How to Survive Working for a Family Business as a Non-Family Member

Many people are opening their own small businesses and many of these owners are employing members of their family. This is a great thing, as I firmly believe, as do most people, that family needs to stick together and take care of each other. For the most part, owners know well which family members can be trusted to work for their business, and which family members just don’t have the work ethic or skills they need to be successful. However, if you take a job with a family owned and operated business and you are one of few, or maybe even the only non-family member, it can be difficult to not assume certain things you see happen in the office as nepotism. It is important to try to examine the situation as an outsider and not jump to nasty conclusions like that. Here are some things to keep in mind when working at a family-business as a non-family member.

1) Don’t expect to be treated the same as the boss’s family – Obviously, this is probably something you don’t want to hear. Everyone is supposed to be treated as equals, right? Are you joking? It’s a nice idea, but it’s not realistic. There are certain inside jokes, family gatherings and personal situations that will apply to all of them that do not apply to you. Don’t take these things personally. Now if you see that your coworker who is related to the boss is doing an incredibly poor job, and you’re picking up the slack while the boss takes that person to a three-hour lunch, that’s a problem. Hold your head high, and do your job until you can find something else.

2) Remember you are there to do your job, not judge the environment – There’s a huge difference between an uncomfortable environment and a mentally damaging one. Sometimes when working for a family-run company as a non-family member, it is easy to feel like an outsider. This is simply uncomfortable. If you are constantly reprimanded, despite doing your best to excel at your job, while watching all the family members get pats on the back for barely skating by, this can become too much to handle, and can become mentally damaging. For the most part though, this does not happen. The most uncomfortable thing is just feeling like an outsider, which, realistically speaking, you are. You’re there to work, anyway, not to make friends. Would it be nice if everyone got along perfectly and everyone was treated fairly? Sure, but don’t overreact just because you feel a little left out from the group.

3) Demand respect when necessary – Sometimes it does become clear that the boss is going too far in regards to the special treatment given to their family. And many times, they don’t even realize it. In cases like these, organize your thoughts and then take them to your boss in a non-confrontational way. Family is a touchy subject, and it will be hard to get your true point across if you approach the situation in a hostile way. Hopefully, your boss will be open-minded and reevaluate the situation. If not, then you know it’s time to move on as soon as possible.

Have you worked for a family-owned business as a non-family member? Was your experience positive or negative? How did you handle any issues like those mentioned? Share your thoughts by commenting below!


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