Handling Family Conflict in the Workplace

Working with family has many advantages. Family members who work side-by-side share an invested interest in the success of the business. Working toward a common goal can mean being a little hard on each other along the journey to meet the goal of success.

“The number one benefit of working with family is that everyone works like they own the business—they are focused on the success of the business and not just receiving a paycheck,” says Jordan Levien, sales manager at his family’s dealership Carl’s Mower & Saw in Ferndale, WA, where several of his family members work. “We are harder on each other because we all take such ownership of the business.”

Avoiding and addressing conflict

Working with family members can lead to conflict that is often harder to resolve than with other employees. Knowing how to address workplace conflict professionally with family members is very important. These struggles can have an impact on customer service and the happiness of other employees. Here are a few tips for how to prevent and address conflict with family in the workplace.

Prevent with planning – Clearly define each family member’s role so expectations are obvious and assumptions aren’t necessary. Be honest with yourself and family about whether or not they are the right person for the job.

Leave personal matters at home – When at work, make it a rule not to discuss personal matters. It is also a good idea to not let work talk dominate at the dinner table.

Conduct performance evaluations – Family members should receive the same performance evaluations as any other non-related employee.

Set the tone with other employees – Be open about your personal relationships with other employees, and ensure them that there will not be issues with favoritism. Favoritism in the workplace will negatively impact employee performance.

Act fast – When conflict does arise, it is important to resolve it in timely manner, to prevent any possible damage to employee morale throughout the dealership company.

“We try to keep conflict away from the rest of the business and keep it amongst the two parties involved,” says Levien. “It’s important that no one else feels the tension.”

Keep emotions out of it – When confronting an issue with a family member who doubles as a coworker, be sure you are addressing it professionally and not reacting emotionally. It might help to take beat, and calm your emotions.

“We cool down and walk away from each other and then we are good to go,” shares Levien.

Seek help – If problems get too big to handle, consider seeking the help of a mediator. Beyond that, you may want to consider what damage working together is doing to your bottom line and personal relationships.

It is important to maintain a professional atmosphere that keeps employees and customers comfortable. Acknowledge the problem, discuss its impacts, and work together to find a solution.

While a passion for the business can lead to arguments, it is that same passion that brings great results. “We all have our own ideas and because we all take ownership, we are less willing to budge on our ideas,” says Levien. “It can lead to conflict, but that stubbornness has also brought us a lot of success. We cool down, get back to work, and at the end of the day we are still family.”

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