Part 2: tips to guide entrepreneurs and their families

7 Tips for working with family members

At the very thought of working with family members, we often cringe our teeth. Words like difficult, uncomfortable and painful, to say the least, come to mind. At times, it can bring out the best in us and our relatives, but unfortunately, most often then not, it brings out the worst in us and adds an extra layer of stress on our relationships. When confronted with difficult work relationships with family members, we have a tendency to overlook or minimize mistakes made by our relatives. This can cause us to become excessively hypercritical, condescending and narrow-minded.

The reasons why this happens are numerous:

  • We are privy to intimate information about each other’s behaviours and mindsets
  • We have already gone through difficult life obstacles together that might have shaped our opinions about each other
  • We know each other’s “hot buttons”, how we react, each other’s thoughts and feelings
  • We might provide too much or insufficient supervision and teamwork
  • We might lack a certain expertise or skill to do our job properly therefore act out or use passive aggressiveness to hide our insecurities

These reasons often prevent us from being rational, logical, accurate or fair when interacting with relatives. Although many families do have great experiences and are able to cope through hard times without letting it effect their business objectives, what can other families do if their journey is not as smooth? In other words, how do we begin to correct the situation?

Here are a few tips to help you work with relatives:

1)  Approach and acknowledge that the current relationship is simply not working. It could be the dead silence that fills the halls or the constant aggressive exchanges. Either way, discuss the impact your behaviors or attitudes are having on each other, employees and the company as a whole. The best way to have such a discussion and assure it is a productive one that focuses on solutions rather than blame, is to call in a mediator: an HR manager or external consultant. Finally, it’s important that all parties involved agree on working together to improve and maximize the current relationship for your own sake and that of the organization. If several conflicts exist within the company, it is highly advised that conflict between family members be addressed first in private, before moving onto other colleagues.

2) Agree that you want to improve the organizational climate by increasing professionalism and leaving personal issues outside the organization. However, in some cases, it might be important that you appoint someone all parties trust, to step in and stop emotional actions and words when they appear. Be patient, as it might take a few days or weeks, depending on the severity of the conflict, before your new habits kick in. Learning how to manage your emotions can sometimes take time. Therefore give each other an opportunity and do not be to critical when one of you slips into old habits.

3) Clarify the specific goals you each agree to meet in terms of relevant behaviors and attitudes directed toward meeting the company’s goals and mission. Remember that creating specific goals is paramount to assuring each party is accountable and can measure each other’s progress. Encouraging your relatives through this process, even for small achievements, is important as a means to keep each other motivated.

4) Assure to clarify each other’s roles objectively. Just like regular employees, sometimes reviewing and adjusting each other’s roles and responsibilities can have a tremendous positive impact on the entire organization. This step is critical: when employees, whether family members or not, are confused about “who does what,” it results in increased conflict and misunderstandings. Productivity, employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction are all at risk. To avoid this state, individual explicit obligations need to be clear at all levels: tasks, responsibilities, reporting relationships, support system, schedules, time off, salary and bonuses, employees and equipment, among other.

5) Clarify your procedure and daily processes: who can make what kind of decisions, who is involved in these steps, how decisions are to be made (individually, a pair or small group), how to communicate with each other and others and who needs to be kept in or out of the loop about occurrences, etc.

6) Build trust. Appreciate and value each other when discussing a topic you may usually be reluctant to bring up. Be honest, transparent and take ownership of all negative behaviors that you have each contributed to creating or increasing conflict. Be respectful and take the time to listen to each other, especially when you may feel the need to defend or explain yourselves. Maintain integrity and do your best to keep your word. Most importantly, have fun together! Playing a game of cards during lunchtime or planning a team building activity outside the office can increase trust between relatives and employees as a whole.

7) Assure quality work at its highest degree. If one or many of you lack skills or knowledge to do your work properly, come up with a professional training plan to assure each person reaches their full potential within the organization. A company that values ongoing learning and training promotes trust and assures long-term success.

Version française de cet article disponible ici :

7 conseils pour travailler avec les membres de votre famille