Imagine this scenario: It's Monday morning, and you arrive at the office early to get started on your week. You need to put in extra hours to make up for your sales partner, Jack, who hasn't been working very hard lately.
In most companies, you could simply complain to your boss. After all, partners should work equally hard – so if Jack isn't doing his share, then your boss should know, right?
The problem is that you don't work for a 'normal' company. You work for a family business, and Jack is your boss's son. That makes things a bit more complicated, especially because you know that your boss doesn't like to hear negative things about Jack.
So, what do you do? How do you handle difficult situations involving family members in a family-run company?
In this article, we review the pros and cons of working in a family business – both for family members and for 'outsiders' – and we discuss some strategies for creating and managing successful working relationships in a family-business environment.
Issues for Family Members
If you work in your family's business, you probably already know that it can be a complex environment.
Here's an example: Imagine that your mom owns the company you work for. You're heading the advertising department and have a unique, innovative idea for the next marketing campaign.
When you pitch the idea to your mom, however, she's less than enthusiastic. And instead of bringing up impersonal, practical reasons for not going along with your idea, she brings up mistakes you made years ago, before you even started working for the company.
In a family company, there's often no such thing as a "fresh start".
Like everything in life, working with your family has its pros and cons:
You're collaborating with people you trust and care about. This can be a very nurturing environment, and it can give all family members more self-confidence.
The work environment may be more relaxed. For example, it may not be an issue if you occasionally arrive late or leave early, which it may be in a traditional corporate culture where 'flexi-working' isn't built into your contract.
Family members usually understand that they're all in this together, and are working toward a common goal. They may be much more willing to make financial sacrifices for the company, if things get tough.
Working with family members may sometimes lead to conflict. Because you know your colleagues so well, it's easy to think you know what they want, or how they're feeling. These emotional ties can cause problems in the workplace.
Family members are often promoted even if they're not an ideal fit for a new position. This can lead to business problems, as well as angry and resentful non-family staff, who may have been denied the promotion.
Personal issues are easily carried into the work environment, and work issues may be carried back into home life. This may lead to family problems that impact the company and the other workers.
Because family members often have the same background and upbringing, the danger for groupthink and resistance to change is very high, especially if an older family member is running the company.
Family members may find it hard to take tough business decisions that will have a negative impact on another family member, or give them negative feedback about their performance when appropriate.
Issues for Non-Family Members
If you work for a family business, and you're an "outsider" – not a member of the family circle – then your position can be challenging.
For instance, you've been at a family-run company for almost five years. And yet, you've never had any kind of performance review. You're not sure if the work you're doing could be improved, or even if the owner has an opinion on the changes you've implemented in the company. You'd like more responsibilities, but it doesn't seem like there's any kind of procedure in place for reviews or promotions.https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newCDV_40.htm