From Canada: My husband and I work for my parents in a family business. They have always been somewhat difficult but typically we have been able to work things out. Recently though everything single thing my husband does is criticized. This includes our choice of house that we purchased, his parenting skills, his lack of education, and more. At work at least every second day he is told everything that he does wrong and is never ever given any positive feedback. My parents never comment on any mistakes I make but will bring up all of his mistakes to me and my sister even.
We have a good marriage, he works very hard to provide for our family, is great involved dad but this constant attack is straining. My parents tend to shut down and get defensive anytime you try to talk about it and then while play the guilt card about how we are attacking them if we ever bring it up. Their behavior makes me feel trapped! Either we don’t say anything and allow them to constant treat my husband poorly or say something and risk a huge blowout fight. I am at my wits end never sleeping and don’t know what to do anymore.
Family businesses are notoriously difficult to manage. You have all the usual stresses of business plus the family dynamics that can make it hard to be as direct or open as you might be in another situation. As some point, the older generation often starts to feel threatened by change the younger generation wants to make. At some point, the younger generation begins to feel that they should be treated as equal adults, not as kids. Many, many families do figure out how to run the business without destroying the family but it does take some work.
I can’t make a recommendation to you about exactly what to do since I don’t know enough about the problems. But I can sympathize and make one suggestion. If you haven’t done so already, call in a consultant to family businesses to help you clear the air and define roles in a way that works for everyone. A place to start is the website for the UMass Amherst Family Business Center: www.umass.edu/fambiz. See whether there is a similar service in your area.
As difficult as they can be, family businesses are also wonderful opportunities for families to build something meaningful and interesting together. It can be very gratifying. I hope you will call in some expert help so the business can be successful in a way that everyone can feel good about.
I wish you well.