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Q.
I just started working for a family-run business. How can I avoid being treated as an unrelated outsider?

A.
Being employed by a family-owned business can certainly be a challenge for those not related by blood – and it's potentially a more prevalent problem than many realize. In fact, family-run companies account for 60 percent of all U.S. employment, according to data from the Conway Center for Family Business.

The problems of a relative-ruled workplace are various, but usually boil down to this: There are two classes of employees, family and nonfamily, and the former often receives special treatment over the latter. So to gain respect, receive fair treatment, and earn what you deserve in compliments or currency in this situation, I suggest you actually embrace your outsider role with these three basic steps.

First, accept that you may never enter the inner circle in terms of promotions or other informal benefits reserved for family, as railing against the establishment will likely get you nowhere. Second, avoid taking sides with one faction against any other, since those work conflicts are often camouflaged personal battles that can stretch back decades. Third, understand that no matter what, you have a job to do and need to focus on achieving results. By embodying these ideas, you will be seen as an asset who doesn't have eyes on family sinecures, doesn't interfere in family squabbles, and brings a dedicated work ethic to the table. E



Dan Lumpkin, organizational psychologist, is the president of management-consulting company Lumpkin & Associates in Fairhope, AL. Need answers? Email your career-related questions to askdan@exhibitormagazine.com.
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