Think It's Possible to Work With Family Without Any Drama? Think Again

Think It's Possible to Work With Family Without Any Drama? Think Again

Now Daniel Eichholz wants to leave the family business ... but are they ready to let him go?

By Marianne Garvey
Daniel Eichholz Tries to Quit His Father's Firm

Ah, family. You love them and want to strangle them all at once. Imagine working with them? Most of us would run out screaming.

It’s such a sticky situation, explains workplace expert Dan Schawbel, because with family, you want to have a line between personal and professional and that line often gets blurred.

“For instance if you have a family business, or are working with them, it can create an awkward and complicated situation…Say if you have to fire them, it can literally tear your family apart,” Schawbel tells Personal Space. “They may be family, but it’s either their presence or they aren’t producing for you or your team so you or your boss will have to do it because it can affect your success or the profit of the company.”

Schawbel says he’s seen family fire family — or quit on family — and it always hurts relationships.

“You may not see them again, they will remember it forever, even if they know it’s their fault they’ll hold it against you,” he says. “There’s a certain expectation that family its supposed to take care of you.”

Here are a few tips:

Set boundaries.

“Have one-on-one talks all the time, set up expectations,” Schawbel says, “And do it on the first day of work. Have the talk ‘this is what can and can’t be said.' The family member who’s the manager or business owner has to tell you what’s expected of you.”

Don’t ever think you won’t get fired.

“You may get laid off if things aren’t going well.”

Don’t let things fester.

“It’s much better to get everything out upfront,” Schawbel says.

A family member who is a boss may play favorites.

And it may not be you. Schawbel says that “managers always choose a favorite anyway, that’s the way it always is. You see that in any workplace and often.”

“That’s where it gets complicated,” he adds, saying that if you happen to be the favorite and are family, handling coworkers can be tricky.

“The reality is if you’re the person in that position you don’t say much. Keep being the favorite and play nice with everyone. You have to be fair and nice to everyone you work with.”

You will run into them again.

“If you work for a Fortune 500 company, you may leave and never see your coworkers again,” Schawbel says. “If it’s family, remember, you will see them again.”

Asking for a raise is still asking for more money.

“You go in prepared with the top reasons you should get a raise, and how have you produced,” Schawbel says. “If you can justify a raise, you can justify a raise anywhere. If they refuse to pay you more that’s another issue, and if you leave and they need help with the family business they will be upset.
You might actually be taken advantage of by your family because they think you won’t leave.”

Keep non-work related family drama out.

“Deal with it after hours, you don’t want to bring bad energy into work. Say it’s the family restaurant, you want people to have a good experience and not be distracted.”

Most importantly, Schawbel says, is to not hold anything in. Set boundaries, expectations, and rules, and try to follow them.

“Be honest with each other, if anything, I’d say over communicate. If you were to survey 1,000 family business owners, they would say to talk about everything and treat it like it’s a normal job. If at a normal job you can’t get away with it, then don’t do it. Say your boss is your mom, you may start to take advantage of each other, the best way to deal with it is to treat it like a normal job from both perspectives.”

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