Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina begins by saying:” All happy families are alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”
The same applies to the business world, where there are as many toxic cultures as there are companies. However, of all of them, there is one that has always caught my attention: the family! And I must not be the only one, because everyday I see more and more posts and articles about this topic.
Yes, ladies & gentlemen, I am referring to those types of companies in the purest “Vito Corleone” style, the ones they consider themselves LA FAMIGLIA and, therefore, expect their employees to behave as such: parents, sons, sisters… And that’s where its danger really resides, as it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. While it’s easy to see if your boss is a huge sun of a peach, being in a passive-aggressive environment where your loyalty is expected to go beyond what’s expected by contract is really fucked up.
Companies are just that, companies; a group of people joining forces to achieve a common goal. In this sense, in our view, manager’s role is more like to that of a coach. Someone who is capable of highlighting individual virtues and putting them to work for the greater good, while limiting shortcomings as much as possible.
A team leader is not a mother and certainly a CEO is not a Godfather.
In such environments, it is expected to be a “special” relationship. That team members share things that go beyond day-to-day tasks; that they stay together, that they establish relationships… (not incestuous, you evil-minded, although sometimes too). In a certain sense, they share certain characteristics with cults: pride of belonging, progressive distancing from reality, depersonalization, cult of the leader…
Because of course, if you leave, you’re betraying them, you’re a bad person, you don’t love your family. From there to being made “an offer that you cannot refuse” there is only a step. I don’t fancy waking up with a bloody horse’s head in my bed. Fidelity is expected because a family is not chosen, you are born in it…
My family, when I’m doing well, whether near or far from them, is happy for me. Isn’t that what you’d expect from a family? They want the best for you, that’s why they correct you when they think you’re straying from the right path, but if you have to walk away to follow yours, good for you! Keep growing, write from time to time and enjoy! Do you know many companies that call themselves “family” that are truly happy for you when you leave to continue growing? Me, only a few. It is better to never get away from them completely, because they are family, without quotation marks.
It is natural to close cycles, burn stages. In both directions. It is very healthy to stay together while the objectives are aligned, while rowing in the same direction, and that, in my opinion, should always take precedence over other considerations. I would even say that it is very positive to keep a certain distance and keep the different “personal spheres” as separate as possible!
I see you coming: there is nothing wrong with having a good relationship with your colleagues. All I’m saying is that the more certain things are mixed up, the more difficult it is to maintain objectivity, which is very necessary to make better decisions.
These cultures are especially common in “young” companies, where most employees have had very little, if any, prior work experience.
I also firmly believe that it is one of the reasons why the labour market discriminates against people of a certain age. Because those people are no longer willing to deal with certain kind of bullshit and that’s why they become especially dangerous. But surely, that is a topic for another day…
Now, unfortunately, we are also seeing it; It is not the first time that in one of these “farting -rainbows” companies, when things go south and collective layoffs have to be made, they quickly forget about their own mantras and try to get away with the minimum compensation possible. There are very dysfunctional families, yes, but right off the bat, is not something that someone in your family would do. So, you must be careful with what you preach because things can easily backfire!
It’s in the hard times when you show your true colors (yes, parents, it is a reference have to the Trolls movie).
At NBS, we apply our number 1 rule of trying to keep the company as BS free as possible, which is why we are not a family and will never be. Just a bunch of folks working hard to achieve their shared goals while trying to enjoy the path and live in the moment.
Thanks for reading us, have a good weekend, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday or whatever you celebrate, and if it can be with your real family, all the better!