Surviving in a Family Business

Surviving in a Family Business I want to reiterate that some family businesses are great places to work, even if you are not a family member. But some are not. A previous post gave an example of that. So You, as a non-family employee, can inadvertently be caught in these difficult dynamics. What can you do? It isn’t an easy situation but here are some Dos and Don’ts. The Don’ts Don’t try to mediate Being right in the middle of the fight, you might try to be helpful and offer a suggestion (“A sample run won’t take long and then you can decide”). Stifle the desire to ameliorate or fix what’s going on. First, it’s not your job to do so, and second, even if you were a mediation expert, it’s doubtful you’d be successful (because you would not be perceived as trustworthy by all parties). Don’t identify what’s really going on Avoid any comments like “Look, I can see that you and Martha are having trouble, so I’ll just come back—.” No, no, no. Bad family dynamics are often that way because no one’s willing to be honest about the problem. In fact, Martha and Carl might band together…

Challenges of Working in a Family Business

Challenges of Working in a Family Business The last post examined a family business not operating well. Did you pick out their problems? I’ll go over some. Nepotism Large companies are not always a picnic to work in, but usually the Powers-That-Be have realized the problems associated with hiring or working with a relative. Thus, it is usually forbidden. However, in a family business, it’s not only allowed but a foregone conclusion. Initially, family is probably needed because they might work at lower (or no) wages until the business takes off. And when it does, it’s only natural to extend employment to other family members. So, in our example, the mother, daughter and son are all in the business. But being family doesn’t mean having the marketing, finance, production, or organizational skills that the job requires. For a non-family employee—presumably hired because they did have what the job needed (like You)—this can be galling. And, as in any company, people who can’t or won’t do their work, make it more difficult for those who want to do a good job. Non-performing workers might be fired in a larger company, but, in a family business, the personal may supersede work needs…

Working for a Family Business

Working for a Family Business Some of us work in big corporations; others of us in small corporations; and some are employed by family businesses. I want to focus on some of the particular challenges employees of family businesses face. That is, employees of the firm who are not part of the family which owns the business. Some family businesses are great If you’ve been lucky, you’ve worked in a family business in which both ‘family’ and ‘business’ are operating well. That is, the family members like and respect each other. The family can make the distinction between work and family dynamics and is fairly successful in keeping the two somewhat separated. If you are employed by this kind of family, it can be a great place to work. You can be more or less inducted into the family and benefit from the warmth and generosity of spirit which good families can produce. And then there’s the other type. Let’s do a typical interaction of such a family. There are at least three points where this family makes the typical mistakes in family businesses. See if you can identify them. Some family businesses are not good places to work First,…

Leveraging when Your Boss is Fighting with His

Leveraging when Your Boss is Fighting with His The previous post outlined a way that you might be able to appease your boss Trevor if his boss, Jennifer, starts assigning you work. As I mentioned, might work, might not. Depends on how good Trevor is at maneuvering to get what he wants. A gutsy but risky way out was suggested by a friend[1]who is very politically astute. You: Hi, Jennifer. Got a moment? Jennifer: Matt! Ah, sure. You: You know, I love the assignments you’re assigning me. They’re really challenging. Jennifer: And you’re doing a great job. You: It’s just—and of course Trevor hasn’t said anything—I get the impression he finds the situation a bit awkward. Jennifer: Well, that’s too bad. You: Look, I don’t want to cause any hard feelings, so I was wondering whether you would consider giving me a temporary assignment reporting to you. Just for the duration. Jennifer: How would that help? You: Well, it would regularize the situation for Trevor and allow me to focus on your work. Jennifer: Hmm—not a bad idea. The Pros and Cons If things go well, you are in the money. But it might not be all roses. Pros of…

Getting Out from Under when Your Boss is Fighting with His

Getting Out from Under when Your Boss is Fighting with His In the previous post, your boss’ boss, Jennifer, was assigning work directly to you, skipping your boss (Trevor). On the one hand, this gives you great profile. On the other, it can get you into hot water with Trevor. Look at it from Trevor’s point of view. Jennifer is signaling she doesn’t consider him value-added. No matter how true, it would be hard not to resent that. In fact, the more true, the more it will be resented. Trevor can’t take his anger out on Jennifer (well, not if he has any political savvy), but he can take it out on you. Two things which bear repeating This is Jennifer’s problem which she is handling inappropriately. If you have a very collegial environment or a good boss, none of this may apply. But don’t assume that too quickly. Undercurrents are undercurrents because they’re hard to spot. If you’re not sure, I’d assume it is an issue. Okay, three. Trevor can hurt you and your career. Your concern is to avoid being the inadvertent instrument of humiliating Trevor. What to do Well, obviously, it’s not an option to say no…