Family Businesses

Working with Family Members

Hiring relatives? Conflict in a family business is perhaps one of the most unpleasant things one can experience. Working with family members needn't be so painful. Just make sure you take the right steps to prevent personality clashes and differing agendas from adversely affecting the health of the company.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to working with family members. On the one hand, family members can make great employees. Unless your family is highly dysfunctional, you should be able to trust family members with the responsibilities of the workplace.

Working with Family Members

On the hand, however, family members can also be a source of conflict, especially if the stresses of family life overflow into the life of your business.

The decision to hire family members may or may not be the right one for your small business. But if you do decide to bring your family into the workplace, there are some things you need to consider.

Keep family-related issues outside of the workplace

One of the best things you can do to maintain a harmonious working environment is to leave family-related issues at home. This sounds easy, but in fact it is often difficult to segregate family issues from the workplace. No matter how hard you try, sibling rivalries, marital disagreements, and family crises will inevitably trickle into the office.

Nonetheless, you need to diligently attempt to minimize the influence of family issues on your small business. A workplace dominated by family-related problems can potentially lead to high turnover in non-family employees because of the sense of uneasiness it creates. Worse yet, it will distract all of your employees from their primary task - achieving a profitable bottom line for your company.

Keep business-related issues outside of the home

In addition to keeping family-related issues out of the workplace, it's also important to keep business-related issues away from your home. For many family businesses, family gatherings become just another opportunity to "talk shop". This is unhealthy for your family and your business because it can cause related employees to resent the company's encroachment on their free time.

Also, it's important not to extend your role beyond the workplace. At work, you are the boss. But at home, your role is that of a father, a mother, an aunt, an uncle, etc. if you continue to treat your employees like employees outside of the office, you will likely cause a deep (and sometimes irreparable) rift in your family relationships.

Maintain objectivity

Nepotism is a valid concern in family-run businesses. Non-related employees will be less likely to put forth their best effort if they perceive a double-standard exists for family members.

To avoid this perception, take appropriate measures to objectively assess the performance of all your employees (family and non-family). Make it known that promotions and pay raises will be based strictly on merit and maintain written records to support your actions.

Similarly, make an effort to maintain a uniform degree of communication with all of your employees. There is a natural tendency for family-run business owners to give family members more access than the rest of their staff. Instead, deliberately foster an open door policy for everyone in the company.

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