Do You Want to be Treated Like Family at Work?

A workplace where you’re treated like family sounds ideal, doesn’t it?  You and your co-workers watch out for each other, everyone goes out for nachos on Friday nights, and you’re never afraid to talk to the big boss.  Who wouldn’t want to work there?  While there are certainly positive aspects to working in this type of environment, there are also drawbacks.  It is a good idea to be aware of the potential risks of working in this setting so that you are better prepared to handle any issues that arise.

You may pick up habits that are unprofessional.  In an informal workplace, it is easy to pick up bad habits.  You may start coming in late, dressing in your comfy clothes, and taking a lot of breaks to check your e-mail or to make personal calls.  Try not to fall into that trap.  If nobody else is holding you accountable, then it’s important that you set your own standards.  Remember that even if they aren’t saying anything, people are watching you and this bad behaviour may come back to bite you one day.

Your employer may not take your rights seriously.  Your employer has certain obligations to you as an employee.  If your relationship with your employer is informal, you may find that your employer doesn’t take those obligations very seriously.  For example, even though you’ve been working twelve hours a day for the past week, your employer may not even consider paying you overtime.  Because of your relationship with your employer, you may be less inclined to assert your rights than you would be in a more formal environment.      

You may be expected to divulge information about your personal life.  In workplaces with a family atmosphere, the employees may be sharing the details of their relationships or other aspects of their personal lives.  As the new kid on the block, you may also feel pressured to spill all your secrets.  If you decline to share, you could find yourself in a position where you are ostracized from the group.

Professional decisions may have personal implications.  When you are making career decisions, you need to do whatever is best for you and your family.  When your workplace feels like a family, decisions that should be simple start to get complicated.  For example, attending an interview for a position that would be a great move for your career can feel like you are betraying a close friend.  The family atmosphere puts unrealistic expectations on employees and can cause them to make decisions that are not in their best interest.  Also, if you get lulled into thinking that your employer is your family, you may be shocked and hurt when they inevitably do something that is not “family-like” but is good for business.

Your employer may limit your career growth.  Sometimes exceedingly close relationships with your employer can actually limit your career growth.  Your manager may think that they know what is best for you and not give you opportunities to grow in the areas that interest you.

Every workplace is different.  Your workplace may have a family environment that is ideal for everyone.  However, it is very easy  for this type of dynamic to become dysfunctional.  If you are working in this type of environment just keep your eyes open and make sure that it is in your best interest.    Don’t let yourself get into a situation where you’re being treated badly and you feel like you can’t complain.

(Written by Karen Bivand)

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