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Family Business Career Planning Self-Insight

My older brother runs our family business, and I report to him. We are very different personalities. He is very detail-minded, and I am more of a free spirit. The problem is that he treats me like a child. How do I get him to change?

Regardless of personality differences, there are often difficulties reporting to big brother. After all, he spent years being bigger, stronger, and wiser than you, and it may be hard for him to recognize that you have grown up.

However, one important question is whether you actually have grown up. By describing yourself as a free spirit, you may be saying that you are not totally in step with things like corporate demands, commitments, and responsibilities, as spontaneity is the hallmark of your life. Before looking at your brother's behavior, you need to take an honest look at yours.

The issue is whether your being free-spirited is a help or hindrance in terms of the operations and success of the company. If you are in a tightly defined position that calls for structured thinking, you may be having some difficulties getting your work done. To the extent that this is occurring, your brother's treatment may be more a reflection of your job performance than his sibling performance.

As the corporate free spirit, you are probably best suited for a job that provides you with autonomy, performance-based rewards, variety, and a good deal of people contact. While this is not an ironclad rule, it makes more sense to have a free spirited sales and marketing department than a free spirited accounting department.

Assuming your performance is up-to-par, keep in mind that you are not going to change your brother, although it is possible to change his behavior. The best step is to meet with him and show him specific examples of situations where he treated you like a child. Indicate that you certainly do not want favorable treatment because of your brotherly relationship, but unfavorable treatment is not acceptable either. Give him some specific suggestions regarding more businesslike actions that he could have taken, and show him why it would make good business sense for him to do so in the future. For a family business to succeed, all of the players need to focus on business rather than family.

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