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

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Hiring Someone You Can't Fire

Business owners can be hesitant to talk to a family member about a problem within the office because of how it might impact them on the home front. They may walk on eggshells at work, worried about how the family member might respond if he was treated the same as other employees.

To be successful as a team member, family members need to know their role in the business. Being a family member and an employee can put anyone in a difficult position. Other employees, no matter how hard the family member works, may look at them differently. Because of this, your family-member employee will always need to hold himself at the same or even higher level of accountability than other employees. There are several things family members can do to be great employees, including:

  • Be early.
  • Be dependable.
  • Pay attention to work responsibilities.
  • Follow through.
  • Be friendly and have fun.
  • Be encouraging. Use the words "Absolutely!" and "Certainly!"
  • Be a mentor.
  • Take an active role in learning about the business.
  • Always speak positively about the owner and the business, in and out
  • of the office.
  • Offer advice when asked, or ask first before discussing a concern.

Unfair Pay

Some business owners try to help their family by paying more than the average wage for that employment category, which can impact the total payroll overhead. It’s unfair to neglect the rest of the team's income because you want to give special treatment to a family member. You'll see resentment and unhappiness build if this is the case. Remember, when morale goes down, productivity goes down.

In addition to pay, gender or age differences that impact your relationship with your team may feel intensified with your family employees. Recognize that some conflict develops due to these differences and work at learning about better communication and leadership.

A Successful Family Business

If family employees and other employees just can't seem to get along, you must resolve the issue. If you don't, tension will build, morale will plummet, and the business will suffer. Most don't like to deal with these issues. It's easier to brush them under the carpet. Yet talking about conflict is exactly what you'll need to do for your business to have the harmonious atmosphere clients seek.

If you find your employees don't get along, you'll need to facilitate the discussion. There are two questions you should ask yourself that will help take the emotional side out of the equation: Is whatever is happening in the best interest of the customer care? Is whatever is happening in the best interest of a healthy business?

The key to a successful employee/family relationship is that everyone in the office is treated the same. You need the same level (or higher) of accountability, timeliness and dedication to customer service from all of your employees, especially family members to be successful. Specifically outlining each employee's role and keeping personal issues out of the workplace will ensure a positive work environment for you and your family member.

Dr. Rhonda Savage is an internationally acclaimed speaker and CEO for a well-known practice-management and consulting business. She’s a noted motivational speaker on leadership, women's issues and communication. For more information e-mail; visit .

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