As someone who worked at his father’s company for more than five years, clients and family friends always wanted to know, “What’s it like working for your dad? Is he a good boss?” Obviously, people have different relationships with their parents, but for me, it was the best situation I could have ever asked for.
To give you a little background, my dad always prioritized growth and experience rather than immediate success. As my team’s Little League coach, he used to let all of the players play every position at least once and promised that anyone who wanted to pitch in a game would have that opportunity. I wish I could tell you that we won the championship and were the best team in the league, but we weren’t. We were awful. But we did have a lot of fun on the baseball field, and even more off it when the ice cream truck came around.
The other players’ parents didn’t care for the losing and complained about my dad to the league. One of their chief complaints, other than the losses, was that I needed to play more. Not to toot my own horn, but I was a total Little League All-Star. My dad used to bench me just like anyone else though and I was fine with it. I didn’t take it personally. I knew we were all equals on the team. It only bothered me at lunchtime when my classmates would say that they were better than me at baseball. Their main argument was that my own dad used to take me out of the game. That’s when my best friend and teammate, Chris, would step in and take care of the situation. Comebacks were never, and still aren’t, my strong suit. For Chris, they flowed naturally.
At the time, I had no idea my dad faced pressure to win. He always remained even-keeled and prioritized our experience. I found out from my mom years later. That’s just the way my dad is. He absorbs the pressure and the stress and doesn’t complain about it so other people can function and go about their daily lives, “fat, dumb, and happy” as my grandma would say.
He also keeps his word. So, my dad, Coach DeMarco, allowed the new kid from Trinidad, who had only ever played cricket prior, to pitch in the last game of the year against the best team in the league. The players on the other team lost their cool and swung at pitches nowhere near the strike zone because they wanted to hit and didn’t have any patience in the batter’s box. The pitcher, Ishwar, had zero control and kept striking them out. The opposing team cried when they lost and the coach complained that it was unfair that my dad allowed Ishwar to pitch. Even though we lost a lot of games, we learned valuable life lessons such as: accept defeat with dignity, be a gracious winner, and don’t lose sight of the reason you play the game. I can’t say that the best team in the league learned any of those from the tantrums they had. They started blaming each other for the loss. On our team, we won and lost together. We knew that a team was only as successful as its weakest link, which, as fate would have it, proved to be our secret weapon.
Before the start of the next season, as often happens in any statistic driven system, my dad was relived of his Little League coaching duties due to our disastrous record. Or as he puts it, “I’m the only guy who has ever been fired from a volunteer job.”
That’s the guy I learned from. The guy who made sure that a kid’s game remained a kid’s game, especially for the children playing. He approaches business in much the same way, but demands and expects more from everyone since they are professionals. He allows all of his employees an opportunity for growth and takes their thoughts and complaints into consideration, even if there isn’t anything he can do about it. In return, he expects that they produce and do their jobs. As long as that happens, there aren’t any problems. Life and business, of course, aren’t perfect and there are problems, but he handles each one with care and makes sure that a lesson is learned so it doesn’t happen again.
As a kid, my dad taught me the ins and outs of his company without me even realizing it. He used to describe scenarios to get my take on it, but instead of putting it in his company’s terms, he’d explain it in layman’s terms and ways that I could relate. More often than not, we were on the same page. When I started working for his company, I understood the way his business operated and if I had questions I’d just ask him directly and he’d answer. I also knew that as a son, whether we were at work or just hanging out at home, that he loved me and wouldn’t let anyone or anything hurt me. My father is my protector. He will take a lot of mental abuse from people about himself, but there are three people who you don’t speak ill of if you want to stay on his good side: my mom, my sister, and me. At work, as long as my dad and I were on the same page, which we always were because I’d ask him questions and for advice all day long, I never worried because I knew I had the bulldog in the corner office backing me up.
I understand that the dynamic that my dad and I have is probably more rare than common. I told one of my friends a story about how my dad defended me at work. “You’re lucky,” my friend said. “My dad would’ve thrown me under the bus in a heartbeat. He does it all the time.” Another time, a client I was working with said that he works with his father, as well. He mentioned that the other employees at the company are often uneasy because the two of them yell at each other all day long. He asked me if my dad and I fought often at work. I told him that I don’t think I can count on one hand the number of times my dad has yelled at me in my entire life. However, I can’t keep track of all of the teaching moments and wisdom he has imparted. Once again, I heard the same response: “You’re lucky.”
The hardest part of the job for me was hearing a fellow employee speak negatively about my father. I knew the reasoning for all of my dad’s actions and that he never would just do anything for shock value. If he said or made someone do something, there was validity behind it. However, in those situations, I’d just have to let it roll off of me. That didn’t always work, especially when I wanted to hit the person in the head with the office phone or punch them in the face. Instead, I’d just walk outside the office and mosey around the city until I cooled off.
So, when I was scrolling through Twitter the other day, I was very intrigued about a relatively inconsequential trade that made national headlines. Doc Rivers, the president of basketball operations and head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, acquired his son, Austin Rivers, in a three-team trade. It’s the first time that a father will be coaching his son in the NBA, but not the first time a coach will manage his son in professional sports. It’s already happened twice in Major League Baseball.
The reason why this trade shouldn’t be that big of a deal is because the players involved aren’t stars or game changers. Austin Rivers has averaged almost 7 points, 2 assists, and 2 rebounds over 165 games, while the player that the Clippers gave up averaged about 2.5 points and 1.5 rebounds in 68 games. You don’t need to be a sports fan to understand that the numbers for both players aren’t impressive.
The reason why this trade is such a big deal is because of the players involved. The man who has the ability to approve or veto any move on his team decided to bring his son aboard.
On one hand, it’s a great storyline and makes perfect sense. A father who has groomed his child to become a professional basketball player will be able to nurture his son’s career and allow him to continue to grow as a person and an athlete. The son has an opportunity to succeed with the person who wants him to succeed more than anyone else in charge.
On the other, it’s a nightmare and makes no sense. Every decision that Doc Rivers makes will come under scrutiny. If he plays his son: Why isn’t he playing the other players on the team? Is his son receiving preferential treatment that the other players aren’t? If he benches his son: What did his son do wrong? Doesn’t he want to see his son play? What type of father is he?
And then there are the questions that will be directed at Doc Rivers: Why would he bring this attention to his team? Was the Donald Sterling fiasco last year not enough of a major headline and distraction?
It’s the ultimate catch-22 and brings us to the water-cooler conversation topic: Should parents and children be allowed to work together?
There are companies that have no restrictions on hiring family members or relatives and others where there are stringent regulations in place to assure there is no nepotism in the workplace.
We celebrate family businesses – they take pride in their work, we can trust them since they have a good reputation over a long period of time, and there’s much more of a personal connection. And then we order the same products that the mom-and-pop shop offer, but online from the convenience of our own home or while we’re at work since we can get it shipped for free and don’t actually have to go out to buy the item.
We condemn politicians and public figures who create jobs for their family and friends. There aren’t enough jobs for the unemployed and here they are making work for their loved ones. It’s not fair. How does anyone else stand a chance? Then when you or your child isn’t able to land a position because of a familial relationship, it’s a travesty. How do you expect people to work when they can’t work in the same place as their family members? It’s not their fault that they were born into this family.
Obviously, a person should be judged on his or her performance and relationships shouldn’t be a factor. However, it’s hard to tell what someone’s performance would be if they’re not given an opportunity either way.
An employee who has a familial relation offers an immediate vested interest, whereas an employee that responds to an advertisement has to grow to care about the job and company over time. Anytime a family member or friend recommends you, they become responsible for you and your work, in addition to your boss. A child is much more likely to ask his/her parent for help (since they’re used to doing it) rather than a stranger, which can help them avoid rookie mistakes. The child will also have an idea of company politics and will know who to stay away from, who to ignore, and who you need to impress to keep your job from the get-go.
When family members work together, even if they say that they keep the work in the office and don’t talk about it when the daily hours are over, it’s simply impossible. If you speak to your parent, work will enter the conversation. If you spend time with your parent, work will come up. And when you both work together and are at a family function, if you have a task that needs to be done and are trying to figure out how to accomplish it you can use each other as sounding boards without giving any inside information away to people who shouldn’t know what you’re talking about.
Parents and children also have their own language that they can speak without saying any words. And successful parents know how to educate or get through to their children, which can continue to occur in the workplace. You automatically know each other’s strengths. It goes both ways, too. Your parent may come to you for advice on other employees, have you correct an important e-mail, or have you show them how to work technology that they’re not comfortable with, but don’t want to ask anyone else since it may make them look inept. You can watch over each other.
And that leads to the other problem. What happens when a child isn’t pulling his/her weight in the company? The parent will protect his/her kid for as long as possible and use any favors that they may have collected through the years to ensure it. Or if the situation is reversed and a parent is working for a child, the child will do the same to protect his/her parents.
As I learned in Little League and any sports fan knows, if the players don’t perform, it’s the coach who gets fired. So, the biggest risk here is for Doc Rivers. However, most parents would accept that responsibility since the potential reward is much greater than the potential risk. Regardless of what anyone says, it all comes down to this: Will my loved ones or I benefit? Yes? Then it’s a good thing.