Advice » In the Workplace» Workplace Issues » Managing in a Family Business
Managing in a Family Business

Managing in a Family Business

Family businesses are quite common. According to the National Federation of Independent Business, 1.2 million husband-and-wife teams ran companies in 2003. And 34 percent of the companies listed on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index are family businesses.

How do you manage when work and family mix? This expert advice will help you navigate this potentially complex situation successfully.

More than Management Skills Required

As a manager within a family-owned or operated business, the reality is you will likely spend just as much time finessing family dynamics as doing your actual job, according to Dr. Janet Scarborough, psychologist and career coach with Bridgeway Career Development. If that sounds overly burdensome, you'd be better off finding a new job rather than trying to learn how to successfully navigate the extra complexities of such an environment, Scarborough says.

Managers can be put in tough situations if, for example, the owner's son keeps showing up late for work or the president's daughter isn't meeting sales quotas. It's especially difficult to manage employees who have a sense of job security because of their family status.

Backlash from other employees emerges when family members receive special treatment or aren't reprimanded for unacceptable performance or behavior. This presents another set of issues for the manager, who has to worry not only about relationships with superiors but also relationships with those they supervise and depend upon to do their job -- and ultimately make them look good as a manager.

"Watch to see how such situations have been handled in the past," Scarborough advises. "If you observe that there is a cultural norm against disciplining family members, you cannot proceed in an unreflective way, because you might end up being the person hurt most by the pushback. The smart thing to do is to assess who really has the power in the organization and then to approach that person with a carefully worded statement about the costs to the company if the problem employee continues to misbehave. Say something like, ‘I'd like your ideas for what to do about John. When he misses deadlines, our best client becomes upset.'"

It's often difficult for managers to discuss internal issues when peers are family members of those being discussed. That's why owners and leaders should establish what messages they want to send to family members about pushing their influence within the company, says Jan Ferri-Reed, PhD, president of KEYGroup, a company specializing in creating productive workplace cultures.

Family Business Infrastructure Makes a Difference

Someone in the company other than a family member should serve as human resources director or manager and be given the latitude to take the lead on disciplinary matters, says Ferri-Reed. "Behavioral ground rules should be established on issues and performance that the human resources person can refer to when calling a family member on a problem," she adds. "Of course, all disciplinary matters should be held in the strictest confidence. This holds for family members and nonfamily members as well."

Scarborough says the most important thing is to get buy-in from the highest-ranking family member so disciplinary action isn't seen as coming from an isolated manager who might not understand the business's history and cultural norms.

"Managers should be aware when family members might be manipulating family relationships for personal ends instead of focusing on what's good and appropriate for the business," Ferri-Reed says. "Managers should establish ground rules with family members in relation to which they can call family members on when manipulation appears to be occurring. Most importantly, tying positions in the company to results helps to build personal accountability into the management process."

Scarborough adds that every company has unspoken rules for how people earn rewards and respect. Clarify what is expected of you and what the reward will be if you meet your business objectives. If the company fails to honor its promises to everyone but family members, consider this a signal to hunt for a new job.

"You cannot separate the family from the business, because families who start businesses usually have their identities completely wrapped up in the business," says Scarborough. "If you harbor the fantasy that the two can be separated, you will be frustrated. It would be far better to accept the situation for what it is and to seek additional training and education in how to thrive in a family-owned business."

Latest Jobs

Posted: 05/29/2015
West Deptford, NJ, 08066
Posted: 05/29/2015
Pottstown, PA, 19464
Posted: 05/29/2015
West Greenwich, RI, 02817
Posted: 05/29/2015
Norristown, PA, 19401

Want more personalized results?  Update Your Profile


Monster Communities

Teaching Community
Where teachers meet and learn.
Create and connect.
Networking for the career-minded woman.
Nursing Link
Where nurses call the shots.
More Monster Communities

Monster Partners

Scholarships, financial aid and more ways to pay for school.
Find top campus and online degree programs.
Military portal for the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Financial Aid
Scholarships & financial aid.
Staffing for Government Jobs
Staffing and hiring solutions for federal government agency jobs.
More Monster Partners

Job Hunt Strategy

Six Ways to Make a Recruiter Hate You
If you want to blow your chances with recruiters -- and, by extension, with the companies they work for -- here are six perfect ways to do so.

Resumes & Cover Letters

Rev Up Your Resume to Relocate
Hoping to relocate? Get the ball rolling on landing the right job in the right location with these expert resume and cover letter tips.


100 Potential Interview Questions
Interview questions can run the gamut. You probably won't face all 100 of these, but you should still be prepared to answer at least some of them.

Salary & Benefits

10 Questions to Ask When Negotiating Salary
Most of us aren't natural negotiators, but asking these 10 questions during salary negotiations can help you get everything you deserve.

Employee Sourcing

Alt text
November Monster Employment Index Grows 13% Year-Over-Year, Tenth Consecutive Month of Positive Annual Growth.

For Seekers

Campus and Online Degrees
Advance your career and earn more with an online degree.
Free Salary Wizard
What are you worth? Find out and negotiate a better salary.
Research Careers
Get information on jobs and career paths to help guide your choices
Questions & Answers
Find answers to all your career related questions -- powered by Yahoo! Answers
Resume Distribution Service
Our distribution service puts your resume right in the hands of recruiters.
Resume Writing Services
Our experts will craft a keyword-rich resume that stands out in the crowd.
More Career Resources

For Employers

Career Ad Network
Target your job posting to more candidates on thousands of websites.
Hire Right Background Checks
Explore our background check packages to improve the quality of your hires.
Hiring Home Page
Find the best candidates for your business with Monster hiring solutions.
Job Postings
Find the right solution for your hiring needs. Starting at $99.
Power Resume Search
Monster's new search technology precisely matches people with your jobs.
Resource Center
Find staffing insights, labor trends, HR best practices and more.
Target Post
Connect with skilled, hourly and administrative candidates for only $99.

Social Media

Jobs on Twitter
Find jobs in your area and industry.
Monster Careers
Tune into our career advice and discussions tackling a wide range of topics and industries.
Monster Corporate & PR
Stay up-to-date on the latest news. Get the 'Who', 'What', 'When', and 'Why' on all things Monster related.
Monster Customer Service
Got a Monster question? We've got the answer. Whether you're a job seeker or employer, we can help you find the answers you need.
Monster for Employers
Find advice on hiring.
Follow Us
Check out our many pages and stay connected with the latest industry news, events, career advice and job openings.

Other Links

Monster Company Profiles
Explore companies and get information to guide your career decisions.
Compare Salaries
See how your pay stacks up to others in your field.
iPhone Application
Download the Monster app for iPhone and iPod touch.
Monster Job Seeker Blog
Monster Job Seeker Blog.
Monster Thinking Blog
Monster's Recruitment Trends Blog.
Jobs & Career Resources
Search Jobs:
For Employers: Post Jobs | Search Resumes | Advertise
About Monster | Work for Monster | Advertise with Us | AdChoices | Partner with Us | Investor Relations | Social Media
Terms of Use | Privacy Center | Accessibility Center | Help | Security | Contact Us | Sitemap | Mobile
©2015 Monster - All Rights Reserved U.S. Patents No. 5,832,497; 7,599,930 B1; 7,827,125 and 7,836,060 MWW - Looking for Monster Cable? - V: 2015.8.0.34-214