Q. I work for a family-owned business. The company has 10 employees, including five relatives.
Other than the two company directors, the other three tend to intimidate us given their privilege.
I like my job and the skills that I am gaining here, but the attitude of these three upsets me often. What is the best way to manage such a situation?
Family-owned businesses go through similar challenges faced by other employers, ranging from competition, scarcity of key skills, employee turnover, work-related conflicts and financial challenges. They, in addition, face some unique challenges such as the ones you raise. There is, of course, the tendency to apply rules and regulations selectively, leading to a poor work culture. The situation you are facing may be driven by various factors, such as lack of a clear role or job description which documents important factors of each job, including key deliverables, performance indicators, reporting line and level of decision-making. Some small businesses lack a documented code of conduct stating acceptable behaviour required among employees, including how they relate to customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. Failure to provide guidelines on how to raise and resolve grievances is another challenge. In your case, if this policy is available, use it to resolve this matter, if not, raise your concerns with your supervisor.
If it remains unresolved, escalate to the directors, and if they do not address it, remember you are an outsider, so prepare your exit plan.
Nepotism is one of key challenges family-owned businesses face. One of the worst mistakes owners make is to give in to pressure from extended family and employ unqualified relatives.
Worse still, those who may be qualified come with the wrong attitude and feel more entitled than others, pushing ideas and suggestions that may not be the best at that point in time, leading to unnecessary conflict.
The owners have to provide good leadership across the team, resolve disagreements faster and tame arrogant behaviour before it pushes good employees like your out.
Many employers think small teams get on well together, however, I have seen small teams that are very toxic to an extent that colleagues call in sick or take time off to avoid being in the same space with their colleagues.
That said ensure that your attitude towards them is not driven by emotions against their privilege.