Handling Family Conflicts at the Workplace
Wondering how to handle conflicts with them?
Here’s a story of how one advisor overcame family conflicts in his firm. George was in a quandary. George’s high productivity was stopped dead in its tracks. Mother was undermining his authority as CEO, interfering with his decisions and wasting large chunks of his valuable time.
George was making a major expansion in his family-owned business. He was adding a new suit of offices. The expansion was consuming much of his time. Now mother was telling George what bids to take and what contractors to use. She was demanding meeting after time-consuming meeting over the details of how to renovate their new facility.
He had needed additional funds to make the new change. Mother was one of the big investors. Now she had taken her position as a major investor as permission to tell George what to do.
Now she was interfering with his decisions and demanding meetings that turned out to be a waste of his time.
What was he to do? He couldn’t fire his own mother – could he?
It was a tough decision!
Finding a Solution
Confused and anxious, he discussed this challenge with me. During this discussion, it became clear that he had allowed his mother to overstep the boundaries of an investor. Most investors do not have oversight to the running of a business. Their role is passive.
George realized he allowed this to happen when he accepted his mother’s offer of financial help. This “help” turned out to be like a lifeguard hitting a drowning victim in the head with the life preserve. This could not go on. He could not afford the time arguing with her. He wanted a high-quality facility – not the low-quality his budget minded mother wanted.
The first thing we decided was to confirm it made good business sense to fire her. Secondly, he had to know in his heart that he had the right to do this. He conferred with his brothers and sisters who supported his decision. This would be harder than when he fired his nephew four years ago.
He was naturally nervous about confronting his mother. Although now a grown man, he had a long childhood history obeying his mother. He certainly did not want to hurt his mother’s feelings or cause dissension in the family.
It would be a delicate conversation. All he could think of doing was demanding or pleading with her. He didn’t like that. He needed to learn how to be assertive, which is very different from being aggressive.
His first assignment was to read a book on assertion. Although there are many books on the subject, one of the best is, “When I Say No I Feel Guilty,” by Manual Smith. After studying the book, George practiced role-playing with me until he felt comfortable.
The actual conversation with his mother worked like a charm. His mother turned the reins back over to him without a tear or a reprimand. George was in charge of his company once more.
Running a family business has many advantages. Your relatives are usually much more dedicated and loyal. However, there are dilemmas. In addition to the one I just described, a brother may just not have the necessary skills required. A sister may think she has a free ride in the family business, hurting the business by drawing a high salary for inferior work.
Just like any business, to succeed in this competitive environment, you need to have high quality, competent and motivated workers. They have to be in a job that matches their skills. Sometimes your relative has to be disciplined or even fired. This is especially hard with a family member. You can’t be objective about family members. The cool objective eyes of an outside consultant or coach can be a huge help.
What experiences have you had with relatives being employees? Ever have to fire your mother or father? I bet there are some good stories out there. Let’s hear some of yours.
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