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How to Separate Personal & Business Relationships When Working With Family

by Genevieve Van Wyden, studioD

Should you own a business and employ family members, it might be difficult for you to separate those business relationships from familial relationships once you lock the office door at the end of the day. Making that mental shift might take you a little while, leading to your spouse, brother, sister or child giving you odd looks when you say something like, “Hey, we’re home now. We’re family, not employees or coworkers.” If you’ve heard this more than a few times, it's time to make some changes.

Think about your expectations for family members who are also employees. Compare these expectations to what you expect of them at home. At work, you expect accountability, numbers and professionalism. If you find you’ll need to discipline an family-member employee, you’ll need to do so without your actions affecting your personal relationship.

Look at your family priorities and your business’ priorities. Discuss both sets with your family, then focus on your business priorities. Family members working for you need to know what these expectations are so they can help you make a success of your business. If your business’ priorities start to interfere with family priorities, make sure you listen to family members when they tell you so.

Hire a succession adviser to help you develop employment qualifications and an employee handbook. This professional should explain to you why applying the same hiring and disciplinary yardstick for family employees and non-family employees is vital. Hire family members if they have the necessary qualifications. Once you sign their paychecks, treat them as employees while they’re on the clock.

Separate your office space from your living space if you operate your business from your home. This is a necessity, not only for keeping work and home life separate, but also for the Internal Revenue Service home-office deduction. If you’re developing an inventory, keep available space in mind -- eventually, you’ll need room to grow.

Instruct your managers to treat your family member employees just as they treat employees not related to you. Talk to your family members, letting them know that you won’t tolerate any attempts to triangulate you, your spouse or your managers. Let your managers know you won’t allow triangulation attempts. Tell them to come to you if any family member employees try to do so.

Relax and have fun with your family when you’re not on the clock. If something comes up, determine whether it’s an emergency or whether you can schedule time to take care of it during regular business hours.

Set boundaries for your family-member employees. They need to know what workplace behaviors you’ll accept and those you won’t. Hold them to the same consequences your regular employees face for infractions. At home, your personal boundaries will be different because of your close personal relationships. At any time they violate a family rule, discipline them, using the consequences you and your spouse have decided are appropriate.


  • Don’t leave yourself open to an employment lawsuit. Treat all your employees the same, regardless of their status in your life.

About the Author

Genevieve Van Wyden began writing in 2007. She has written for “Tu Revista Latina” and owns three blogs. She has worked as a CPS social worker, gaining experience in the mental-health system. Van Wyden earned her Bachelor of Arts in journalism from New Mexico State University in 2006.

Photo Credits

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