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,…

Conflicting Orders—Refuse the Project
Employee Stream , Power for Employees / September 11, 2017

Conflicting Orders—Refuse the Project In the last post, you asked your boss Sean’s permission to go ahead with a cross-silo project. He was either angry or gave you a chance. Problem is you don’t know which one it will be before the fact. Wouldn’t it be best to avoid undertaking the project completely, given you know that Sean is lukewarm to the idea? What kind of risk are you taking? You presumably know Sean to some extent. You’ve seen his reaction in other situations. Does he fly off the handle when things don’t go his way, or stay calm? Does he allow push-back on his orders, or do you know not to question him? These and other indicators can give you some predictive power on his reaction to broaching the cross-silo project. Pay attention. Should you assume the worst? If, after this assessment, you’re pretty sure that he’ll go ballistic, you’d be wise to keep your head down. But what if the risk doesn’t seem so extreme? What if he might go for it? In this case, I’d encourage asking, not just for the sake of the project. Being afraid to even raise an issue can lead to an unhealthy…

Conflicting Orders—Ask Your Boss
Power for Employees / September 4, 2017

Conflicting Orders—Ask Your Boss Your CEO (Danvers) gave a rousing speech about breaking down silos. In the last post, you and your buddy Ethan from another section decided to go ahead with a cross-silo project. Your boss (Sean) did not react well. Given this, should you have asked him first even though you think he would have said no? Let’s see what happens. If your boss is kind of a shit Sean: What did I tell you after the staff meeting? You: You said to keep working— Sean: Exactly—just work on the projects I assign you. You: But what about the CEO— Sean: (makes a disgusted noise) These mucky-mucks don’t know what they’re talking about. The trick is to keep your head down until they go haring off after another great idea. You: But if she really wants to change things— Sean: I’ll tell you if you need to change anything. You: Ah, okay. So you’ve asked and as you’ve feared, Sean has vetoed the idea without even giving you a chance to explain. You’re discouraged and Sean is probably pissed off that you questioned his original order. If your boss is kind of a good guy Sean: What did…