When Your Relatives Are Your Co-Workers

January 2, 2015 | Kathryn

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Over the holidays many of us gathered for workplace functions and family dinners to celebrate the season. For most people, these events were distinctly separated as either vocational or personal affairs. But what if your father is your boss? What if your brother is your co-worker? When personal and professional relationships get blurred, the opportunity for conflict among family members increases.

We’ve all experienced the big extended-family gathering that turns into an emotionally-charged event.  Someone says something disagreeable to a family member and the only thing thicker than the tension in the room is the pumpkin pie! Most people can say their farewells at the end of the gathering and have a healthy cooling off period. But if you work in a family business, there is no such break.

A friend of mine who has worked in a family-run business for more than 20 years complained recently that “shop talk” inevitably creeps into the dinner conversation, despite everyone’s efforts to leave work behind. On the other end of things, the strong emotions elicited by family ties can wreak havoc on professional relationships in the workplace.

Tensions among family members can also have an impact on non-family employees who get unwittingly involved in the family dynamics. Fortunately, with a new year upon us and resolutions of good will, it’s good to know there are measures that can be taken to minimize conflicts that arise in family-run enterprises.

The business department at the North York Central Library has many resources that address common conflicts in family businesses from a legal, psychological and even cultural perspective.  Some also provide valuable information on succession planning.

So while the drama in your family might not be at the level of the Sopranos, every family venture can use some guidelines to keep everyone happy.  Here are a few resources to get your started: 

Family Entrepreneur Step Up to the Plate Family Wars The Dragon Network

Sink or Swim Irving vs Irving Managing  Conflict in the Family Business When Family Businesses are Best