Top Tips when Working with Family Members

Top Tips when Working with Family Members

A number of business owners employ family members in their business. It is great to have a business where you can give work to family but is this a good idea and how do we ensure it doesn’t hurt our relationship?

Family can be our greatest strength while at times our worst nightmare. When we are in business what is the best way to ensure our relationships remain healthy while family is employed?

If you have other employees it is important you do not show preferential treatment to your family member undertaking the same job as staff. If the family member is not pulling their weight then staff duties are escalated due to your family member and this may cause animosity with other staff.

We can sometimes expect too much from a family member believing they are just like us, this can be incorrect. The first thing we need to do is define clearly the expectation of the family member. While we may be priming them to take over the business or management, our family member may be happy to simply turn up to work, undertake their job and go home of an evening. They may not in any way want to take on a managerial role.

When expectations of each person do not match, this can cause conflict. Clarity is essential. The other issue we sometimes face is when the family member does want to take on a more active or managerial role yet they do not have the capacity for this type of responsibility.  This is where a discussion must be held to clarify while the family member may want a more responsible role, you as the business owner need to ensure they spend time learning the business and refining their skills. This at least will provide time for the family member to learn the business more thoroughly and develop their skills while working their way up through the business. Spending money on up-skilling all staff , including family members, is a positive thing.

Another important point is to have regular meetings with staff both group and individual. This way staff can feel heard and feelings are validated. Regular meetings with your family member are also necessary. Clarity is essential as is listening to their expectations and feedback. A good business owner or manager listens to staff, asks questions to ensure accuracy and works with staff to move forward or in a new direction. A business is a team of people all working toward the same result, everyone is important and needed to achieve this, everyone needs to feel part of the business and all need to have a degree of responsibility in the business.

Communication is essential to refine so you can speak clearly and be understood. Using the ‘Sandwich Technique’ with staff, especially family members are advantageous. This means star with a positive, speak about the requirement or negative and finish with a positive eg. You are such a valued and capable employee and I just need to remind you that your lunch break is 30 min not 45 min so if you could ensure it is 30 min that would be great as you are so needed on the floor I want to ensure you are there doing the great job you always do.

The best way to work with family is:

  1. Be clear from the onset about the expectations and requirements you expect in their position
  2. Ensure staff are aware of who your family members are and that your expectation of them is the same as other staff members
  3. Always check in with your family member to see what role they feel comfortable in
  4. Safeguard personal and business issues do not cross over. Leave work at work, leave personal at home
  5. All employees need to be treated respectfully, including all family members


Dr Karen Phillip is a Family Counsellor /Psychotherapist with almost two decades of experience. Karen has raised her own three children and has run small and large businesses for the past 30 years. Karen has employed each of her children at different times expecting them to work a full day for their pay, her husband also for her and with her in business.