Carmel, Indiana, blurt out "No, no, no!" to the suggestion of a family CEO doing a performance review on a brother or sister who has a subordinate position?

Sibling rivalry, of course. "Even though it's not as prominent in families where parents have been supportive of their children's unique strengths and have not pitted the kids against one another, it still exists," says Joe Jurkowski, a senior partner of The Armstrong Group, a management consulting firm in Fairfax, Virginia.

"Performance reviews are a dreaded part of the management process even in firms with no family involvement," observes Ernst. "If few people like to give or receive them, consider what goes on when you face the possibility of having one sibling evaluate another." It's so disturbing to both of them that they generally don't deal with the issue.

Jurkowski sums it up: "The CEO just expects that the brother or sister will automatically do the right thing without appraisals or assessments."

Patricia Schiff Estess writes family business histories and is the author of two books: Managing Alternative Work Arrangements (Crisp Publishing) and Money Advice for Your Successful Remarriage (Betterway Press).

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This article was originally published in the February 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Review With Care.

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