Is it OK to treat Employees like Family?

People team in hands

The SMB IT space can be very dedicated to company culture, often times this internal culture can create a very family-like atmosphere. Having a family-like atmosphere can be positive, but it can also have potentially negative effects for all involved when mistakes are made, when problems arise, or when employees are let go. Is it really OK to treat employees like family?

In business, there seems to be a fine line that owners and management must walk when it comes to relationships and friendships with employees. Getting too close can cause others to feel resentment, while it can also potentially cloud judgment and effect otherwise easy decisions. For these reasons many larger corporations shy away from fraternization or social mixing between executives and employees.

These unspoken rules are generally not followed in small business, where family friendly is generally the norm and the culture is much more laid back. The positive aspects to this type of environment can be very gratifying and can make for a happier all around workforce. Social engagements, picnics, company outings, and an internal family like atmosphere can help to create bonds, motivate teamwork, and minimize turnover.

On the flip side, simple actions can cause feelings to get hurt, long term falling outs, vindictive reactions, and lack of motivation. Though these may be extreme, it is very similar to a father-son or mother-daughter falling out.

There really is no great answer to the question, and it really comes down to doing what works best for your business. The key is understanding what potential issues may arise by getting “too close”, as well as what your growth goals are for your business. If you are hoping to fast track your growth and see the potential of building a large organization, then a compartmentalized, less family-like and more business-like environment may be necessary.

My take is that there is a good mix of business and family that can be achieved. This mix includes regular company functions and social events, mixed with a controlled emotional distance placed between owners, management, and employees. In this, a fun and motivating culture can be achieved that stimulates growth, while minimizing negative emotions.

One thought on “Is it OK to treat Employees like Family?
  • I love this article , the culture within our business is what makes it so strong, we’ve grown our business to 75 staff over the ten years of trading and we have adopted a family culture which is open to everyone to be involved with.

    Some people want to distance work from their personal life, but for our other staff we try and create a large number of activities which promote that family culture and team building , this results in much better service for our customers and a nicer place to work for everyone.

    For me personally I spend as many waking hours at work as I do at home, I want friends there :-)

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