A look at two tricky workplace situations.
Practically Speaking is a weekly column that addresses your most pressing business dilemmas. The advice is the opinion of long-time business owner Gene Marks. Send your questions to PracticallySpeaking@fortune.com.
My daughter is looking for work this summer and I’d like to offer her a job in my office. Is that OK?
One of the biggest benefits of owning your own business is that you can put your children to work. I have many clients who employ their kids. But there are two things to keep in mind.
First, you can get great a tax benefit. You can pay your child up to $6,300 a year and assuming she doesn’t have any other income, she likely won’t have to file a return. Not only that but you get the deduction. Just be careful that your child is at a reasonable working age (so no, you’re not going have your 4-year-old toddler answer the phones) and can perform work that others would be needed to do. I like to use 12 years old as a rule of thumb. And definitely make sure you grab that paycheck out of her hands and deposit it in a college savings account before she spends it on food or Xbox games!
Secondly, be careful of what your other employees might think. For a very small business, nepotism is the norm and in many cases needed. But as your company grows you may find others in the company who also have kids resentful if your kids are getting the opportunities that aren’t offered to them. You’re not breaking any laws per se – but you may create conflict. Everyone, be it your child or not, needs to go through the same process of interviewing and applying and decisions need to be made as independently as possible. Of course, no matter how objective you try to be everyone’s going to think your kid is going to get preference because you’re the owner. But following a process and having a policy will send a message that you’re doing your best to keep things as objective as possible.
One of my employees is a great guy and good at his job. But he…well…smells. I’ve had a few employees complain to me. What do I tell him?
No biggie – just keep a can of Febreze near his desk and ask anyone that’s walking by to give a quick spray. Problem solved. OK, just kidding. But this issue is not a joke. I don’t care how nice a person someone is or how good a job they do, they’re still working in an environment with other nice and hard-working people. And they deserve to spend their 8 to 10 hours in safe and clean environment, too. Working next to someone with B.O. really…well….stinks.
So it’s time for a closed-door session. Personal hygiene is expected of any employee (is this in your company handbook? It should be) and it’s not fair for someone to make things unpleasant for others. So you need to compliment but also be upfront. Don’t lay it on others or say “Marjorie says you stink.” Make sure he knows this is your problem and no one else’s. Assuming his issue isn’t medical-related, tell him he’s got to clean up his act and that you’ll do your best to be upfront with him and let him know how he’s doing over the next few weeks. But also let him know that poor personal hygiene could be grounds for termination (again, it’s important to include professional hygiene in your handbook) and that’s something no one wants. Follow these recommendations and I’m sure everything will be coming up roses in no time!