You’ll hear it in media puff pieces, in job interviews and in advertisements – the line that a specific business likes to think of itself as being “like a family”. We all know instantly what is meant by that, too. When a business makes that claim, it is underlining that this isn’t some distanced culture with bosses who won’t give the time of day to their employees; that in this workplace, everyone can chat with anyone and they all get along. It’s saying something that most businesses would generally agree with, but is it really telling the truth?
Most of us have worked in at least one business that would claim to have a “family atmosphere” or something similar, and it’s a common enough phrase that we’ve had some cause to doubt its veracity. Has a business ever really felt like a family to you. And if you’re in the position to make choices on behalf of a company, should you really be thinking of it as being “like a family”? It’s possible that there are better ways than this to approach business…
Families are bound by blood, a business has other priorities
In any family, there is a level of acceptance extended to the fact that we all have our flaws. In some cases, we’ll give chances to family members that we simply wouldn’t give to anyone else. It’s good and right that you show a level of understanding to your own flesh and blood, but in business there are other considerations to make. From time to time, you’re going to need to let an employee go because they’re not making the grade or because the business can no longer support their role. It’s unimaginable that you’d treat family that way.
You don’t need to be related to someone to support them
While the “family” branding for a business has its benefits, it might be worth pausing to consider that none of the positive connotations of that branding are limited to blood relations. Yes, it’s positive if the CEO mucks in with the newest recruits and gives them his or her backing. Yes, businesses like Grupo Caliente benefit from a model where the workers know they can come to management with any problem. But that doesn’t mean a business is best when it’s like a family – and for some employees, their own families may make such branding unattractive.
There are boundaries in business, and they should be respected
The moment you think of a business as a family, you assign it a familial relationship structure. It stands to reason that the CEO will be something of a matriarch (or patriarch, as the case may be). Each line manager takes on a certain parental role – and as this metaphor goes on, you can begin to see the problem. As a boss, you shouldn’t speak to any employee as though they were your son, daughter or grandchild. And you can be sure that your employees don’t see the office as a home to which they have undying loyalty. Neither should they, because it’s not how business or employment works.
It’s positive to have a business where people get along, but to aspire to run a business like a family is pointless – it’s not a very good model for a business, and an even worse one for a family. Aim to keep employees happy and keep standards up, and you’ll have a business that works perfectly well regardless.