I’m a senior accountant in our firm and have enjoyed the camaraderie in our office for more than two decades. It took a lot of effort and learning to capitalize on each other’s strengths, but our group has become a cohesive team that works well together, like a well-oiled machine. And now I wonder: Do all good things really have to end or is that just a clichéd line coined by some pessimistic author? Well, s/he may have a point … Cousin John just lost his job – for the third time in as many years. And I’ll give you three guesses as to what field he’s in. Bingo! He is a CPA. He recently approached me and asked if I can put in a good word for him to my boss. I believe my employer would take John’s application seriously if I vouch for him. But is that a good idea? You know what they say about relatives working together. No matter how close they are, once they become business partners, the fabric of their relationship frays. And even though it’s a formidable risk – I despise conflict and value my relationship with John – is that a reason not to help John? After all, he’s my family – and he needs to be able to live!
What should I do?
Trying To Figure It Out
Tough dilemma! But you left out some significant details that might make it easier for me to weigh in.What is John’s personality like? Is he responsible, friendly and a good team member? Does he consider the opinions of others, or is his the only one that counts? Is he open to constructive criticism?
If you answer these questions affirmatively, I would say it’s probably worth the risk to put in a good word for him. We should all reach out and help anyone in need to maintain financial stability, and we certainly bear a greater responsibility towards our own family, friends and community.
If you feel that John would not be a good match for your firm, then the plot thickens. Since you’ve been in the business for so long, have you made friends with others in the field? Perhaps as a senior accountant, you’ve shaken hands with those in other firms and may be able to finagle something for him in a different office.
However, if John is not qualified or could somehow damage the agency through poor performance, then you are putting your good name on the line by recommending him. Do you know the reasons for his terminations during the last three years? Is it the economy or are there more personal reasons at play?
If you’re uncertain but have reservations, perhaps you can tell John that you will keep him in mind if you hear of any openings. That will buy you a little time, but is not an effective long-term resolution. A more beneficial approach may be to contact your firm or a different firm and explain that your cousin is looking for a job. But be honest. Explain that although you like him personally, you are uncertain about his suitability for the position. Perhaps they will agree to give him a trial. Then, if it doesn’t work out, you’re not liable.
If you are certain that John has serious issues that would impact – and already have impacted –his career, then perhaps it’s time to put it on the table and have an honest conversation with him. Ask him if he has any idea why his other jobs haven’t lasted. Guide him towards self-awareness and allow him to come up with the underlying problem. And then, when he turns to you with his hands up and a woebegone expression, lead him to reach his own conclusions about fixing the situation. When people are empowered, they generally don’t feel attacked, appreciate your support, and are more willing to tackle the problem they are facing.
Taking the multifaceted factors into account, these are my thoughts about navigating this challenging situation with care, responsibility and transparency.
All the best,