The Upside of Working With Family

By Mike Moore

Small businesses around the world are quick to boast that their office environments are like being a part of "one big family" but chances are those employers would be singing a different tune if they got their wish and had an office full of rowdy relatives and quirky cousins.

Don't get me wrong, family-owned businesses are great - in fact, the Small Business Review just reported that these enterprises continually beat out other firms in revenue and employment growth and, in general, are more stable and inspire more trust and commitment in their employees. But they sometimes introduce dynamics into the workplace that wouldn't typically be there in a familial workplace.

Do you work with family? If so, these too common problems might be affecting your workplace. Here's how to make them work for you:

Birth order: Classic older-sibling syndrome can kick in at home and in the office, and has the potential to be destructive or productive.

  • Make it work for you: Offices benefit from a hierarchy, and clearly communicating that positions and job titles will be awarded based on skillsets and work performance as opposed to age can create a healthy dynamic among competitive siblings.
  • Working through it: Sibling jealousy can be ugly. To avoid special treatment, make sure to have regular status updates and performance reviews with all employees to make sure there are no grudges going unspoken or feelings of unfairness being built up.

Bringing work home: When issues at home trickle into work and vice-versa.

  • Make it work for you: Family members have a deeper level of understanding of each other. Relatives who fully grasp the unspoken reasons why someone may be having a rough day (sick kids, pet problems) have the opportunity to create a collaborative work environment and boost morale.
  • Working through it: Define and maintain your work-life balance. Clearly and frequently communicate (in meetings, on posters, in emails, etc.) that family business will be dealt with at home and try to keep work-related topics off the table at home.

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