The Importance or Saying “NO” in a FamBiz
Family businesses sometimes get a bad rap because of the way they often do things less formally than a “more professional” company would.
The less formal nature of any business can be a plus in many ways, but of course it can turn into a negative too.
When they do turn negative, it’s usually because someone has agreed to something (i.e. said “Yes”) that they really should have said “No” to.
Today we’re going to look at some of those cases.
Quite often the children of the “boss” get their first real exposure to the business as teenagers with a summer job.
When a teen asks “Can I have a summer job?” the best answer is usually “Yes”.
The part where it can be hard to say No is if there are follow-up questions like, “Can I take Fridays off?” or “Can I take a couple of weeks off” or “Can I start a bit later than everyone else?”
If the job is to work with other regular employees who all follow certain rules, every time you make an exception for them, you’re setting a bad precedent, that not only affects your child, but also everyone else who sees the special treatment.
When you’re dealing with adult children, the idea of consistency and no special favours also often comes into play.
“Can I get a job at the company?” will often be answered with a Yes.
But, “Can I have the same pay as my sister for less work, because I have family obligations?” should probably be greeted with a No.
“Can I come in later, work from home most of the time, take Fridays off, etc.” are things that other employees see and if they become standard perks for family employees and no one else, these are huge morale killers.
The Other Side of the Coin
Lest you think that it’s only the next generation who ask for things to which the parents should be saying No, I’ve got a more drastic scenario for you.
This one also occurs far more often than it should, and it involves the parents taking advantage of their kids.
Picture the daughter and/or son, who have been diligently working for the family business for decades, not only following the rules that exist for all of the employees, but going above and beyond.
Some Day this Will All Be Yours
They work evenings and weekends, never take a vacation, and do everything that’s ever asked of them.
They ask the owners, their parents, for a raise or some time off, but they are rebuffed with something along the lines of “Some day this will all be yours”.
That can be an acceptable answer, for a while.
Five years later, when it comes up again, and the answer is still just as vague, that’s where the children need to be able to say NO.
When Exactly IS “Some Day”?
At some point, some clarity, especially around the “when”, is needed. But just because you want clarity, and even need clarity, that doesn’t mean that you automatically get clarity.
Sometimes you need to demand it. And that begins with a firm NO.
As I write this, I’m picturing the old sitcom plot where the mother is tired of being taken for granted and decides to go “on strike”, and finally the husband and kids realize how lucky they are to have Mom around taking care of so many things.
Respect the Interdependence
As the years and decades go by and family members age and grow into new roles that fit their evolving life stages, the “power balance” shifts.
The people and the roles are very much interdependent all the way through, but the nature of that interdependence changes too.
It’s usually so gradual and incremental that you barely notice it, but it is happening. Sometimes you need to take the time to stop and notice and decide that the way things have been going doesn’t work anymore.
In this circumstance the “NO” is not necessarily the answer to a question, it’s more of a statement.
NO, I’m Not Settling for That Anymore
Many people get to the point where they feel this way. Not all of them have the courage to make the statement though.
I’m not saying that it’s easy, but at some point it needs to be said.