Xxxxvii) Using The Concept Of 'Family-Like' As Basis For How Organisations, Teams, Etc Should Function Can Pose Problems.

In some ways people at work can be like your family, ie providing emotional support and friendships; displaying respect, empathy, caring, sense of belonging, defined roles, responsibilities and accountability, etc. However,

"...trying to sell your organisation's culture as family-like can be more harmful than psychologically satisfying..."
Joshua Luna, 2021

Familial relationships mean different things to different people.

Unfortunately, some families are dysfunctional and not necessarily a good and happy experience for those involved. Endeavouring to create a 'family feeling' within an organisation, teams, etc, may, be counter-productive or unappealing notion for some people.

Furthermore, many workers do not want to connect at a deeper level, like in a family, and/or create dependency on the organisation.

Blurring the line between family and work activities may also backfire as many people people prefer to keep their private and professional/work lifes separate.

"...According to research, when an organisation uses the family metaphor in business, it creates a positive, motivating and morale-boosting culture, where colleagues are not seen as colleagues any more, but as brothers or sisters. This leads employees to emotionally attach themselves to the organisation. While it can reduce conflicts and disagreements within the organisation, the fear of causing a strain in the relationship with their superiors (who are now seen as fathers or mothers) could leave the employees feeling like they must share any information that is being asked of them..."
Joshua Luna, 2021

Within families there are intra-family relationships involving strong bonds, loyalty, etc. In an organisation these can be misconstrued as expectations to go 'above and beyond what is required', ie

"...in family cultures, employees are willing to step in to assist others when the need arises, or even volunteer to 'help before they're asked' in the most selfless manner..."
Bob Goffee & Gareth Jones as quoted by Joshua Luna, 2021

Some negatives of the family culture:

- extreme loyalty can result in unethical behaviour, ie the 'interest' of, and benefits to, the 'family' dominates what is 'right' or 'wrong', eg Mafia (gangsters, etc), gangs (ethnic-based, geographically-based, etc), bikies, terrorist groups, fundamental religious groups, etc

- staff are more likely to be exploited by management and less likely to stand up for themselves or take on work that will push them outside their comfort zone

"...These could manifest as being asked to work unreasonable hours or on projects or assignments unrelated to your role, or keeping things under wraps because it is in the company's (read: family's) best interest. We're all in this together, so you have to play your part, right?......This allows personalities and pre-determined dynamics to take precedence over what is expected to do their job well..."
Joshua Luna, 2021

- employers become like parents and employees like children. However,

"...not everyone has a good relationship with their parents or siblings and emotions of family dynamics can easily dominate professional relationships, if allowed. These dynamics can also leave employees feeling disempowered (the parents usually decide and the children follow orders)..."
Joshua Luna, 2021

- issues can become more personal, eg don't want to let somebody down, how do you share constructive criticism/feedback, handle performance improvement, fire somebody, etc

- relationships at work are more temporary than in a family, ie

"...relationship to a family creates an illusion that the bond will last indefinitely..."
Joshua Luna, 2021

Family ties can be more binding and this is not always ideal for growth.

- fear of damaging familial relationships means individual employees are less likely to report wrongdoings, especially

"...when they feel close ties to the perpetrator. Feelings of fear or the damage this might cause to the perpetrator keep fellow employees quiet and complicit..."
Joshua Luna, 2021

- burnout can be one of the consequences. It can foster an environment where burn-out is the norm; ultimately this negatively impacts performance through employee attrition and lost productivity.

Some ways to handle

- put in place actions and structures that bring value to and support your staff

- foster a healthy, supportive culture

- think of your organisation like a sports team or tribe (more details see elsewhere in this Knowledge Base)
- retain a culture of

"...empathy, collectiveness, belonging, shared values and goals, while outlining performance-driven culture respects the transactional nature of this relationship..."
Joshua Luna, 2021

- define high performance

"...let your employees know what is expected of them to succeed at work and that there is a clear line between work and their personal lives..."
Joshua Luna, 2021

- focus on purpose

"...research suggests providing purpose can lead to a heightening sense of loyalty and stronger employee engagement, especially when the company's overlaps with the employee's purpose. Clearly define and communicate the purpose: what are you trying to achieve? What is your employees' role in helping you get there. A shared purpose can get everyone rowing in the same direction..."
Joshua Luna, 2021

- make sure focus is on 'we share the same purpose' and not ' we're all in this together'

- address any work-life balance concerns

- set clear boundaries

"...the greyer of the policy, the more opportunities for misunderstanding. Make sure employees understand what's expected when it comes to work hours and what lies beyond standard work hours. Support your employees' endeavours and let them know that vacation time/PTO is not only encouraged but expected. Share team calendars......employees will also feel more comfortable advocating for themselves......For managers, make sure to start the trend by making your own time away from work to recharge and spend time on hobbies or interests. Employees will see you starting this trend and will feel comfortable to do so for themselves..."
Joshua Luna, 2021

If staff are feeling overwhelmed, make sure that the appropriate support is available.

- accept transitory, professional and transactional nature of work relationships (most people change jobs and/or organisations many times during their working life; acknowledge people's contributions and help them exit respectfully and gracefully)

 

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