The pros and cons of creating a family culture in business

Many modern entrepreneurs describe their employees as ‘family’ and strive for a harmonious working environment where different personalities can thrive and succeed. At our agency, this is no different.

Companies with engaged employees outperform those without by more than 200 per cent and ensuring team spirit and true buy-in to the company culture is a key focus for us at Hunterlodge. We have realised that recognition is an essential and key component to trust. During our weekly effectiveness meetings, employees hand out high-fives to each other, based on our four core values. It’s about recognising our ‘family’ and their efforts as both individuals and part of the team.

Humans, by nature, are highly motivated by incentives and we use these to provide the motivations to suit each personality type. Some of our incentives include ‘leave early Fridays’ where everyone is free to leave at 4:30pm (more often than not you’ll find the team in the pub next door, rather than scooting off home) and half day bonus holidays for those that manage not to get sick with the dreaded stomach bug/summer cold – these are attainable incentives and are given throughout the year.

However, to paraphrase Harper Lee, ‘you can choose your friends but not your family’ and when the family atmosphere is disrupted in the workplace, distinctions need to be made. Here are a few things that could go wrong if the work place becomes ‘too familiar’.

Personality clashes

Upper management has a choice when it comes to recruitment, but not everyone in the agency can pick their colleagues. Things don’t always run smoothly and from time to time there are personality clashes. Anyone who has worked in advertising knows that the industry consists of an eclectic mix of personalities that strive to be creative and push boundaries. There are the exceptionally organised, the highly creative, the tech junkies, the introverts, extroverts and independent thinkers. Like any family, there will always be personality clashes and managing this is one of the biggest challenges of working in a ‘family-like’ environment. 

It’s equally important for employees to get on with each other and for account managers to be assigned to the right clients. The relationship between account manager and client is such a critical one. If this relationship is jeopardised you are at risk of losing business from the client. It’s easier to work around personality clashes internally as teams can be rearranged and you can avoid compelling people to work together. But if a client relationship is damaged beyond repair, it often results in having to let the employee go to protect the longevity of the client relationship. This is when breaking ‘family ties’ must be handled delicately to avoid damaging the whole team environment.

It’s the office not the pub

Another issue which arises from treating employees like family is that sometimes colleagues can become overfamiliar with each other. It’s great to see employees chatting in the kitchen, having lunch together and chatting at their desks throughout the day, but the fact remains that they are still at work. There needs to be a balance between work and fun, and a certain level of professionalism must be maintained – after all it is the office and not the pub. A way to ensure this happens is by organising social events in and out of the office. Build in time for the socialising to happen. This keeps employees happy and productive.

Sometimes we forget

Many businesses that run like a family have a flat structure instead of a hierarchical one, which ensures that everyone is involved in the day-to-day flow of the office. Senior staff are present for employees to ask questions and they can feel comfortable interacting with them. This helps to ensure a familiar environment, but it also makes it easy to forget to respect each other. There must be a level of respect for everyone’s ideas, capabilities and their work life balance. Challenging your employees to achieve more is great because it coaxes them out of comfort zones and help them to progress their careers. But it’s important to give them the support they need to succeed. Similarly, you need to make sure that senior staff don’t get complacent and are still being challenged, supported and pushed past their normal boundaries.

When an entrepreneur gets it right, a ‘familial’ work environment can have huge benefits for the company, ultimately creating a valued and engaged workforce. The key however, is to manage this relationship when the cracks begin to appear and draw the necessary distinctions between employer and employee.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Please see for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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