Working with family members is attractive for many in the business world. But it doesn’t come without challenges.
At The Intern Group, two partners run the London and Ireland programs, and a married couple does the same in North America. They offer advice on staying sane while working with a partner.
Don’t wait to address stresses
“Working together means that work pressures and life/relationship pressures can become mixed and during peak periods of stress, it can become tough,” Lee Carlin, who co-runs the London and Ireland offices, said.
Co-workers who let stress build without addressing it can explode; but, for family members, this stress can bleed into home life and become even worse.
It’s especially important to address work stresses at work; don’t bring them home. Instead of waiting to talk to your partner in the comfort of home, resolve the issue in the office
Put responsibilities in writing
Each person has his or her own responsibilities, but to avoid problems, put them in writing. That way, if a conflict arises, both parties can go back to documentation to solve it. Though “it’s family,” and there is another level of trust there, document all agreements and contract specifications to protect all parties.
Take out the emotion
“It was definitely a challenge at first because we’d never worked together and had no idea how to separate work and life. In the end, though, it gave us more flexibility rather than less, and we were able to find a balance that meant we enjoyed working together to solve problems to build the U.S. business,” Andy Dillow, who co-runs our U.S. offices, said.
Everyone needs to remain clear-headed and reasonable in the workplace. The familial relationship makes it easy for disagreements to become emotional, but it’s important to avoid this. Emotional arguments escalate and become unprofessional very quickly.
Be open with the team
Even if partners work in separate departments, don’t try to hide the existence of a family tie. The rest of your team might be uncomfortable finding out later. Being upfront also reduces gossiping in the office and managers can be open about not favoring their familial tie.
Family working together is especially common in startups and new businesses. There is no reason to hide it, and your employees shouldn’t have to guess who’s related to whom.
Acknowledge strengths and weaknesses
Just like any other working relationship, it’s important to acknowledge one’s own strengths and weaknesses. Partners may be reluctant to accept a specific trait as a weakness, but it’s vital for the health of your new business to do so. After understanding your strengths and weaknesses in the workplace, partners or family members can make strategic decisions about responsibilities and roles.
Keep goals clear
Workplace goals are great for transparency, and they’re especially excellent for creating a sound working relationship with family members. All actions in the workplace should be geared toward pre-established company goals.
Organize the work process
Along the lines of organizing responsibilities, creating a clear work process helps the team work better overall. Without set roles, you may end up blurring the lines of roles, and team members may not know who is supposed to do what.
Make it clear, for example, who approves ad copy and who runs team meetings. This process will help everyone work better together and avoid confusion for the rest of the team.