The right way for family members to deal with work conflicts

No one enjoys having to deal with conflicts at work. But most people can at least leave those conflicts at the office. That’s not necessarily the case at a family-owned business.

man and woman arguing

It’s possible to prevent those conflicts from damaging family relationships by taking some preventative measures.

  • Establish and communicate clear rules. Before a child or other family member is ever brought into a business, rules concerning roles, advancement, supervision and compensation should be firmly established.

    Once established, rules need to be made very clear to the entire family. Families who have a clear understanding of these matters are far less likely to experience conflicts.

  • Be fair with compensation. Nothing can create hostility faster among family members than believing they are unfairly compensated compared to other family members.

    It should be made clear that all employees will be compensated according to their abilities and roles in the business, not on their positions in the family. Having clearly established rules and open communication concerning compensation will go a long way toward avoiding conflict.

  • Deal with problems immediately and put them to rest. An old adage admonishes married couples to never go to bed angry. Similarly, family business owners should make every effort to resolve conflicts quickly. The longer conflicts are unresolved, the more damaging they can be to family – and business – relationships.
  • Keep your family’s personal business private. This may seem obvious, but family conflicts and “dirty laundry” are not always kept out of the workplace.

    For example, when the employees of a small firm were recently asked by a consultant why their firm had high employee turnover, they all had the same answer. It seemed the husband and wife who owned the business used the office as a public forum for their private quarrels. Consequently, employees left the firm, productivity suffered and the owners’ business was damaged.

Balancing family and business relationships in a healthy manner is largely a matter of common sense. By taking steps to prevent conflicts before they occur – and dealing with those that do arise immediately – company owners can help to maintain both a strong business and a strong family.