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Would You Hire Your Lazy but Talented Brother-in-Law?

The labor market is tight, and you’re desperate. You could use an extra pair of hands to help finish the job, and your lazy but talented brother-in-law could really use a job. Under what conditions would you hire him?

The answer is no, say 53 percent of you who responded to this month’s question. Of those who said no, 37 percent did not provide reasons and are not included in the responses below (although they are included in this completely unscientific tally). It seems that family members (and friends) are off limits, talented as they may be.

Another short answer came from 23 percent of those who said they would hire their brother-in-law. They had a simple, two-word solution: piece rate. Forget the hourly wage and pay him only what he really earns.

One other merely wrote, “Already have.” We assume that means he hired his brother-in-law but is now in too much shock to relay the rest of the story. Thankfully, the rest of you had no trouble elaborating.

Been there, done that. Would never do it again. Hired my brother-in-law for about six months, sent him on a 30-minute errand only to see his face three hours later. He would come to work late, and anytime I made a big deal out of his laziness, I became the bad guy in the family. From now on I’ll go without the extra hand—the job would have gone faster!

Under no circumstances would I suggest hiring a knowingly “lazy” employee. The risk of tarnishing employee morale, potential injuries and compromising overall project quality outweigh providing employment for a “lazy” brother-in-law.

—Stephen Milano, President,

Milano Group Wall & Ceiling

I did hire him, and I told him, “I won’t ever have to let you go; the trade and work itself will determine whether or not you will make it or be cut out for this type of work.” Sure enough, he quit after a year. Good learning experience for him. I was glad to give him the opportunity.


If he stayed home.

Absolutely not. It would not be worth the risk to the company or family. The only outcome there is is a bad one.

Lazy has no place in our company, and it pains me to know that people cannot only “get by” but actually prosper by being lazy. People in other countries have the hunger that we once had. Our prosperity has bred laziness and the ability to get a welfare or unemployment check for doing nothing, and making no effort is at the core of the problem.

Hire the untalented but hardworking individual and train him or her and you will be far further ahead.

If you are looking for lazy and untalented, give me a call, just not before noon …

—Howard Bernstein

Just how lazy is he? The GCs are expecting body count!

—Jerry Reicks

None. Do not mix business with lazy family members. Better off hiring a lazy stranger who may take the new position with an attitude adjustment.

Yes, I would after I was positive that he understood what was expected and the consequences for not meeting the expectations.

Everyone deserves a chance. I tell them that we are going to give them opportunity to excel in their field. What they do with it is up to them.

I would treat him no different than any other employee.

I have told more than one family member that company policy will come first, and they respect that commitment.

—Robert A. Coyle, Executive Vice President,

Dayton Walls & Ceilings, Inc.

Some of my best workers act like the lazy brother-in-law sometimes. I have been a stucco contractor for nine years, started off as a laborer 21 years ago, and it’s a revolving door of the same tradesmen since starting. I’ve worked with some of these guys before I was in business, and they have come and go.

Even paying more than other contractors, the morale is down. Some of my best foremen have stolen from me, or just slacked. But when we are hot and others contractors are not, I have had to forgive and let bygones be bygones to get the work out from the most talented but most challenging individual’s foolishness. Same conditions that my guys use me for: the highest pay when they’re hot, and laid off when they’re not.

—Walter Weiss Jr., Stucco Plus LLC,
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

I’m in central Florida, a transplant from . I would hire anyone’s brother-in-law if they had talent, compared to the lazy, no-talent work force I’ve been dealing with for the last 18 months.

No way. Happy wife, happy life. Not worth the potential problems if he is lazy and you need to finish a project. You will end up the bad guy.

—Sal Lastrina,

Lastrina Associates Inc.,

Enfield, Connecticut

Under no circumstances! The few days your wife won’t talk to you are the worth the agony of living with him daily and the damage to morale, culture and ultimately profitability.

None. I hired my sister’s fiancé and ended up firing him 6 months later because he was so lazy it was terrible. Then having to release him was even more awkward. Save your efforts and work a few extra hours through the busy time.

This is a particularly timely and pertinent question.

The unemployment rate is down to 7% and that is reflected in the difficulty many contractors are having now in this boom market finding qualified and willing workers.

We went so far this year as to hire a dozen men from work release at the local jail. Thank goodness we had unskilled work that they were able to perform well.

My point is that sometimes we’re forced to make decisions—dictated by circumstance—that we would rather not make either by intuition or experience.

There are companies that have multiple family members and that succeed well. There are others in which the family members are like remoras getting paid, but not contributing in proportion to their pay.

But blood relationship alone is not the only criteria one should use. Is he sober? Does he have his own transportation? Does have skills you can use? Does he have a history of performance? Would hiring him put your relationship with your wife in jeopardy?

Under what circumstances would I hire him? When the price of not hiring him is greater than the potential price of hiring him. If, for instance, the general contractor is threatening to augment our forces or back-charge us for non-performance or for holding up other crews or ordering us to work overtime (weekends and nights) for no compensation.

—Rob Aird, President,

Robert A. Aird, Inc.,

Frederick, Maryland

If he shows up on time each day, works as he should. If he fails to do so I make it clear the consequences and carry them out. Let your yes mean yes and no … no.

—Kevin, Owner,

KL Drywall LLC

In this case, lazy trumps talented. Under no condition would I hire him.

Tell him you’d like to work together for a month to see how well the two of you work as a team. At the end of the month decide whether you want to continue as a team or pursue other options. Options are good.

If I was there to make sure he is working. LOL.

Only hire the bum if he agreed to subcontract the job, and he would have to wait to get paid for at least 30 days after the project is complete and when the client signs off as satisfied.

—Rob-Can Drywall Services Limited,

Glace Bay, N.S., Canada

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