Hiring Couples

Why anyone would want to work with their partner is beyond me! Seeing the same person all day at work, and all night at home would surely get old over time. This does not put off the many couples that are actively seeking work with the same employer all around Manila.

It is inevitable that couples will form in the workplace. Given the amount of time we spend there, and the number of people we meet it would be one of the more common match making scenarios. Managing this is a topic all on its own, and something that is beyond your control in many ways. Hiring a couple is a different ball game altogether. You have control over whether you are prepared to take on the potential problems that come with this or not…. Of course this assumes that you are aware of the domestic situation when making your hiring decision.

If a couple is following each other to an employer, it is possible they have both come from the same previous employer. If this is the case you are taking on a package deal in all respects. Finding out the reason behind their departure will give some clues as to the level of risk you are taking on. You are essentially doubling down on the investment while doubling your risk. For this reason alone I prefer not to hire couples unless there is a very strong reason to do so.

Often the strong reason to do so will come from one in the duo only. Star couples exist, but are rare. It is a great shame to see someone with great promise, and a clear career path throw it away to follow the less ambitious partner who has walked away from their job over something trivial. It continues to puzzle me how an achiever could be attracted to dead weight like that anyway, but I do not seek to understand attraction here. Just shed light on the risk that you may lose someone great, because of the actions of someone not so great. I have seen this happen, and I do hope they live happily ever after with their choices. It is just a shame to see someone held back from reaching their potential in this way.

While it would be nice to think that couples pursue this out of a relentless desire to never be apart, I am afraid that it is far more frequently a trust issue. It is surprisingly common for staff to cheat on their partners. I have seen this, or their attempts to do this, from staff who otherwise seem happily married. After what I can only assume to be past indiscretions, this leads one of the partners to need to know what the other is doing at all times. You see this at lunch time, team building events and Christmas parties. Where one is, the other will follow… Although, it could also just be the controlling nature of the individual. Relationship dynamics seem very different in the Philippines. I often hear that someone cannot come to an event because the partner has forbidden them, or they will have to ask permission first. So this level of control is perhaps closer to the norm.

Why do we care from a management point of view? Well, the most common occurrence that could affect your business is sick leave. If they are a problem couple then you can count on their leave doubling up. For a serious illness this would be understandable, if not encouraged. Although more it is usually the case that a slight sniffle becomes completely debilitating.

Another risk of the problem couple is that their views are usually going to be closely aligned with each other. If they are not, the dominant one will see to it that the other backs them up anyway. This can lead to alienation of the couple from coworkers, or at least create a level of isolation if they do not make an effort to socialize outside of each other’s company. This can be disruptive in a team focused environment. The Us v’s Them mentality may also influence how they respond to management.

All of these factors can also work in your favor. If both are positive individuals that want to perform well then you may be able to provide exactly the kind of environment they have been looking for. The relationship can play an important role in building each other’s confidence in their role, and a valuable level of support in difficult times. The result being happy and stable long term employees.

When making the decision to take on a couple, you need to make a judgment on which category they will fit in to. Past behavior will be your most important guide, and you will be well served to be comprehensive in your assessment of both parties. No matter how good one person is, it is the safer option to make your decision based on the lesser partner that appears to bring the risk. Are they someone you want in your business, and will they stay there long term? If you can say yes to this question then you may be onto a winner. If not then it is only a matter of time until history repeats itself.

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