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Essential tips for working with family members

Working with family members comes with a lot of positives, but it comes with just as many challenges too. With a family member, as opposed to a colleague, it’s easy to minimise or overlook errors or omissions that they commit or, to overcompensate for this, it’s also very easy to become hypercritical with their work instead. Trying to strike a balance when working with relatives is extremely difficult and it can bring out the best or the worst in you both.

To help you to work with your family members so that you can achieve more, here are our essential tips as well as why it is so hard in the first place.

Why is it harder to achieve and work with family members?

It’s difficult to work with family members because of the knowledge that you have of one another and the closeness that you share.

For example, you know a lot of intimate information about them and you’ve most likely had years of positive and negative experiences with them including arguments (which mean that you know each other’s buttons).

Regardless of how close you are, you’re family, so trying to strike a balance is difficult. You may be too lenient and overprotective with them or you may be too strict and overly critical. You may provide too much supervision or too little.

It’s very hard to be rational, logical, and fair at work when you have such an emotional relationship with family members so here are some essential tips for improving the balance.

8 tips for working with family members

  1. Have an honest conversation – whether the relationship is too positive or too negative while at work, approach each other and talk about it.

  2. Discuss the impact – how are your behaviours and attitudes affecting each other? Are they having an impact on business and other employees?

  3. Bring in a third party – it might help to bring in a neutral third party to observe and offer a fresh perspective as well as constructive criticism.

  4. Agree that you’re going to work on the relationship – a business relationship between family members can be difficult to maintain so you both need to agree that you’re going to work on improving it.

  5. Agree that it’s just business and it’s nothing personal – you both need to agree to work on being professional in the workplace and to leave any personal feelings at the door. It may be beneficial to ask your third party to help with this and step in any time that an action appears to be based on irrational feelings (e.g. being overcritical of your relative’s behaviour).

  6. Clarify your specific goals – create SMART goals for each of you when it comes to your behaviour and attitudes. It would help if these are directed towards the company’s goals and mission too.

  7. Clarify your specific roles – make sure that each of you knows exactly who is responsible for what and what your individual obligations are. You both need to be objectively clear about this to avoid any potential misunderstandings and/or conflict.

  8. Clarify the workflows and processes – make sure that each of you knows the processes and where they should be or shouldn’t be involved. For example, in the decision-making process, make sure you both know who can make what kind of decisions, who should be involved, and how the decisions are made. When it comes to communication, both of you should know how and where is best to communicate and who should be kept up-to-date.

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