Getting Personal at Work

Shawnee Love   •   February 14, 2019

This day is focused on love, so why not blog on love at work. But this blog isn’t about people who suddenly fall in love with their coworkers, rather, it is about family business.

According to Canada’s Family Enterprise Exchange, family business employs more than 6 million people in Canada which is about 25% of our workforce.  If the family members are able to work well together, then presumably, one quarter of our workplaces are healthy, productive, and growing concerns.

However, when the family members (who typically hold leadership and ownership positions) are out of sync, the whole business suffers.

There is going to be conflict at work (and at home), and I am a firm believer that the ability to disagree leads to better ideas and decisions, but how do you protect your family business from the dysfunctional kind of conflict?

There are a few measures which make for good business when family relationships are involved:

  1. Have clear roles which spell out responsibility, accountability and authority. Hint, there should be no accountability without a matching level of authority.
  2. Share that information with everyone in the company. Everyone needs to know whether Junior is allowed to spend $10,000 on an ergonomic chair or if she is in a position to dress someone down for being 5 minutes late.
  3. Provide family members with clear expectations for their jobs and hold them accountable for following those boundaries and standards.
  4. Introduce problem and conflict resolution mechanisms which enable family members to get ownership issues addressed and ensure these mechanisms are separate from dispute resolution mechanisms for operational and employee-related matters.
  5. Teach family members how to recognize and articulate which role they are representing when raising concerns and ensure they address concerns using the appropriate mechanism. (When a family member raises an issue to a non-family employee, non-family employees wonder if the issue is an employee asking for help or a future boss providing instructions. Take that confusion away by ensuring family members get special training in which mechanism to use as well as when and how to use it.)
  6. Ensure new family members coming into the business have worked at least 5 years somewhere else so they can bring new ideas and you don’t have to train them in how the working world works.

These six measures if implemented successfully, should go a long way towards setting your family business up for successful employment of family and non-family employees.  Share and help us spread the love.