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Managing Employees When They’re Family

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It’s one thing to deal with an employee who is always late but what if that employee happens to be your brother-in-law? It isn’t always easy managing employees when they’re family. But it’s a challenge that many small businesses face, especially when 80 to 90 percent of all small businesses are family owned. Navigate the landmines of mixing work and family with these tips to keep everyone happy.

Tips for Managing Employees When They’re Family

Embrace the New Normal

The relationship between parent and child changes when it becomes employer and employee. What might be acceptable at home won’t fly at work. For example, calling the boss “Mom” can make other employees uncomfortable. Instead, your child might use your first name. Look to the norms established by other employees to determine what’s appropriate.

Set Consistent Expectations

Any time you bring on a new employee, it’s important to let them know what’s expected. The same thing applies to a new hire who happens to be related to you. They should be held to the same standard as non-family employees. Review their responsibilities with them and be clear about what you expect. Then hold them to it. That consistency helps you avoid issues with other employees who might think family members receive preferential treatment.

Establish Unity

Family-owned businesses can present special challenges, especially when it comes to resolving disagreements. Our recent blog, Growing Your Business Through External and Internal Marketing [Link 2], highlights Dr. Curt Bowman and his wife Shellie who learned early on in their dental business that communication between co-owners was critical. “If we had a disagreement over a staffing issue, we learned to hash it out privately before talking with employees,” Bowman said. That way the staff received a consistent message rather than having to reconcile differences on their own.

Hire for Skill

Would you hire a stranger because you wanted to do him or her a favor? Of course you wouldn’t. So why would you do that for a relative? Base your hiring decision on the skills a family member can bring to your business. Like all new hires, you’re making an investment hoping you’ll realize a return. That payoff is more likely to occur if they can meaningfully contribute to your business.

Set Boundaries

It’s easy for personal issues to spill over into the business. And it’s not hard for work issues to follow you home at night. That’s why it’s important to set boundaries between the two, especially when you live and work together. Some family members establish a policy not to talk about work at home. Others stagger their work schedules so they have time apart from each other.

Families who work together can stay together. They key is to negotiate the potential pitfalls. Consider these tips to keep everyone happy and your business on firm ground.

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