Setting Boundaries between family and business

How to Set Boundaries Between Family and Business

When you combine family with business, boundaries tend to blur.

Personal issues will creep into your work.

Work issues will invade your home life.

We sometimes used to joke that we were “one Power Point deck away from a board meeting” at Thanksgiving dinner. (“I’ll carve the turkey *after* we discuss our 3rd quarter projections!”)

When you work with family members, it’s crucial that you learn to set and hold good boundaries

Without strong boundaries, you may be:

  • Focusing on work when it should be “family time” (and vice versa.)
  • Feeling a buildup of tension and resentment.
  • Setting the expectation that “anything goes.”
  • Losing sight of what it means to be a family and what it means to operate a business. You may even be losing touch with who you are because you are so enmeshed with the business.
  • Having difficulty managing the business or making decisions.

And in general? Small problems start to look bigger.

Perhaps, like me, you’ve experienced situations where you felt like something was a huge issue, but when you talked to a friend about it, it suddenly didn’t seem like such a big deal anymore.

My friends would often be confused because they couldn’t understand why I was so upset. What was happening is that several small scenarios added up and contributed to the problem at hand.

When I didn’t address these minor issues as they occurred, they piled up and led to bigger problems.

Good boundaries deliver many benefits

When you set good boundaries, you will:

  • Establish stronger, healthier relationships.
  • Genuinely appreciate what every person brings to both business and family dynamic.
  • Set clearer expectations and operating agreements.
  • Reduce stress and anxiety, thus avoiding that feeling of “walking on eggshells.”
  • Enable personal and professional growth as individuals think independently and learn to make choices while recognizing the consequences of those choices.
  • Improve productivity and focus while you’re at work.
  • Enjoy family life more at home.

Boundaries also create clearer constraints on time.

When there is a constraint on time, individuals are more likely to come to conclusions and make decisions rather than going around in circles. This can be a helpful way to ensure that discussions are productive and lead to action.

5 Tips for Setting Boundaries

1. Start small.

It can feel very uncomfortable at first, so begin with something simple, like not talking about business during dinner. Starting with small boundaries can help build confidence and lead to more significant changes over time.

2. Expand your life beyond business.

Find topics and activities that are unrelated to business that the family can enjoy together.

Also, find activities that you do ALONE so that you can come back to the family and tell them something exciting that you have experienced that they have not.

If everyone is living the same shared experience…working together, vacation together, holidays together…no wonder there is nothing else to talk about!

3. Set operating agreements.

It can be challenging to resist discussing the business you love, so create operating agreements where everyone agrees to ask before discussing business outside of work. This can help create a boundary between work and personal life.

For example, I’ve experienced situations where I’ve been on vacation and gained clarity on business matters. However, I had to remember that my family might not be in the same mindset as I am or have the same desire to discuss work while on vacation. So I asked first to see if they were in a place where they wanted to discuss it.

4. Be transparent and vulnerable.

Declare that you want to work on setting better boundaries and that you may call each other out if someone breaks an agreement or tries to discuss work outside of designated times. Being open about your intentions and fears can help create a supportive environment.

5. Read to develop your knowledge and skills in boundary-setting.

Reading books like “Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself” by Nedra Glover Tawwab can provide insight into why setting boundaries is challenging, offer examples of different scenarios, and provide example conversations to help with difficult discussions.

Give yourself grace

Setting boundaries within a family or close friendship circle can be challenging, even more so for those who work in a family business.

It’s important to give yourself grace when navigating these situations.

Like many interpersonal skills, boundary setting will become easier as you gain practice doing it.

What boundaries do you need to set?

If you’d like some support, feel free to book a call with me here: Book a Call with Brandi. I’d love to help.

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