As Thanksgiving approaches, I find myself thinking about family. We all have a family that we’re born into. When we begin our careers, we are hired into another. That’s right. The company you work for is a family too. It’s important to remember that if you plan on hiring your own employees.
The members of this second family spend a significant portion of their life working. If we take the traditional 9 to 5 job (or 40 hour work week) and divide that into the total number of hours in a week (168), we find that employees spend almost 25% of their time with their work family. Depending on sleep patterns, this rivals slumber for the amount of waking time diverted from the traditional family.
While that seems like a lot to time to spend together, a lifetime of history cements the traditional family together. Do not assume the bonds will automatically be as strong in the work family.
One very important lesson to remember is this: unlike traditional family members, if you don’t treat your employees well they won’t stick around. This can actually be true for traditional families as well, but I won’t get into that; I’m not a therapist.
Treat people right and they will stand by your side until the end. Treat them wrong and it’s only a matter of time until they cut and run. Turnover is a word we hear a lot.
Dave Willis from Patheos says happy families encourage, communicate, and strive for unity. In contrast to those strengths, here are some chief complaints about family to avoid:
Being Judgmental/Critical – Being criticized is never easy. No one is perfect and as employees come up through the ranks they have a lot to learn. Point out their mistakes and help them learn, but don’t forget to reward their progress. A “job well done” can go a long way.
Dysfunctional – Traditional families have the luxury of being dysfunctional; no one is paying them. If you are the one hiring, it’s your job to make sure the wheels don’t come off later. I’ve worked for firms where we had to work around dysfunctional employees. Using a person’s strengths to your advantage is ideal, but don’t let their weaknesses trump work flow. Know when to part ways, if the latter seems to outweigh the former.
Unrelatable – Generational gaps have always happened; the current situation is no different. Both sides need to make an effort to understand each other. Don’t just highlight the differences. Find some common ground and use it. Those who are proud to be a part of the family will be the ones willing to sacrifice to grow it.
Whether you want to be a sole practitioner with a handful of employees or a national firm, remember how strong families can be.
Bryan is a recent cliff jumper looking forward to running a firm his own way. He aims to catalog his experiences here for future generations of cliff jumpers to learn from. Starting in January 2015, he will also be the Visiting Instructor in Accounting at Assumption College located in Worcester, MA. Bryan is also the co-host of a new podcast, Ctrl Alterego, which follows the saga of two new businesses in different stages of development. He has joined forces with Barrett Young of The Green Abacus for this adventure. Follow along atwww.ctrlalterego.com.