Family businesses have unique challenges, such as learning to shift between the roles of parent and boss. These tips will help you navigate tricky waters.
Owning a family business can be both incredibly rewarding and infuriatingly difficult. When you’ve known someone for years, it can be challenging to see them as they are now, instead of remembering how they were before. We all grow and evolve. Let’s face it, we’ve all gone through times when we’ve been less than our best, and our families rarely forget those rough patches. Can you imagine your work performance being judged based on what you were like at your most obnoxious, disruptive, or rebellious age?
Chances are, most of us would quit if we had to work in that type of situation; it stacks the deck against you. Instead of being given a clean slate in a new job, you’re working every day to prove you’re not the same “little brat” you were before you really knew who you were or who you wanted to be, before you knew how to manage your hormones or quiet your self-doubt.
If your children work for you, these tips will help you manage them (like the boss you are) without damaging your personal relationship. (If you haven’t started a family business yet but are considering it, check out this article to decide if it’s right for you.)
1. Be the boss–not the parent–when you’re at work.
Chances are, if you’re managing your children in a family business, they are grown adults. Treat them as such. Whether they live with you or not, consciously separate the roles of parent and boss. As a boss, it is bad business to issue ultimatums, get involved in your employees’ personal lives, and use your position of authority to interfere in non-work matters. As a parent, it may be harder to avoid doing these things, because when your kids were little, your role was to keep them safe.
Your role as the boss is to guide your employees’ work decisions, set goals, and objectively review their work. Give your children the same respect and autonomy you give everyone else in the office.
2. Consciously work to let go of the past.
As a parent, no doubt you had years of watching your child be irresponsible and make poor choices. You know more about your child than any of your other employees, and that knowledge is most often what will get you into trouble. It’s human nature to remember past infractions and guard against them happening again. Resist that temptation and try (as hard as your possibly can) to judge your children on their current work performance instead of their childhood behaviors. Don’t make jokes about how awkward they were as teenagers, how they used to wet the bed, or tell other embarrassing anecdotes. Your kids have to work hard to earn respect from their peers and subordinates; so don’t sabotage their efforts.
3. Set a good example for the rest of your staff.
It’s easy for other employees to look at your children as a product of nepotism, whether they earned the position they have or got it based on potential. It’s very likely that other people will assume your children are less capable, sometimes even after they’ve proved themselves to be an asset. Treat your children with respect, and other employees will too. And don’t excuse poor work or disruptive behaviors; hold your children to the same standards as everyone else.
4. Set a good example for your children.
Speak to your children with care at work. At home, it’s easy to be short-tempered, and sometimes the baggage from years of closeness bleeds into our adult relationships. If they do a poor job or you sense an argument brewing, take it behind closed doors. Do not argue or discipline your children in front of others and do not let them speak to you like they did as a snarky teenager. Keep it professional, and they will learn to as well.
5. Leave work at work.
When you are interacting with your children on a personal level (at home, during family gatherings, etc.), do not discuss work. When you keep your personal and work lives as distinct as possible, you give your family the best chance of maintaining good relations, and you give your family business to best chance to thrive.