Working with a relative can be tricky waters to navigate, but the proper approach can point you toward a healthy, productive professional relationship at the office or worksite. To start, have a conversation with your relative about the situation and how to best handle the unique circumstances of working together. This conversation will ideally take place before you begin your professional relationship, but if you’re already well into it, it may not be too late to get on the same page.
Here are five possible questions to consider during that conversation:
1. Will you ride together to and from work?
Carpooling could save you and your relative both on gas money and can be enjoyable, but if you do decide to ride together, make some decisions ahead of time, like what time you’ll leave home for work and what time you’ll both leave the office to make sure it will work out logistically. It can also be a good idea to decide whether or not you’ll talk about work and your mutual colleagues on your rides together. Venting can be healthy, but it could create a division between you and your relative and the other people you both work with.
2. How much and in what manner will you communicate at work?
Will you work together on projects? If so, what are your standards for professional communication with one another? If you won’t work together directly, will you still visit one another throughout the day? If so, when and for how long? Will you have lunch together? These are important questions to consider when deciding what your working relationship will look like in contrast to your at-home relationship.
3. Will you talk about home life in the workplace?
Avoiding conversations about things going on at home or mutual relatives while at work and sticking to professional topics could be helpful in keeping both your minds on doing great work and could keep you from getting caught up in family drama on your employer’s watch.
4. How should you treat one another as colleagues?
Do you normally hug your relative when you see them? If so, do you hug your other colleagues as well? It’s a good idea to match your behavior with your relative to your normal behavior with other folks you work with. This communicates your commitment to professionalism to everyone in your office and a sets a clear boundary in your own mind that you’re at work and not at home.
5. How else can you keep home and work life as separate as possible?
It may not be 100 percent possible to treat your relative like just another colleague, but you should make that the goal. To the degree possible, agree that you and your relative will speak to one another with the same professionalism that you speak to everyone else at your workplace and hold each other to the same professional standard.
These topics may be a little uncomfortable in the moment, but having a challenging conversation now could help avoid conflict or hurt feelings later on and set you up for a great working relationship with your relative.