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I have worked as a fabricator at a small company. I am on good terms with the plant manager and the company president/owner/founder. About a month ago, when we were looking to hire, I suggested to my manager that he interview my sister. I've learned that in his own words, he didn't give her much of an interview at all, but just hired her on the assumption she'll be "as good as her brother". (She probably will be, but this shows the level of faith the management places in me.)

My sister starts tomorrow as a fabricator (and I am to train her). I learned today that after many poor fits, the company is again looking to fill a shipping/receiving position. My fiancée is still on COVID-19 furlough from her employer, and she is looking for a new job. She is interested in the shipping/receiving position, and I genuinely believe she could be a good fit.

The dilemma: How should my fiancée go about looking into the open position in my company? I could tell my plant manager that my fiancée might be a good fit for the position and suggest he interview her, as I did with my sister (a very short time ago), but somehow this feels "greedy". To be clear, he doesn't view the hiring of my sister as a favor to me, and he expects she'll turn out to be a good choice for the company. But my sister will have just started tomorrow, and to already be recommending more people from my "inner circle" feels strange. I can't quite articulate what feels wrong about this.

An option besides a direct suggestion/referral would be for her to apply to the position normally, and this would be anonymous because they do not know her full name. On the surface this seems to avoid any biases or subtle workplace politics, as my manager could make an objective choice whether to hire her, but then when should we reveal our connection to him? It feels deceptive to me, and I don't know when the appropriate time to enlighten him would be - directly after the interview, when he has time to form impressions, but not made a final decision? After she receives an offer of employment (if it happens)?

If I had not just referred my sister, I would have no hesitation in suggesting my fiancée be considered. But I'm sure you can see how I feel this situation deserves some careful forethought. I don't want to appear "greedy", or like I make such suggestions lightly. I think I am just fortunate enough to have very intelligent and adaptable people in my life, and there is an open job and someone looking for a job. But I'm not sure how it could be received, and if it's somehow inappropriate. Any recommendations would be appreciated.

Edit with further information:

My sister is not, and my fiancée would not be, my subordinate. Indeed, on paper I have the same job title as my sister and we make within 50 cents the same hourly wage. I was assigned to train her because my company has no protocol for training new hires, and my past experience tutoring college and highschool courses puts me in a position where I am effective at helping people learn. As a fabricator, my sister is my peer on paper. In shipping/receiving, my fiancée would rarely be in a position to interact with me, and we would simply be in different departments, not in the same hierarchy.

This company has about 50 workers in the shop, and perhaps two dozen project managers/planners in desk roles. I am not sure if the concern of concentrating my family's livelihood in this company is entirely relevant, because my fiancée and I will be moving out of the area 6 months from now (my sister plans to remain at this job for a few years). In the two years I've been working for this company it has been financially healthy, and despite the recent Covid-19 economic setbacks, it is still achieving a slight profit on the year.

I am not aware of any company policies that are relevant to this situation. It seems family ties are not avoided. I can recall three members from one family have been employed at different times, a father-son pair is employed, a employee's son was employed as summer help, and indeed the current plant manager's older brother works as a senior craftsman (and has been employed longer than the plant manager), in what is probably technically a hierarchal relationship. So this company does not shy away from familial ties, and rather focuses on welcoming people if they can add value to the company.

However, I am wary of the social repurcussions. Could my fellows get the impression that I am trying to use the company for my family's benefit, and resent me? Could they be inclined to treat my fianceé as if she doesn't belong in the position? There is no overt bias against women working in the shop, but they are vastly outnumbered by the men and this is in a conservative town. I understand some aspects of the scenario I present are a bit subjective, but any more wisdom or insight into this situation would be helpful.

Addendum

The thought occured to me that in recommending my sister, I have provided a service to the company, as she plans to stay. However, if my fianceé was hired and we move away in six months as planned, it could be a disservice to the company. (I have not yet informed the company of my intentions to leave in December.) If they were to hire my fianceé for the shipping/receiving position, whether at my referral or anonymously, it might cause them to miss out if another candidate comes along, and put them "back to square one" when we move. Perhaps announcing my six months' notice and offering my fianceé's services, should be packaged together? The company would have full awareness that her help would be temporary, and they make their decision with full knowledge of the situation? I would give up the issue here, except her employer has still not called her back to work since March and I can see the lack of a job is taking a toll on her emotional health (not a good reason to suggest she be considered for a position - her skills are the reason - but a good reason for me to continue to consider every angle for a possible solution).

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    Which country is this taking place in? Anti - nepotism laws are usually pretty strict in Western countries and what you are describing seems to be the exception rather than the norm in western culture – Anthony Jun 16 at 1:34
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    In all seriousness, be extra careful and do not end up in supervisor/subordinate position with any of your family members, especially your fiancé. Your training period should transition to your sister being supervised by someone other than yourself. – Nelson Jun 16 at 2:30
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    Would your partner be working alongside you? You mention it's a small company but what numbers are we talking? 10 employees is very different from something approaching 100. – Lilienthal Jun 16 at 7:20
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    @Anthony Can you clarify your statement? I'm only familiar with the US, but anti-nepotism laws don't apply to private companies. There are many family businesses that are based on hiring family members. Even having several family members as employees in the same company, for companies both small and large, isn't that rare. It is usually an HR concern not to have spouses or siblings working in the same team (or worse: with supervision authority) as it can cause interpersonal issues, but it's up to the company to set its policy - it sounds like the owner business is willing to accept this risk. – Ramon Snir Jun 16 at 8:53
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    @electronpusher Your addendum is very mature, and shows respect to both the company and your fiancee. You are now thinking about this in the right way, and I'm sure you'll find the right course of action. – Ramon Snir Jun 17 at 8:57
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I see absolutely no problem with this, assuming:

  • The actual supervisory or hiring manager for this position does an independent vetting;
  • Your work responsibilities are such that there won't be a hierarchical relationship between you and your fiance;
  • The workplace doesn't have any conflict-of-interest, sexual-harassment, etc. policies that you could run afoul of
  • You're clear that you're not asking for a favor with the hire and/or that the employer wouldn't be viewing it as a favor to you that needs to be repaid in some fashion (which they shouldn't be, unless you're way closer to management than I realized from your question)
  • The person doing the candidate evaluation has sufficient objectivity, and you have demonstrated and expressed sufficient maturity, that passing on the candidate despite your recommendation is an acceptable outcome for all parties

If those hold true, this is just another service you are providing to your employer. Employers are hiring labor; they aren't paying out of charity, they want a job done. They hire because they think they'll make more money with the employee than without them. Every day the position is unfilled is a day the company is losing money--if you can shave a month off their time to locate a suitable candidate, you'll have saved them quite a lot! You're offering them access to a higher-quality, vouched-for product, easing a very expensive talent identification and acquisition process. Normally companies pay people to find them good candidates. You're giving them that for free. Nobody's doing you a favor by taking you up on an offer that's advantageous for them, and it isn't greedy to offer someone something mutually beneficial.

So assuming your recommendation carries the same weight it would carry if you were recommending a friend, or a colleague from a previous position, etc.; and that the hiring isn't being done on your authority alone but there's some sort of responsible party from the company making the evaluation--why not?

However, there are some points you'd want to consider for yourself:

  • As with any recommendation, are you sure that this person's job performance will reflect well on you as a recommender? (I'm assuming yes.)
  • While you're engaged to be married and thus presumably committed to this relationship, are you willing to bear the risk of problems in your personal life creating conflict in your professional life? And vice-versa? (People split up, get divorced... and evening conversation could get mighty frosty if your fabrication department screws something up for her shipping/receiving department.)
  • Similarly, are you okay with coworkers being unusually up in your personal business, by virtue of working with family members? And potentially gossiping about you or alleging favoritism where there isn't any?
  • Are you comfortable with your entire family's livelihood being dependent on the continued success of one small business? That's a lot of eggs in one basket.

If you're willing to take on those risks, and you sincerely think your fiance would be a good candidate for the role, then go for it. If I were your employer I'd be thrilled to have an employee who was able to solve so many of my talent sourcing problems.

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  • My fiancee and I have decided for her not to apply, I think the social aspects will be too complicated (chiefly among fellow employees). However I think this may be the best answer to the situation I presented. Thank you all for your input. – electronpusher Jun 19 at 1:33
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I would strongly suggest you not pursue this further. Working with family members is usually something many people try to avoid, for it can introduce subtle but still harmful bias into the work relationship that should foremost be professional. For example, managers may promote a member of their team for reasons of exceptional performance, and if the person being promoted is family member, perception of other employees may be that promotion only happened because the family relationship, not individual merit as it should be. This perception is still valid even if the promotion itself is based on merit. On the other hands, managers may need to fire members of their team, and if team member being let go is a family member, a conflict of interest may arise in which personal loyalties end up hurting the business. Its just not fair to put such a manager in that dilemma situation.

Many companies have specific policies that strongly discourage or outright forbid family members from working together. You say you will be training your sister, which is worrisome and a red flag at the places I worked in, and generally frowned upon where I live in the USA. It does not sound like your employer has policies / guidelines around nepotism in the workplace, but if you were to move to a new company, I would highly suggest you check your employment policies before considering such a suggestion.

From a more practical viewpoint, having all relatives work at one company means the economic livelihood of your entire family is concentrated in one company. If the company were to experience financial difficulty or layoffs, your entire family is at risk. Think carefully about whether this is something you truly want.

An option besides a direct suggestion/referral would be for her to apply to the position normally, and this would be anonymous because they do not know her full name. On the surface this seems to avoid any biases or subtle workplace politics, as my manager could make an objective choice whether to hire her, but then when should we reveal our connection to him?

Yes, it would be totally fine for your fiancée to apply to an open role at your company on her own and following exact same process as any other candidate. As to when you should disclose your relationship, you should disclose to your manager at the start of her hiring process, and then remove yourself entirely from her hiring process. It would be improper and unethical for you, as a direct family member, to exert influence in the success of her candidacy.

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    Around the shipyard towns it was often the case that son, father, grandfather as well as brothers and uncles all worked at the same place often in the same trade. – Solar Mike Jun 16 at 5:14
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    Just to note the sister has already been employed - the question is about the fiancée so perhaps you need to check your answer. – Solar Mike Jun 16 at 6:06
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    I think reality is a little less extreme than this answer makes it out to be. Especially in smaller towns, with smaller companies, it's not at all unusual to see family working together. I work in a mid-size company (~150 employees) in a 1M pop city and we have had 4-5 married couples or maybe even more on staff at any given time. Also a few adult children employed along side their parents, etc. There are certainly pitfalls to avoid, but it's never been an issue for us and, in many ways, has even been positive (looking back over almost two decades of history). – J... Jun 16 at 13:41
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    I think the most important part of this answer is that there is an increasing familial reliance on one company surviving for the family survival. It's indicated in the OP that the poster is working as a fabricator and his fiance's job would be in shipping/receiving, so it's highly unlikely that one would have a supervisory role over the other. This could be an issue for the siblings who will both be working as fabricators, and avoiding this situation during future promotion considerations (for either) is something to keep in mind. – FreeMan Jun 16 at 14:49
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    I think this is blown out of proportion. Not everyone has trouble working for the same employer with family members. Seeing as his fiancé is going to work for a completely different department, one should never become the other's boss; they may not even see each other at work except for lunch time. Many siblings work together without issues, when my brother and I were teenagers we both worked as ski instructors at the same resort (and there were many other pairs of siblings doing the same) and I never noticed that creating issues between us (or the other pairs of siblings). – Alexandre Aubrey Jun 16 at 20:40
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For your fiancée, if there is no problem with the company policy, she might just apply like anyone else. If she is selected, just before signing her contract or at the end of the last interview, she might say something like:

"By the way, I'm that guy significant other, we have checked the policy so this should be no problem, but are you ok with this?"

It gives your boss the option to say "no", but not really.
It also leaves your company with no doubt about your relationship. They might ask you to sign some kind of waiver, or something...
That way, you won't ever have to lie to your boss, and your fiancé can also say she wanted in without your help.

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    And for the coworkers it‘ll still look fishy that the ops sister and fiancée were hired within weeks/days if each other... – morbo Jun 16 at 8:42
  • @morbo It's not a perfect solution, I agree. But it cover the most important bases. The colleague angle will have to be worked. – MakorDal Jun 16 at 8:44
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    @morbo and, if it's that small a company, many in the company will be happy for them! Small companies tend to have a more "family" atmosphere. (Not all I realize, I worked at a company that grew from 10 to 25 while I was there and there was ZERO "family" vibe at all - it was quite adversarial, actually, and that was down to the owner who was a real jerk.) OTOH, some of the other employees will start to think, hey, my cousin's out of work, maybe I can get her a job here, too. And maybe that will happen. – FreeMan Jun 16 at 14:53
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A problem you might want to consider:

Income source diversity between you and your fiancee.

The word "fiancee" implies you either live together or plan to in near future.

If one of you losing job is bad, both of you losing job together is worse. There is at least 3 scenarios leading to both of you losing job together:

  1. The company you work for goes out of business. It is possible even for successful companies with a long history and an adequate management (example: covid19 lockdown).

  2. One of you goes out of favor for a serious mistake at work (be it real or suspected). A lot of managers, depending on the level of the responsibilities of you both, will consider firing both of you.

  3. You both breaking your relationship. A lot of complications are possible and I personally withnessed a couple being fired for not being able to work in the presence of each other.

(These are my own considerations for my own similar case. I have a wife and a sister in law that lives temporarily with us. They both have skill sets that are pretty much needed by our company right now. The above reasons are why I resist both of them joining the company.)

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  • From the question, I am not quite sure if the fiancee currently has a job or not. If not, point 1 would be irrelevant, right? – guest Jun 17 at 14:53
  • It is still relevant. None of these 3 points are absolute, but they still worth considering. – fraxinus Jun 17 at 15:18
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    But wouldn't "I take any job and continue searching" be financially better than "I have no job and continue searching" in any case? – guest Jun 17 at 16:19
  • Short term, probably. It depends. – fraxinus Jun 17 at 16:31
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    The fiancee does currently have a job. However, she has been on furlough since March due to COVID-19 and is currently seeking stable employment. – user39900 Jun 18 at 0:18

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