U04 Blog: Clashing Personalities: Family vs. Business

There is a dark side to working with family. There is a stigma that working with family is easy, that there is an affable environment to be in, and there is endless support, love, and encouragement. Unfortunately, most of the time this is not true. There is a façade in place for the general public to see, but underneath lies darkness riddled with neuroticism, disagreement, and unethical treatment of others. There are usually clashes in personality traits that lead to hurt and resentment but these feelings are subdued in the public eye because of a false charisma and high form of extraversion. “Because family members often have the same background and upbringing, the danger of groupthink and resistance to change is very high, especially if an older family member is running the company” (Mind Tools, n.d.).

Growing up in a household where your family owned their own business was difficult. There would be countless hours spent at the office after school and on the weekends. Dinner conversation was always about what happened at work and what was going on for the week. Very rarely did conversation stray from work. As a little kid I swore to myself that I would never go into the family business, because I wanted to make my own path in life. Unfortunately this never happened and I am working at said business. I want to say that I have grown into my position there and appreciate everything I have. Aside from being a good, well paying job, where I typically have a lot of freedom and do get to see my family every day, there is a harder side to deal with; one that is fueled by neuroticism, constant disagreement, and the horrible standard that my worth is not as much as theirs because I’m a woman/daughter/younger sister. Northouse (2016) defines neuroticism as “the tendency for a person to be anxious, insecure, and potentially hostile” (p. 27) and to say that I work with high neuroticism is an understatement.

Disagreement on many different levels is something that I deal with on a daily basis. My father has the tendency to not trust my brother or me, even though we have never done anything to make him feel that way, have a very condescending attitude towards me, and that constant thought process that goes “I’m right, you’re wrong, I’m the dad, you’re the kid, I’m the boss, you just answer the phones.” Agreeableness, or the trusting and acceptance of others (Penn State, n.d.), is not something that we witness very often at work. In an article called “Working in a Family Business” the editorial team writes, “personal issues are easily carried into the work environment, and work issues may be carried back into home life. This may lead to family problems that impact the company and the other workers” (Mind Tools, n.d.). This could not be any truer for my situation. Disagreements and grievances follow their way back and forth between home life and the business.

After trying to comprehend the mannerisms and behaviors I was trying to work with, I have decided to look at the background of my dad, his personality, motivations, biodata and what I can do to build a bridge between our individual differences. To define my father’s personality would be to say that he is hardworking, loud, and authoritative, all traits of the type of person he is (Penn State, n.d.). Trying to figure out what his motivation is has been difficult though. Northouse (2016) defines the aspects of motivation as being strong leadership desire, willingness to express dominance and influence, and lastly ensuring the social good on an organization (pp. 52-53). These are all traits that my father exhibits, but the problem is, it is always too much, too harsh, and too self centered. These are the dark sides of his personality. For him, the most important thing in life is the wellbeing of the business, not of his family and employees. This leads him to be irrational and unethical in his treatment of people. There are many double standards and backhanded remarks. So I tried to step back from his personality and explore his biodata and personal history in the hopes to find more answers. To give the brief version, I believe that many of his nuances, idiosyncrasies, and misgivings are from his childhood and the fight to become the person he is now, with all of the things he has now that he did not have then.

To cope and learn to work with my father has been a challenge, maybe the biggest one I have ever faced in my adult life. We have many differences and beliefs in how a business should be run, how employees should be treated, and how to accept changes in an industry. Our biodata and how we work together can be based off the “biological markers and personal histories combine[d] to become biodata that create individual differences between people” (Penn State, n.d.).

Watching his moods and actions is key in how I respond to him, if at all. Some days it is better for me to just walk away, whereas others I have to be confrontational to get my point across. I still struggle to try to find the happy medium in working with him and my family and how to overcome the differences in our personalities, motivations, and work ethics. Like any business we focus on doing the best we possibly can for our customers and push the problems aside, because they are not what is important. Our customers, products, service, and work ethics are our main focus and concern, not the family drama. For now, I focus on how to keep our company running smoothly and successfully and at least keep the daily peace.



Mind Tools Editorial Team. (n.d). Working in a family business. Retrieved from https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newCDV_40.htm

Northouse, P.G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and practice. 7th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA. Sage Publications

Penn State University. (n.d.). Lesson 08: Individual differences. Lecture at Pennsylvania State University, PSY: 533 Ethics and Leadership in World Campus Fall Semester 2016

Penn State University. (n.d.). Lesson 09: Personality. Lecture at Pennsylvania State University, PSY: 533 Ethics and Leadership in World Campus Fall Semester 2016


  1. Kimberly Carney October 30, 2016 at 3:51 PM #

    It does seem like it would be easy going working with family. However, I have seen a few friends that work or worked with family and it didn’t go well. That isn’t always the case but it has to be difficult at times especially if there is a disagreement. I can imagine how it must be for you, especially always thinking that you wouldn’t go into the business. I’m sure that the positives outweigh the negatives in your case. Like you said, you have worked your way up into your position, the pay is good and the freedom is always a plus. I can see how disagreement on issues could be a problem, not just with your business but any family business. Especially if one family member is siding with another, leaving the other one out.
    A friend of mine owns a business and hired a sibling to work with her. It ended up being a huge mistake. She was the younger of the two and the owner of the business and her brother didn’t like taking orders from her. Although, she was always very nice about it. He was ordering unnecessary supplies for the office. Even though she told him that she would handle the supplies, he kept doing it. This was increasing her company credit card. They also disagreed on a lot within the office. She got to a point where she was losing trust in him. “People who are disagreeable don’t trust anyone to be working with their benefit in mind, so they may behave in unethical ways such as looking out for themselves at the cost of others.” (Northouse, 2016) If he had been working anywhere else, he probably would have been fired. In my opinion, it ultimately becomes down to an ethical issue, when you are repeatedly doing something that you are told not to do and costing the business unnecessary money. Especially after she had repeatedly had to remind him. After some time, they weren’t even talking to each but he was still coming into work. Eventually, he just didn’t show up for work. To this day, their relationship isn’t the same.
    In your case, it is good that you took the time to understand your father’s mannerisms and behaviors by looking at his personality, motivations and biodata, to understand why he was reacting the way he was. You make a good point that because your father is more concerned with the business, this would lead him to being irrational and unethical with his treatment of people. I think that it is great that you have chosen to focus on running the company smoothly, successfully and keeping peace. It doesn’t sound easy for you but I think that others who work with family have the same issues. It is even hard when you don’t work with family, just mixing different personalities anywhere can be difficult.
    Northouse, P.G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and practice. 7th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA. Sage Publications

  2. William Arnold October 29, 2016 at 5:38 PM #

    Interesting post, Erika. Three of my uncles had started their own business about 25 years ago. My dad and his other brothers had rallied to the cause and helped them get the business up and running and since I was just graduating high school and planning to go to college nearby, they offered me a job in the business. We are a big and close family and I always enjoyed spending time with these three uncles who were almost more like big brothers than uncles.

    It was not long though before I found some of my own difficulties in working in a family business. My uncles, one of them in particular, had much higher expectations of me than of the other non-family employees. While other employees might be privately counseled for mistakes big and small, I was more likely to be yelled at openly for even minor errors. I worked for them for just over 2 years and I did gain more and more responsibilities in the business, but found it difficult and a strain on the relationship I had with my uncles.

    I think that treating me more harshly than others because of the family relationship was an ethical concern, but I suspect they also felt an ethical dilemma in that they did not want to appear to favor me to the other employees.

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