It’s Time to Bring an End to the “Work Family” Culture

Employees are becoming increasingly wary of job postings that contain phrases like “We’re a work family” or “Join our company family.” Still, many industry leaders are left pondering why job seekers wouldn’t want to join in on such a tight-knit company culture. 

The aptly named “Great Resignation” has left many seeking opportunities with companies that allow for healthy work-life balance, flexibility, and employee empowerment, often fueled by their experiences with toxic work environments that ask too much while giving too little. 

Families Are Permanent. Jobs Are Temporary

Research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that most people hold, on average, 12.4 jobs between the age of 18-54. Promoting the idea that a temporary career has the same weight as our lifelong kinship bonds is a dangerous precedent because it implies that it’s “forever.” 

While it may seem impersonal or go against your idea of what a healthy team looks like, leaders must remember that jobs are transactional. Either party can decide it’s not a good fit and move on without the other. 

However, our families cannot fire us for poor sales, just as we cannot dock our family’s pay for showing up late to a birthday party.

 But our jobs certainly can. 

It’s much more difficult to look an employee in the eye and tell them that you’re letting them go because of their performance when you’ve been promoting the idea that they should give their all to the “work family.”

Similarly, it breeds discontent in the ranks because they’ve been encouraged to love and lean on this person you’ve now banished, and once the team feels betrayed, it’s much more challenging to get them back on your side. 

Unfair Expectations Abound

We all do things for our families that we wouldn’t do for anyone else, like lending our favorite cousin money or letting our sister stay with us for a couple of weeks between closing on a house and moving in. 

When we say yes to these requests, it’s because we’ve known these people our entire lives, developing deep, emotional relationships that have often overcome numerous disagreements, falling outs, and even full-blown arguments. 

By implying that your employees are part of a “work family,” you’re asking them to shoulder the weight of these same relationships with people they may have known for a few years or have hardly spoken to, apart from a passing hello in the break room. 

That means your team feels obligated to attend every baby shower, pitch in for every retirement party, and respond to every late-night text asking for help on a project because that’s what we do for our families. 

Yet, all of these take time or money away from actual family relationships with the people who will be around long after your employee leaves their job.

It Creates an Unhealthy Power Dynamic and Contributes to Quitting

Companies that promote familial feelings in the workplace face higher attrition rates, even when there’s an initial uplift in morale and camaraderie because this mindset is a catalyst to burnout.

Even if leaders don’t realize it, calling your team a family implies that you are the parent, and they are the children. They are stripped of their power to question your decisions or say no to your requests because that’s outside the boundaries of normal parent-child behavior. 

Unempowered employees aren’t creative or innovative employees. They don’t stand up in meetings to pitch lofty ideas that go against the grain or tell you that they’re feeling burnt out before they quit. Instead, they do as their told until they realize how harmful the workload is, and then they leave, often on bad terms. 

What Next?

If you’re facing a mass wave of quiet quitters and resolute resigners, spend some time speaking with a professional business coach. Lori Moen can help you evaluate your business culture from a new perspective and evaluate reasons why your once-loyal employees have decided to cut ties. 

From there, she’ll work with you to change the way you think about your employees and help you establish healthy, professional boundaries that honor everyone’s time outside of the workplace. 

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