Working with family can be challenging. It can bring out the best in you and your relatives – and the worst in your work relationship. It can cause you to overlook errors that your relative commits, or it can make you excessively critical. Hence, it may be difficult to be rational and fair towards that person. Your relationship with them, both at work and personally, is probably suffering.
How to Manage the Situation
So how do you begin to correct the situation? Follow these tips:
- Acknowledge to the person that the current relationship isn’t working optimally.
- Discuss the impact your behaviours are having on other employees and the company as a whole.
- Agree to meet each other, ideally along with an experienced and objective human resources manager.
- You both must then agree to improve the current relationship and to work towards a more professional and less personal situation.
- These tactics will only work if you empower someone you trust, including another relative, to step in and stop actions that appear to be based on irrational feelings.
- Clarify the goals each of you agrees to meet so that behaviours are directed towards fulfilling the company’s goals.
- Next step is to ensure that your roles are clearly established to avoid work relationships falling apart as well as any misunderstandings. This will maximise productivity, employee satisfaction and customer relations. Also, meet each other’s explicit work obligations.
- Clearly define the work processes that will be used on a daily basis: the process for making decisions (who makes them, and how) and the communication required – this is key as appropriate people must be kept in the loop.
- Build trust. Start by acknowledging the current situation. You’ll be appreciated for discussing a topic that others know about but are reluctant to bring up. Ensure that others can trust what you’re saying and doing by backing up your thoughts and actions with explanations. Then, when you make a commitment to change the status quo, walk your talk and act with integrity in all that you do. Above all, prove that you’re competent in everything you do. Ensure that you have the knowledge and abilities to perform at a high level. If you don’t, get some training, find a mentor, or redesign your tasks and responsibilities to align them with what you do best. Nothing destroys trust faster than incompetence. As you can see, trust is potentially the strongest element in any relationship. Without it, organisations fall apart.
- Show the positive side of interpersonal relationships. Just because you’re related to someone doesn’t mean you need to love them, especially on the job. Nor does it mean that the company is a playground for working out family problems. What is required is that you respect other people, especially your relatives. You needn’t over-praise or criticise them, but you do need to be professional and appropriate, whatever the true nature of your feelings.
Portions of this article were adapted from Shonk’s Work in Groups which is now out of print.