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Working With Family Members: It's Not Personal, It's Just Business


By Rhonda R. Savage

If you've ever been in business with a family member, you know there are several advantages. However, even the most dedicated, hard-working family member can experience or create tension, stress and conflict in the company. Can you really separate your family history, emotions and knowledge you have of a person at a deeper level, and have a great working relationship?

Families have successfully worked together, and there are reasons why it's worked. What are the qualities that facilitate successful working relationships? What are the common concerns and practices within companies that employ family? If you’re in business with or are thinking about working with family members, being aware of the following issue can prevent them from becoming problems in your business.

Loyalty Leads to Micromanagement

Often, family members are more dedicated to the success of their business than other staff members. The old saying, "Family is thicker than blood," is true, and yet too much caring can cause conflict.

Take the example of a business owner who employed his mother. He had established his vision and goals, but had trouble developing a consistent, fair style of leadership. He found staff management much harder than actually doing the work.

His mother, in her eagerness to help him succeed, openly voiced her concerns and opinions during business hours and outside the office. She said the office staff wasn't diligent enough in collecting money at the time of service and inconsistent in their processing methods. She also said they weren't doing a good job and needed to pay more attention to detail.

The owner had difficulty enforcing his policies because of the conflicting views between his mother and the other team members. His mother became a micromanager, telling everyone how they should do their jobs in detail. She meant well and only wanted to help the business succeed, but her micromanaging drove down the morale of the business.

Taking Work Home

One business owner enjoys working with his wife, but she was concerned the team members weren't held accountable for their work. Because the owner is sensitive to conflict, he avoids team meetings, coaching and performance reviews. His wife is quite verbal during the off hours about her feelings, which causes him discomfort, as he's sensitive to criticism; it creates tension in their personal relationship.

It's important, especially for couples, to separate their work and personal life. Bringing personal issues into the workplace and visa versa can create tension and an uncomfortable environment for all employees.

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