Work Family = Second Family?

Work Family = Second Family?

By Margarite Schindler

May 21, 2024

Family is a word that holds different but significant meanings for each of us. Whether it’s your birth family or a chosen circle of close relations, the concept of family often extends into our professional lives. In this article, we’ll explore various angles of this phenomenon.

Table of Contents

The Millennial Perspective on Work-Family

Guidelines for Building a Work-Family

The Evolving Role of Company Culture in Hiring

Critical Considerations for Work-Family Dynamics

Work-Family: FAQs

Work-Family: Striking a Balanced Approach

The Millenial Perspective on Work-Family

Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) nowadays comprise the largest generation on the market, with almost 40% of the workforce share and, according to Forbes, “happiness of millennials at work seems intrinsically linked to the quality of the relationships they foster there.” Premiere Global Services (PGI) compiled data and created an infographic from surveys of 220 GlobalMeet customers, which found that 71% of millennials want their co-workers to be like their second family.

But even if possible, is it a good idea? Colliding the two main segments of your day-to-day life and interactions could be the key to finding that work-life harmony you always strived for or the key to its destruction.

Let us first point out when colleagues should be like а family, when they should not, and what the ramifications are in either case.

Family is traditionally associated with care, attention, acceptance, help, and unconditional devotion. It is clear why employees would like to feel like they are surrounded by family at work. As humans, we seek and expect such treatment in our immediate environment.

Therefore, as an employee, one goes into ­work every day with the expectation that he/she would be accepted, treated well, and cared for. On the other hand, the employer hires with the assumption that the staff will be devoted to the workplace and work in its best interest at all times.

Five Guidelines for Building a Work-Family

This image contains a circular diagram representing "Five Guidelines for Building a Work-Family." The circular diagram is designed with overlapping segments, each segment labeled with one of the five guidelines: Trust, Assist, Communicate, Accept, and Commit. The arrangement suggests a continuous and interconnected relationship among the five principles, emphasizing their importance in creating a supportive and cohesive work environment akin to a family. The color scheme varies across the segments, with soft tones of teal, purple, peach, and beige, enhancing the visual separation of each guideline while maintaining a unified whole.

To achieve such high standards, all personnel should follow some basic guidelines:

1. Commit

Just like a relationship with a loved one, things will not always be great. One should commit to the bad times as well as the good ones and gather forces to overcome obstacles together.

2. Communicate

Miscommunication is often the ­­root cause of a significant position of all problems. Just like in close family relations, co-workers should also communicate about everything, listen actively to what is being said to them, and answer kindly and with compassion.

3. Trust

Often at work, we assume the worst of other people’s intentions. The golden rule is to treat someone as innocent until proven guilty. Has someone sent the wrong email? Or given you obsolete data? Approach that colleague with understanding and, through communication and trust, find the underlying cause of the issue, just like you would with a relative.

4. Accept

We all have unique backgrounds and hold different beliefs – as long as peers follow the basic company principles and guidelines, let them be their own person. Just because someone has a different perspective, does not mean it is wrong. Through adversity comes growth.

5. Assist

In a healthy family, the well-being of the entire group outweighs the individual’s impulses. The whole company works toward the same goal, so lend a helping hand when one is in need. Sometimes, all a person desires is a little boost to fulfill their full potential.

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The Evolving Role of Company Culture in Hiring

Having a close relationship with your co-workers brings numerous benefits, yet it comes with its territory. While in the past, the skill set of an employee was prioritized when hiring, in recent years, culture fit is becoming increasingly important.

This has brought several new layers to how companies select talent.

Stemming from better collaboration and higher work satisfaction levels, companies rely on the possible friendships employees will create to boost their company’s overall performance. This belief has grown within both top management and regular staff to the extent that a mismatch within this culture realm can break not only the work-family collegiality within the team but the cultural misfit’s place within the organization as well. Workers who feel comfortable in a specific environment guard it from possible intrusions that might mess with the achieved harmony.

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Critical Considerations for Work-Family Dynamics

Everyone should keep in mind that there are several critical differences between one’s birth and work family. While your relatives are “assigned” to you, work relationships are fundamentally different. Each member of this unity is in it by choice and can dictate to a large extent what the outcome of the partnership might be.

This is where group dynamics and company politics could present not only benefits but also challenges. Team members may express subjective favoritism, leading to inter-team tension founded on personal conflicts rather than strictly work matters.

Work-Family: FAQs

What is a work-family?

A work-family refers to a professional environment where relationships among colleagues are characterized by mutual respect, trust, and personal bonds that resemble those traditionally found in a family unit. This type of dynamic is fostered through an organizational culture that values and promotes close-knit and supportive interactions among employees. Within a work-family, members are committed to each other’s personal growth and professional success, they communicate openly and with empathy, and they provide assistance and support just like a family would in personal life. The term encapsulates the idea that a team can achieve a sense of belonging and loyalty that mirrors familial connections.

What is work-family culture?

Work-family culture is the environment of an organization that promotes the values and practices of a work-family. It’s where the lines between professional relationships and personal care blur, creating an atmosphere where employees feel valued not just for their work contributions but also as individuals. A strong work-family culture is anchored in policies and everyday interactions that reinforce trust, open communication, acceptance of diversity, and a commitment to mutual support. This culture can significantly enhance job satisfaction, employee retention, and overall organizational performance by creating a more emotionally connected and supportive work environment.

What are the three components of work-family culture?

The three key components of a work-family culture are:

  1. Relationship-oriented Policies and Practices: The organization prioritizes initiatives that facilitate strong interpersonal relationships among employees, such as team-building activities, collaborative projects, and social events.
  2. Supportive Management: Leaders and managers within the organization actively encourage a work-family environment by setting an example in the way they interact with staff, recognizing the importance of life outside work, and providing support for individual employee needs.
  3. Open and Empathetic Communication: A hallmark of a work-family culture is the presence of transparent, honest, and compassionate communication channels that allow for sharing of ideas, feedback, and personal experiences, fostering a sense of understanding and empathy among employees.

How do you create a work-family?

Creating a work-family involves several deliberate steps:

  1. Establish a foundation of trust by encouraging integrity and openness in all interactions.
  2. Promote clear, compassionate, and regular communication to build understanding and empathy among team members.
  3. Foster commitment by recognizing and rewarding not just individual achievements but also contributions to team success and cohesion.
  4. Encourage acceptance and inclusivity, celebrating diversity and allowing individuals to express their unique backgrounds and perspectives.
  5. Facilitate assistance by creating a supportive network within the workplace where colleagues can rely on one another for help and resources, much like a family unit.

Is it OK to be private at work?

Maintaining privacy at work is both acceptable and necessary. While a work-family culture encourages closeness and personal connections, it also respects individual boundaries and the choice to keep certain aspects of one’s life private. A balanced approach allows employees to decide how much they wish to share about their personal lives, fostering an environment where they can thrive professionally while feeling comfortable with their level of personal disclosure.

Work-Family: Striking a Balanced Approach

To wrap up, while becoming increasingly closer to your peers has a positive effect on your well-being and your commitment towards the job, it must be taken with a grain of salt. Sometimes, while being busy trying to prove our loyalty to the company, we fail to take care of ourselves as individuals. There is a place for friendships and close relationships within the office. Still, it should never be forgotten that a well-balanced scorecard approach is needed when combining strategic business decisions with personal affairs. The ultimate goal should be to strive to create a positive and fostering environment while taking precautions regarding the possible negative consequences.

Work-family may not necessarily be equal to (=) а second family, but leaders need to ensure their culture allows it to get as close as possible (≈).