Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Tips for working with family owned businesses

You’ve probably run into the situation yourself a time or two- working at a company where it seems like just about everyone is family. While this is common in small businesses, dealing with it can be irksome, to say the least. Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to rub someone the wrong way, and then end up on the outs with everyone from management to your immediate boss. Granted, sometimes a family-run business works phenomenally well. Everyone knows what everyone expects from one another, and with the right attitude, everyone’s working toward the same goal. Obviously, this isn’t always the case.

If you find yourself in a situation where you have to work with family, there are a few golden rules to live by that will ensure that you don’t find yourself on the fast track out the door. Follow these tips, and you might just make it to your first anniversary!

First, get to know everyone in the management of the company. If most of the executive leadership is related, it can be helpful to know how they’re related. Is your boss’ husband the CEO? You’d better watch your step and play the cheerleader role to the hilt. If, on the other hand, your boss is the third cousin twice removed from the CEO, then you’re going to probably be able to speak your mind more freely in situations that bother you.
Next, hold your tongue. It can be cathartic to diss on the company from time to time. We all do it, after all. In a family-run business, though, those little comments you make can easily be taken personally, even if they’re off-hand throwaway comments that you don’t even remember having said. It’s like this: Pretend you work in the most oppressive communist regime in the history of man, except without bullets. Everyone’s an informer, your motives will always be questioned, and your work (while ostensibly being for the good of everyone) will almost certainly benefit the family far more than you. Bringing that to the attention of the ruling class, however, will almost certainly leave you facing the “firing squad.”


Keep a low profile, or excel at everything simultaneously. When the time comes for layoffs, family gets a pass in a family run business. That means that the list of potential layoffs will generally begin and end with anyone who’s name doesn’t match the name on the letterhead. Keeping a low profile, though, can help keep you out of their sights. By this I mean avoid all disciplinary actions, don’t ever be late for work, and follow the rules to the “T.” That way, when the list comes up that they choose from, yours will be as near to the bottom as possible because they keep saying “Ah, they’re always on-time, though…”

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