I Can't Fire
Her -- She's My Sister
Family-owned businesses have unique challenges. One of the
most enormous challenges is how to manage the individual family
members. Conflicts in any organization are normal but in a
family-owned business authority over other family members must be
handled delicately to say the least. Recently I received these
letters in my email that illustrates this point. I won't print their
names just in case they didn't follow my advise and did bodily harm.
Dear Zelda, I work with four family members. Yes, this is no
typo, f-o-u-r! My younger sister is always arguing with the other
siblings about her job duties. Sometimes I just want to strangle
her. What can we do? Frustrated Older Sister.
Dear Frustrated Older Sister, Don't strangle your
sister. Jail time does not seem like a good solution to the problem.
Excellent people skills are what will help you resolve the problem.
When it's a family business one of the hardest things to do is to
remain objective. That being said, it is exactly the prescription
necessary. You have to take out the personal emotions and make
decisions that are best for the entire health of the company. This
means having frank discussions with family members. Sometimes you
have to be strong enough to ignore the bickering and intelligent
enough to know when it is appropriate to step in to make the tough
decisions and make those decisions stick.
Here are the steps necessary to keep the squabbles down to a
1. Calmly listen
to your young sisters' complaint. Listen carefully to what the real
issue might be.
2. Speak with the
other siblings about the issue your sister is having.
3. Let everyone
discuss their viewpoint but don't point fingers and place blame.
Everyone gets a turn to speak and while that person is speaking
everyone else listens.
4. Have everyone
take a turn to offer suggestions on how to resolve the conflict.
Dear Zelda, I can't stand the boss and I'm sick of him
bossing me around. He is always telling me what to do. I know what
to do! The worst thing is he is my brother. What is a guy to do? The
Thaddeus Golas said, "What happens is not as important as how
you react to what happens." In this situation there are a couple of
things you can do. I recommend the first step to resolving the bossy
boss syndrome is to have the company goal clearly posted. Make
certain the goal is crystal clear to everyone. Next you must be
certain there are clear and concise written job descriptions.
Everyone must know what is expected of them. You can't have two sets
of rules. There can't be one set of rules for family and a separate
set for all the other employees. A clear understanding of
responsibilities will minimize conflict.
A great way to tackle the issue of the boss telling the
brother what to do or anyone else for that matter is to simply have
everyone write their own job descriptions. I know you think I lost
my mind but quite the opposite is true. Have all the employees write
their job descriptions. This is not their ideal perfect world job
description. This is the "OK, I know the company goal now let me
roll up my sleeves and help get the job done" kind of written
description. You will be surprised at how detailed people will get.
They will zero in on all the tasks they complete. People will
respond better if they have a voice. People want to be heard. You
will see that your company goal is being met and with better results
when everyone knows what is expected of them. They know what is
expected because they wrote the job description. Now they can be
held very accountable because they know exactly what is expected to
get the job done.
Another solution is to hire a manager from outside the
company to run the day to day activities of the business. When
family members can't agree and are constantly arguing the other
employees see and hear this conflict. Soon everyone will be in a
toxic environment and that is not healthy for anyone.
Rather than fire the family members only place members of the
family in management positions that have management and people
skills. In other words, give the job to people capable of succeeding
in that position. Family members must be capable of determining when
to get involved in disputes and when to back off. The leader must be
capable of making decisions that the other members of the family
will respect and honor.
The job description with the individual responsibilities is
important to family members and employees. This allows everyone to
know exactly what is expected of them. When appropriate you just
might need an outside manager that is capable of holding family
members responsible for their actions. When family squabbles pop up
the non family member manager can determine if the complaint is
valid and act accordingly.
The key to the
success in warding off family bickering is to communicate on a
regular basis with all the family members. Ah, isn't peaceful
coexistence great. As Helen Keller said, "The welfare of each is
bound up in the welfare of all."
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