People Matters Succession

Good Boundaries; Good Family Business Relationships

Sometimes, the informality of working in some family business can be a great blessing… or a dreadful curse.

For some successors and other family members, the relaxed atmosphere of working with family provides welcome space to be themselves. For others, it frustratingly turns work/life balance into a hopeless illusion.

Sooner or later, most family members find themselves in the second camp. When work starts to encroach on everyday life—from Sunday dinners to family picnics— family members can feel as though their lives have been taken captive by the family business.

In helping overwhelmed family members who work together, we’ve seen what happens when successors fail to acknowledge the creeping pressure and combat it with healthy boundaries.

The best way to build those boundaries is to talk about them early and often along the family business journey for the long term success of the business. An ounce of proactive boundary-setting early in the process is worth a pound of awkward conversation and explosive conflict later on.

In these conversations, there are three critical questions that need to be addressed:

  1. How can a family member let the others know he or she is feeling overwhelmed?
  2. How can a family member address intrusive behaviour from other family members?
  3. How can the family work together to collectively balance their home/work lives?

Boundaries are as individual as our finger prints. What may be OK for me, may not be OK for you. There is no way that someone else could correctly guess where your boundaries lie unless you tell them. At times, we may not even know where our own boundaries lie until we experience that feeling of discomfort. The only way that someone else will know for sure that a boundary has been crossed, is when you voice it.

At the end of the day, achieving perfect work/life balance can be tough for everyone—successors and employees alike. The best way to protect all employees, whether they are family members or not, is to use healthy communication to get out in front of it as soon as possible.

Just imagine working in a business where employees have the freedom to be at their best in an environment that brings out the best. Where they have the mental separation from the business when they need it; where intrusive behaviour from other family members or employees is addressed.

How can family members in your business develop healthy boundaries?

Related posts