Why working with family sucks

*There’s history there. “Family” means there’s a 99% probability that you have, at one point, yelled “I HATE YOU!” or “GET AWAY FROM ME” at them or been yelled at by them. If it’s a sibling, you’ve probably been on the giving or receiving end of a noogie or a wedgie. And if it’s your spouse, you’ve seen them naked and argued with them over what color to paint the bathroom.

*You know all of their tells. Most co-workers can hide when they’re having a bad day, slept poorly, or are frustrated – but not family. You know what every twitch, expression, and posture means – and you’re more sensitive to their mood swings and feelings.

*You know how to push their buttons.- and they know how to push yours. You know that tone your mom uses when she’s disappointed in you that makes you feel this small? Or that look your wife gives you that means “You’re going to hear about this later?” Or the passive aggressive way your brother “forgets” to do things when he wants to piss you off? Now image your boss or business partner doing all of that. Every day.

*You’ve got an opinion of each other that isn’t based on your work. This can make it hard to see the other person clearly in a professional context. With family, you’re conditioned to be either overly protective or overly critical.


Why working with family can be awesome:

*There’s history there. I know – wasn’t that just one of the reasons it sucks? But it’s also a good thing if it’s helped you build a foundation of trust.

*Communication is easier when you have similar backgrounds. Frank and I have three decades of shared experience and  stories around the dinner table that we use almost like shorthand. I can throw out a movie quote, literary reference, or name of the camp ground where we went when I was 7 and BOOM – he knows exactly what I’m talking about.

*You already know their strengths and weaknesses, so there are fewer suckerpunches and surprises. With family, you don’t have to worry about a learning curve while you figure out your new coworker’s personality and skills.

*You know what makes them tick, so it’s easier to motivate them.

Do you work with family?  Tell us your story below in the comments.

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.