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Navigating Appreciation in Family Business

family business Jul 02, 2024
family business appreciation

- By Sophie Pinkoski

Expressing praise within a family business can be uniquely challenging. It's not just about acknowledging your colleagues, after all. They're also members of your own family. This requires a careful tightrope walk of balancing your personal and professional relationships, particularly as working alongside family blurs the lines between them. A major concern when it comes to giving praise within family business is too much praise leading to entitlement, and in turn, complacency. This is common with newer generations who have grown up within a family business, who have come to expect certain privileges due to birthright alone. This raises the question of how to give praise in a way that rewards meeting performance expectations without falling into favoritism due to your familial relationship.

Articulating praise is a necessity, as it ensures family members, just as any employee, feel valued for their contributions to the business.

When they feel validated for their hard work, they will be motivated to go above and beyond for the family business. It may feel less intuitive to praise family members for their good work than recognizing another staff member, as these are people you have known all your life. But don’t take their prominence in your life for granted. Of course, it may already be obvious that you love them, but do they know how much you value their skills, talents, and contributions?  It’s the strength of these facets that come together to create a lasting family legacy. They won’t know what they are appreciated for unless they are told outright. Remind them how powerful those talents are so they know their presence isn’t just appreciated, but integral to the family business.

Here are some things to keep in mind when giving praise within your family business:

Respect how each person prefers to receive acknowledgement—In their book, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, Gary Chapman and Paul White outline the unique ways individuals respond to different expressions of appreciation. In many instances, when two people express appreciation in opposite ways, this can cause misunderstandings, where perceived underappreciation doesn’t necessarily align with the reality of the situation.

In essence, it’s possible for people to speak very different languages of appreciation at work and miss one another’s cues altogether.

There are five languages of appreciation—words of affirmation (specifically addressing when someone does something well), quality time (giving them your undivided attention), acts of service (doing something for someone without expectation of it being returned), gift giving (showing you’re thinking of them by gifting nominal items such as cards, food, and items of interest such as books, music or articles), and physical touch (physical affection such as hugs, handshakes, and high fives). Someone who values quality time or acts of service may see words of affirmation full of empty gestures: they may need more concrete proof that you recognize their hard work.  As the leader of a family business, it can be helpful to become fluent in all five languages of appreciation so you can offer personalized recognition to according to what each individual responds to best. Here's a challenge - try asking each family member in the business what type of appreciation is most meaningful to them. That way, you don't need to guess.

Clarify what success looks like for your business—Part of giving praise and recognition for contribution is defining what good performance actually means for each person within the business (family and non-family). The more everyone involved can understand the purpose of the business and their specific role in it, the more they can commit their time and effort to going above and beyond to reach the company’s goals. This takes clear, open communication to align everyone’s skills, interests, and ambitions with the company’s objectives. From there, set realistic, achievable expectations they can strive toward. This way, everyone knows what success looks like.

Tracking successes and improvements with performance metrics will also offer a definitive way to identify noteworthy achievements.

Celebrate more than just the big wins—Every business will have their own long-term objectives they strive toward. But it’s the small wins that will eventually get you there.

When everyday wins are acknowledged, it is easier to pinpoint the impactful differences each individual makes.

Breaking objectives down into short term goals will make it easier to identify the milestones to celebrate along the way. Part of celebrating these milestones on a daily basis means creating a positive and supportive work environment, where praising one another for their talents can become second nature. A psychologically safe culture promotes a sense of professional pride and belonging to match your shared familial pride and values.

Invest in your family members’ growth—Alongside taking the time to understand their preferred language of appreciation, acknowledge each individual’s unique skills, interests, and career aspirations. Everyone has their own way of achieving their personal and professional goals, namely with their particular learning styles. For this reason, it’s key to experiment with a range of development opportunities beyond the traditional workshops and training sessions to find what works best for each person’s learning style. Encourage them to explore their passions through all manner of networking opportunities, conferences, online webinars, and engaging in related content. This lets you curate a personalized development program that lets them learn and grow at their own pace with resources they can relate to. An investment in their growth is an investment in your family’s legacy.

Expressing appreciation within a family business can be uncomfortable at first while navigating each person’s motivations. It’s important to remember that just because they’re family, they won’t automatically know that their hard work is recognized until they are told. Open communication, personalized recognition, and development programs will let them know their contributions are a valuable asset to the business. When everyone is empowered by this regular recognition, they can come together to create something the whole family can take pride in.


Further Reading

Practice Expressing Appreciation in Your Family Business, Family Business Performance Centre

Family Loyalty: How to Reward and Recognize the Contributions and Achievements of Your Family Members in Your Business, Faster Capital

The 5 Languages Of Appreciation At Work, Forbes

Gratitude and the Family Business, Tharawat Magazine

On Appreciation in the Family Business, Tharawat Magazine

When Business Meets Family: Balancing Love and Profits, Thorough Financial Services

Family Celebration: How to Recognize and Appreciate the Achievements and Milestones of Your Family Owned Business and Its Members, Faster Capital

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