Your work life involves more than just performing your job duties. To be successful in your career, you also need to work well with people—take direction from managers, collaborate with peers, supervise members of your team, represent the owners. Many intelligent, hardworking people run into career problems and disappointment because of challenging work relationships. How you manage relationships and the quality of your relationships matter as they impact your enjoyment and success in your family business. And because you are part of a business-owning family, your “work relationships” extend beyond the workplace, to include relationships with the owners and family members as well as professional colleagues.
Poor relationships can have a powerful, negative impact on our lives. But we tend to underestimate the toll they can take over time and overestimate our ability to improve them. As humans, we tend to see things more positively than they are. Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winning psychologist and economist, calls this an “optimistic bias.” This bias leads us to downplay or ignore warning signs when we face important decisions, like what job we should take.
In the process of deciding whether to join the family business, watch for this “optimistic bias.” Take time to honestly assess:
- How well would I get along with family members or others who are currently working in the family business, or likely to work there in the future (like my siblings or cousins)?
- What would it be like to work for my parent, or with my siblings and cousins?
- What would it be like to be accountable to the board and to my aunts, uncles, and cousins as owners of the business?
- Would working in the family business likely strain or improve certain relationships?
- Am I committed to maintaining positive relationships, improving key relationships, and taking an active role in building family unity?