Family-Owned Businesses

Entrepreneur Families - It's Not Easy being Married to the Boss

Written by Jay Shapiro for Gaebler Ventures

Boardroom matters should never be confused with bedroom matters. Is it ok to talk shop at the dinner table? Does the role of power in the work setting influence the way family business owners interact in private life?

Family run businesses can face a lot of problems that relate directly to the close relationship between workforce members.

When personal issues start to enter into the business environment, you know you got problems. Sometimes a line has to be drawn prevent personal hassles from becoming company nightmares.

In order to avoid stereotyping we've used the example of Mrs. Business being the boss of a family company. Mr. Business, her husband, is effectively employed by his wife. This could work either way with the roles reversed so this is just for example's sake, a device used to express how the trivial things of a couple's personal life can become real issues wherever there is what's seen as an unequal power scenario in the work place.

Talking shop when the shop's shut is a bad thing

Oh dear, this is such a tricky area. With family run business, especially those which the whole family is involved in, it's natural to discuss work at the dinner table. Often that's the one time and place where everyone is actually together. So is it acceptable? Well, yes, it is, but there must be guidelines.

If Mrs. Business starts reprimanding Mr. Business because he didn't finish doing the accounts that day then we have what is a nasty overspill of work issues into private time. The mistake Mrs. Business is making is that of behaving like a boss at a time when she should be behaving like a wife. The two roles are vastly different and by displaying her so called power in this way, especially in front of the family, Mrs. Business is undermining her husband. Not good for relations all round, business or personal.

When one half of a married partnership carries more weight and has more responsibility in the business than the other then it's no surprise that things can get complicated in the couple's personal life. Mrs. Business is so used to handling a lot of the decision making in the workplace that she finds it hard to relax in her leisure time. If the way she speaks to her husband or partner in personal time begins to mimic the way she is when she's in work mode, that's bad news, but it does happen unfortunately. We understand that Mrs. Business needs to maintain a professional approach in the workplace, it wouldn't do if she were constantly kissing her husband on the cheek or sharing in jokes with him at work. She needs to find a balance.

There is a story concerning Queen Victoria who following a major disagreement with her husband Albert wanted to go into his rooms and talk to him. He refused to allow her entry. The story goes that Victoria repeatedly knocked at the door demanding to be let in because she was the queen. Albert did not respond to this. He only opened the door when Victoria said, "I am your wife, let me in," or words to that effect.

This tale perhaps highlights the importance of keeping matters of work as far away from the bedroom as possible.

Jay Shapiro is a freelance writer based in the UK. Jay has a particular interest in the emotive aspects of the entrepreneur's character. "Alongside the nuts and bolts of business, the character of the person is often the ingredient responsible for success."

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