Did you know that there are roughly 5.5 million family run businesses in the U.S.? That makes up over 60% of our workforce according to the nonprofit organization FEUSA. So chances are high that you will work for a family run business at some point in your career. And that could mean coping with a lot of drama and favoritism. But even non-family run corporations can be chock full of cronyism and histrionics, and that can lead to a lot of unhappy employees, frustrations, and failures. What do you think? Are favoritism and drama avoidable in family run businesses and the workplace?
Does Someone Have To Go?
There’s a hilarious and suspenseful new reality show on Fox called Does Someone Have To Go? that started up a few weeks ago. I normally don’t watch any reality shows, but I’ve found myself highly entertained with this one lately. The show focuses on real world dysfunctional workplace environments and their employees, and there are a lot of topics that are easy to relate to when you’re on the job. The show features frustrated bosses who are at wit’s end, who then turn over their authority to the employees for a set amount of time to come up with solutions to some of their biggest problems.
What Causes So Much Drama At Work?
All sorts of fascinating insights are revealed on the show like salary discrimination, personality conflicts, laziness, jealous rivalries, favoritism, employee’s harsh opinions of each other’s performance, and many other problems. As someone who has experienced a lot of workplace drama myself, I find the psychological and problem solving aspects of this show fun to watch. There are always things we can learn from other people’s mistakes and struggles.
Obviously the network is choosing which businesses are featured, so they make sure there are plenty of conflicts, insults, and hard decisions to go around. But most of the problems that are presented on this show don’t seem over dramatized to me. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never worked at a company that didn’t have drama and some level of favoritism. Some workplaces just required some time to elapse or a storm to blow in to uncover the skeletons, knives, trapdoors, tape, and cobwebs scattered about.
So what causes so much drama and favoritism at work? People. Period. Plain and simple, you can’t have drama without people, and if your business has people it’s bound to have some degree of drama and cronyism. Keeping the histrionics to a minimum is an important ongoing goal to keep everyone happy and performing at their best.
Favoritism Creates Major Conflicts
One of the main problematic themes that was revealed at VMS, the first family run business featured on Does Someone Have To Go?, was the amount of preferential treatment given to the family member employees. The female CEO of VMS started her credit card merchant company as a teenager in 1998. And after it started to take off, she hired her mom, husband, brother, cousins, and roughly 100 unrelated employees. All of the non-family employees interviewed for the show expressed resentment and frustration over the favoritism given to the family members, and how can you blame them?
Any type of favoritism and preferential treatment in the workplace is detrimental to employee moral, and that can have a hard hit on productivity and profits. It wasn’t a shock to me that so many employees were quick to point their fingers at the CEO’s mom for being lazy, never being held accountable for her bad behavior, and not doing enough work to justify her salary. If the mom wasn’t related to the CEO, there’s no way she would have been able to get away with all of those things for so long. Lesson learned: no matter what type of relationship an employee has with the business owner, everyone needs to be kept to the same standards.
Business gets very hairy when family is involved, and it can make decisions and disciplining really difficult and emotional that otherwise would be straight forward if there were no family connections. But that isn’t an excuse to allow favoritism. So if you ever work with your own family, be prepared to have difficult conversations early on if some members aren’t holding their own weight, or all of you will suffer a lot of bad consequences down the road.
Everybody Hates Slackers
The second biggest theme that was creating unnecessary drama at VMS, was laziness and procrastination by select employees. At least four individuals were called out on their slacking by their own peers. The curious thing about this, is none of those four individuals thought they were slacking on the job, yet their coworkers totally knew they were being lazy. Lesson learned: never underestimate how your actions or non-actions can affect and be perceived by those around you at the workplace.
I bet you could rattle off a few names of people you’ve worked with that fall into this category. Nobody wants to work with someone who takes too many coffee breaks, doesn’t do their work on time, calls in sick frequently, and can’t hold their own weight. If you’re in denial that you’re a slacker yourself, you can bet that your coworkers and your manager are already thinking of ways to kick you off their team and find a replacement. Don’t ruin your career and cause unnecessary workplace drama by being that guy.
Personality Clashes And Jealousy
The last main source of family business and workplace drama at VMS stemmed from personality conflicts and jealousy. This is why it’s critical when hiring employees to consider whether or not they will get along well with the existing staff and corporate culture. Work experience is obviously really important too, but finding the right “fit” can’t be based on paper alone. For example, people tend to avoid and dislike working with really loud personality types who are arrogant, slimy, and obnoxious. Lesson learned: be careful who you hire and which people you group together in teams.
Jealousy is another cause of drama that’s often from low self confidence, lack of resources, or others receiving preferential treatment. People want to be treated equally, no question about it. If workers aren’t being evaluated based on the same standards, things will fall apart very quickly and turnover will become rampant.
Drama And Favoritism At Work Are Avoidable With Strong Leadership And Controls
Leadership is so important for any business to succeed. Even though drama and favoritism can easily come along with hiring any number of employees, it can be kept in check with controls and consistently holding people equally accountable for their actions. This especially isn’t easy in family run businesses because of the emotions that come along side working with relatives, but it can’t be ignored or tensions will climb out of control.
Untemplaters, how much drama is there at your workplace? What do you think are the main causes? Is there any level of favoritism at your job? How do you think it can be avoided?