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What to do When Your Career Merges With Your Personal Life

Sharing a workplace with relatives may create complex challenges for them, your colleagues and you. The secret to maintaining harmony at home and work is to agree on some simple rules.

Reasons why your work and family may coincide

  • The family business. This is the most common reason although there are a few variations on the theme. Perhaps a relative dies or retires and you have to step into their shoes, or perhaps it’s always been your destiny to join the business.
  • Personal recommendation. When employers have vacancies to fill, they often ask their staff if they know anyone suitable. If a family member recommends you to their employer, you have a wonderful opportunity. However, remember that you must still prepare thoroughly for the interview.
  • Coincidence. It’s possible for family members and you to independently find jobs at the same company for no other reason than being the best candidates for your respective positions.
  • Marriage to a colleague. Yes, it happens! If your office romance has become serious and you hear wedding bells, you and your partner should both clearly understand your employer’s policy on couples working together.

Potential downsides of working with family members

  • Workplace disruption. This is inevitable if your colleagues or staff think they are at a disadvantage because you and a family member favour each other. The typical effects are low morale, poor teamwork and perceptions of discrimination.
  • Conflicts of interest. This happens if, for example, your job gives you access to confidential information that affects the other family member. You find yourself in the impossible situation of having to choose between two loyalties and facing the consequences at work and home.
  • No time out. When you go to work, the family is there. When you go home, you talk about work. Ask yourself if you want a life that never gives you a break from either environment, or each other.

One essential action you must take

Whether you work with just one family member or several, you should discuss the situation with them. It’s in their interests and yours to bring potential issues into the open, and agree to put a boundary between work and personal life.

Be frank about any concerns that you have and pay attention to theirs. It’s likely that you think along the same lines and have similar ideas about the best approach to take.

Three common sense rules to follow

  • Draw the line. For example, never bring your domestic disagreements to work, or vice versa. If you’re a couple, park your affection for each other at home and avoid displaying it at the office.
  • Never discuss family matters at work. When your colleagues or staff hear you and a relative talking about family activities in which none of them are involved, it reinforces the notion that you are different. Besides, your personal life or family interests are nobody else’s business
  • Treat everybody equally. If a family member reports to you, treat them just the same as other people on your team. Likewise, having a family member as your boss is no reason to be slack or ignore instructions.

Crunch time

If working with a member of your family creates issues you can’t resolve, one of you should go. This can be difficult if you are both firmly attached to your jobs and earning good salaries. It’s important to look at the big picture and be as objective as possible.

Among the things you should consider are the long-term effects on your health, because staying in a job that creates tension is a recipe for stress. When the time comes to say goodbye, do it calmly and read this advice about leaving your job.

Visit our Careers Advice section for related articles.

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