16 Tips for Working for Your Parents in a Family Business

Jacob was a partner at a respected consulting firm and—to his delight—an expectant father. As the due date loomed, though, he became increasingly apprehensive. How would he and his wife, who worked long hours as a physician, find optimal childcare? Was it possible to use his firm’s generous paternity leave without negative judgment from his colleagues and clients? And with his “road warrior” schedule, how could he be a present, loving father to his new daughter?

Gabriela, a venture-capital fundraiser, went to great lengths to balance the needs of sophisticated investors, her firm’s partners, and her two small children. But she frequently felt overloaded and wondered if her managers looked askance at her trips to the pediatrician’s office and preschool. She confessed to some nervousness about her typical 5:30 PM departure from the office (“I never used to leave so early”), and she worried that she wasn’t being offered stretch assignments that would lead to promotion.

Connie was a senior IT manager at a consumer-products company and a single mother to a teenage son. She was having a tough time helping him navigate the complex college-admissions process while delivering against tight turnarounds at work. And each late night at the office was a stark reminder of how little time she had left with him at home. Under the strain, Connie found herself becoming snappish at work—which senior management had begun to notice.

Jacob, Gabriela, and Connie—I’ve changed their names and certain details about them here—are smart, hardworking professionals, deeply committed to their organizations. But they are just as committed to their children. So all three are grappling with what I call the working-parent problem: the enormous task, both logistical and emotional, of earning a living and building a career while being an engaged and loving mother or father.

They’re not alone. More than 50 million Americans are juggling jobs and child-rearing—and finding that hard to do. In fact, according to a 2015 study by Pew Research Center, 65% of working parents with college degrees—who have better career and earning prospects than less-educated parents—reported that it was “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult” to meet the simultaneous demands of work and family. And the issue isn’t limited to the United States; statistics are equally striking in other countries.

The problem is real and pervasive, and for moms and dads coping with it day to day, it can seem overwhelming. Working parenthood requires you to handle an endless stream of to-do’s, problems, and awkward situations. There’s no playbook or clear benchmarks for success, and candid discussion with managers can feel taboo; you might worry about being labeled as unfocused, whiny, or worse. Moreover, the problem persists for 18 years or more, without ever getting much easier. Years in, you may still feel as stressed as you did right after parental leave.

Over the past 15 years, first as in-house chief of leadership development at two Fortune 500 organizations and now as an independent executive coach focused exclusively on working-parent concerns, I’ve taught and counseled hundreds of men and women, including the three described above, who are struggling to combine careers and children—and I’ve “been there” as a working mother myself. While the challenges we face are many and vary in detail, the majority fall into five core categories: transition, practicalities, communication, loss, and identity. When people I’ve worked with recognize this and learn to see patterns in the strains they’re facing, they immediately feel more capable and in charge, which then opens the door to some concrete, feasible fixes.

Finding Work-Life Balance! Productivity tips for working parents!

What is a family business?

A family business is a company in which the members of a family hold leadership positions and direct the course of the business. Leaders typically pass control of these companies to their children or other relatives so it may remain part of the family for generations. In smaller businesses, family members—including parents, children, aunts, uncles, spouses and cousins—often work alongside one another while conducting business operations. In larger companies, a family may hold leadership positions but hire employees outside of the family.

16 tips for working for your parents

If you work in a family business, consider these tips to help improve the experience:

1. Keep business in the office

When working with parents and other family members, its possible that you may mix your work life and personal life, especially if you also live with your family. One way to avoid unnecessary crossover between the professional and personal is ensuring all business negotiations and disputes end before you go home. This can include future business plans, work incidents, arguments over processes and business practices and financial concerns. Concluding these matters before going home can ensure that you create a healthy work-life balance and preserve your relationships with your family.

2. Leave family issues at home

Its often just as important to keep family issues reserved for the home. If your familys having a personal dispute, its best to resolve it before going to work if possible or avoid discussing it at your business. Family issues may disrupt business operations and cause unnecessary tension during business hours. It can also make employees from outside the family uneasy. Discussing family matters at home can ensure that your business operates more effectively and can help you create a better environment for employees.

3. Be respectful

Since people often have very comfortable relationships with their family members, it may be easy to develop an overly familiar work relationship. This can sometimes lead to disrespectful interactions and disputes. Its often a good idea to treat your family like you might treat non-relative coworkers. This can help create an atmosphere of respect and a more standard professional atmosphere for your employees and customers. It can also help you maintain a healthy, long-term business relationship with your family.

4. Learn from your familys experience

If your familys business has been in operation for a long time, your parents, grandparent, aunts, uncles or cousins may have extensive experience working there. Its often best to remember this and respect the efforts and expertise of your family. After years in business, they may have a lot of advice to share with you. Consider asking your parents what they can teach you about the company. Their advice may help you operate the business successfully if you inherit it.

5. Recognize strengths and weaknesses

When working in a family business, it can sometimes be challenging to recognize a family members professional weaknesses. For example, telling someone you love that they arent right for a role may be a delicate situation. To create a strong business, its important to determine who can succeed in which roles. For example, if a member of the family has excellent social media skills, it might be helpful to put them in charge of any social channels. A family member with well-developed communication skills might succeed in a role that interacts with customers or other parties.

6. Allow for evolution

The owners of family businesses often have a significant investment in their business practices and traditions, and they may experience difficulty changing those norms. This can sometimes prevent a company from adapting to current trends or adopting new technologies. If your family business has been operating for a long time, its important to examine new perspectives. Consider consulting with younger or newer members of the family. They may have a better understanding of current business practices and technologies that can ensure the continued success of your business.

7. Make work fun

One of the best parts of working with other family members is the opportunity to work with the people you care about most. To preserve this benefit, its often a good idea to ensure that not all your interactions involve business. You can do this by having work events or collaborating with your family on ideas for the future of the company.

8. Respect outside employees

Family businesses rarely employ only people from within the family, so you may work with many employees who arent relatives. Being a non-family member in a family business can put employees in a unique position, so its helpful to ensure they feel fully included in company decisions. You can do this by only talking about family issues outside of work and by holding meetings that include family members and other employees. You can also ensure that you dont show favoritism toward your family.

9. Make disagreements professional

Since many people have informal relationships with their families, it can sometimes lead to unprofessional behavior when disagreements occur. When you have disputes with your family members about business issues, consider treating the situation like any other professional disagreement. You can use the same language you might use if you were talking to your supervisor or employee at another company. This can help you resolve issues more easily. It can also ensure that you continue having a beneficial relationship with your family members.

10. Be grateful

Its often important to have a sense of gratitude when working with your family, especially if youre newer to the business. Consider how hard your family worked and remember that theyre giving you a valuable opportunity. Its also good to remember that working with people you care about is a unique privilege. These considerations can help you treat your family with respect and make them feel valued.

11. Enjoy quality family time outside of work

When business is challenging or busy, families may spend all of their time together at work. To keep your relationship with your family enjoyable and rewarding, set aside some recreational time for your family. Consider taking a trip if work allows, or arrange family dinners or outings. These activities can help you and your family prevent burnout and can ensure you maintain productivity and positivity at work.

12. Create clear roles

Family businesses often require a management structure, like other businesses. Certain family dynamics can make distinctions between roles less clear, which may lead to confusion over duties and authority. To prevent this, its often beneficial to create a straightforward hierarchy of positions and responsibilities that operates like any traditional management system. This can help employees understand their roles and complete tasks and ensure that both family and non-family members follow the same rules.

13. Respect departures

Sometimes, a family member may decide to leave the business and look for work elsewhere. This can be challenging, especially if you had plans to pass responsibilities on to them. Its often important to allow your family members the freedom to leave the company and to treat it like a professional resignation. This can help you avoid disputes and ensure you continue to have a healthy relationship with all members of your family.

14. Find independent advice

Since many people have close relationships with their families, they may share many of the same opinions about their business. This can sometimes prevent them from recognizing weaknesses in their operations or pursuing change. In these cases, its beneficial to look for advice from an independent professional outside the family. These individuals may help you improve your business model, invest in new technologies or identify new opportunities for growth.

15. Find time away from family

People who work in family businesses often spend much of their time around their family members. This may lead to increased tension, which can create obstacles for the business in the long term. To avoid this, consider setting aside time to spend with friends.

16. Understand changing dynamics

If you work with your children or younger family members, their roles may change. For example, they may become eligible for leadership positions or higher-paying roles. Make sure you provide opportunities for growth and treat them like regular employees. This can help ensure they stay with the company for many years.

FAQ

Is working for your parents a good idea?

Working for your parents can lead to significant conflict. Because you know each other so well, you may tend to make work disagreements personal. Plus, when you have emotional ties to your boss, it’s a lot easier to get your feelings hurt at the office.

Why you shouldn’t work for family?

By having someone who’s in-the-know of your personal life, you might be compromising that atmosphere and lose the ability to separate personal life with work life. Losing your “happy place” at work has the potential to make you dread going at all, in addition to damaging valuable personal relationships.

How do you help your parents in their work?

8 Ways to Help Your Aging Parents
  1. Empathize with your parents. …
  2. Call them regularly. …
  3. Get other family involved. …
  4. Seek out potential problems. …
  5. Advocate for them. …
  6. Encourage them to be active. …
  7. Help them downsize without being bossy. …
  8. Help them create a memory book.

Why is it hard to work with family?

Working with family members is difficult for any number of reasons: You know so much about the other person–you’ve been privy to intimate information about them. You’ve most likely had arguments or negative conflicts with them. You have years of experiences with them, both positive and negative.

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