"Just Like Family" will Break Your Business...and Your Heart!


 "Just Like Family" Culture will Break Your Business...and Your Heart!

We spend so much time at work that it’s no wonder we start to feel like family in the business.

We develop relationships focused on the project at hand; but these relationships serve many functions beyond the completion of that project.

Our relationships at work help us grow in our career and give us friendship, emotional support, connection, and a shared sense of satisfaction in a job well done.

According to Harvard Business Review (HBR), "when an organization uses the family metaphor in business, it creates a positive, motivating, and morale boosting culture where colleagues are not seen as colleagues anymore but as brothers or sisters."

But here’s the downside…

Families are a mess…




…Just like the family feud.

In business, this can be catastrophic.

When a business owner views his team as “family members,” the productivity and profitability of a business are at risk.

        "When you treat your employees as family, you set up a culture that allows
         excuses, substandard performance, and your assessment of their work to
         be tainted by your emotions for the person. You lose objectivity."

Once you’ve lost objectivity, you will be lax in enforcing your Guardrails (protocol and processes), as well as sacrificing your Vision and Values for the sake of a “happy family.” When you treat your employees as family, you set up a culture that allows excuses, substandard performance, and your assessment of their work to be tainted by your emotions for the person.

In addition, business owners often ‘exploit’ their employees and cross boundary lines between work/life causing resentment, stress, frustration, and leads to burnout.

Business owners often overcompensate their “family members” in both time and money. Whether they realize it or not, they give their people ‘gifts’ because they know they’re violating that boundary between work and life and want to feel better about it.

When employers ‘gift’ their people, employees feel obligated to be loyal and often to keep ‘family secrets’.

This leads to a never-ending cycle of each side giving the other more, until entitlement sets in.

And that’s when the business owner REALLY has a problem.

One of my clients returned from vacation to discover that his bookkeeper had paid herself a little bonus of $1000. When he confronted her, she explained it away, justified it, said she did it because he didn’t pay her enough money anyway, and he took no corrective action.

He kept her on the payroll because she was “like family.”

Two months later, she did the same thing.

Statistics show that 75% of all businesses experience some type of extortion or fraud from people they consider “family.”

Often, these incidents don’t get reported.

I’ve heard many stories from business owners who have told me of employee betrayal, extortion, and exploitation from those they thought were “family.” It’s heart-breaking.

This is your business...not your second family. Treat it like a business...you won’t have as much drama and dysfunction, and you’ll get more sleep at night!

How to ditch the family attitude and run your business like a business

To create a high-performing team, develop a culture of belonging, shared values, and goals, and focus on performance driven metrics.

These practices will encourage a shift from the “family attitude” to a values-driven business.

  • Focus on creating a culture that promotes teamwork and encourages building a high-performance environment.
  • Be clear with your employees about their roles and responsibilities and respect work/life balance.
  • Shift from an attitude of “We’re all in this together…like family” to “We share the same Vision and Values.”
  • Encourage your team to express their ideas and voice their opinions knowing that their experience, expertise, and skills give them a perspective that you may not have.
  • Respect that difference…it’s why you hired them.

Understand that relationships in business, particularly between owner and team member, are based on a business need for productivity and an employees’ need for security.

In short, owner/employee relationships are a temporary arrangement that meets the financial needs of both sides.

“Family relationships” can be rewarding, but also detrimental for growth and sustainability because it’s hard, sometimes impossible, to get rid of a “family member” who is underperforming.

This is classic case of “family business” gone bad.

Consider the practices above to ditch the family attitude and run your business like a business.

If running your business like a family is a challenge you face, learn more about Leadership Glue here and book a call with me here.

Talk soon.
Kae Wagner
North Star Marketing
717-951-6049 (Cell/Text)


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