Being the Boss's Daughter: What It's Like to Work in the Family Business
June 7, 2012 • comment(s)
I've worked at my dad's group of radio stations for two years. Not only does my dad own the company, I can also count my mom and boyfriend as co-workers. When you look up the definition of family business in the dictionary, there we are. There are many excellent things about working in the family business. I get to see my parents a lot. I've got job security. I've known many of my co-workers for years. If we're going on a family vacation no one makes me submit a form for time off. Also, I have an advantage in the company talent show because I can capture embarrassing footage of my father talking to our dog. Little things like that, you know?
Overall, the environment is a bit more loose than it would be if I worked for a Fortune 500 company. There are great perks and many funny moments. For example, when I first graduated college and my mom was trying to get me to move things from my childhood bedroom to my new apartment and I was resisting. Slowly some of the stuff found its way from my room to my desk at work. I got her hint and came to take my things to my new place to avoid further embarrassment. It's nice to come to work on your birthday and have a card from your parents on your desk. I like getting to see my boyfriend for a few minutes during the day, even if it's only for a quick "hello." There are dozens of other benefits like these. But in a way, it can be more difficult when you share a gene pool with the CEO.
Sometimes my family and I will be out at dinner and we'll realize we've spent half of the meal talking about work. We have to make a conscious effort to be in family mode, not co-worker mode. When you spend eight hours a day doing something together, it's hard not to talk about it all the time. Also, I'm hyper-aware of how people view me at work. I'm always afraid that my co-workers will think I'm here because it's my dad's company. I'm younger than most of the other employees, so this adds to that anxiety. If I wanted to, I could probably abuse my family ties. But when you have to work with people every day, mutual respect is important. I know that if I came in at noon, took a three-hour lunch, and then left, my co-workers wouldn't respect me. It would make my situation tense. Not worth it for a mid-afternoon joy ride. Like any other employee, I want people to see the value in my work and to like me as a person. In addition, I also want my place in the company to speak for itself. I don't want anyone to think, "Oh, she's only here because of her dad."
When people hear I work in the family business, they usually ask a few of the same standard questions. For example, "Do you get to boss everyone around?" The answer is definitely not. In fact, I'm pretty much like any other entry-level employee. There are parts of my job I love and parts I hate. Sometimes I have to do tasks no one else wants to do. If I forget to do something, someone will call me out on it. If I come up with a great idea and someone tells me they like it, I'm insanely proud even if I've known that person since I used to sell him/her Girl Scout cookies when I was in second grade. My experience in that way is just like it would be at any other company, which is exactly how I want it.
The social aspect of work becomes interesting when you're employed by your family's business. Having friends at work makes a job more fun, but it gets complicated when you share a last name with a potential friend's boss. Sometimes I get nervous that people try to befriend me for job security or benefits. On the other end of the spectrum, I sometimes worry that if I go out to get a drink with co-workers they'll think that I'm acting as a spy and will ruin the fun for everyone. In reality, both of these extremes probably don't happen as often as I'm afraid they will. Most people I'm friends with at work are just good people who don't care very much about the fact that I'm the boss's daughter.
For some reason, people who are my dad's age seem to be fascinated with the concept of me taking over the company some day. To be honest, I don't have much of an interest in doing that. Writing is my passion and I hope to make a career out of it. I enjoy my job and I'm learning a lot, but I don't see myself in my dad's role when I'm his age. I think the assumption is since I work here now, eventually I'll run the company. That works well for some family businesses, but it's not really in my plans now and I think that's okay. My dad lives and breathes radio and wants me to do something I'm equally as passionate about, and I feel lucky about that. He never pressured me to join the company and he never pressures me to stay here forever.
Working in the family business provides its fair share of funny moments and unique scenarios, but in many ways my job is actually just like any other job I'll have. I learn things, I find out what I like and don't like, and I work hard to prove myself. It just so happens that I'm doing all of this alongside people who used to change my diapers.
Lauren Levine is a writer of all things women and career, focusing specifically on arming young women in the workplace with the knowledge they need to succeed. Want more from Lauren? Follow her blog, Life With Lauren.