Summer brings on a slower business pace, some much-awaited downtime, and for the conflicted family business, the often-dreaded family get-together vacation.
These get-togethers are commonly held at the parent’s vacation home where everyone descends to enjoy a week or more of vacation together on neutral territory. This bringing together of the family outside of the business is where it gets a little awkward.
Follow these survival tips to retain some civility:
- Before you scurry for an excuse not to go, step back, be less selfish and realize this is for the parents. Besides, no one is going to believe what you thought was the most clever, believable excuse.
- Hunker down for a long-term visit with your siblings. This isn’t a brief 4-hour Thanksgiving dinner. It’s going to be multiple days under the same roof together. (Think: Ghostbusters movie “headed for a disaster of biblical proportions … Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!)
- If choosing a vacation house for your get-together, find one with many separate living areas and outside porches for hanging out. (Extra points for separate detached cottage from main home). This allows everyone some “space” and “alone” areas to escape when the family becomes too overwhelming. The worst layout is the large open floor plan which forces everyone to be together and socialize with each other 24/7. Not that I’ve ever had this experience or anything, but the backyard doghouse never looked so good.
- Overlapping stays by a few days between siblings can help diminish the tension. It also gives each of them some alone time with the parents.
- Keep length of visits to a minimum. The first few days together seem to be more innocent catch up time, but extended stays risk conversations going into the sensitive, dark-side areas.
- Use your kids as shields. By centering activities around the kids, you’re less likely to get involved in sensitive relationship issues. It’s hard to argue with each other in front of the kids. Not impossible, but hard.
- Keep busy, downtime breeds boredom, which brings negative thinking. I find offering to run down to the store to pick up something comes in handy to break up the tension. You can never have enough milk (or alcohol). Your choice.
- Don’t avoid talking about the business. Going for long lengths of time without discussing the business just creates a pent-up desire to talk about it more. Oddly, discussing the business issues can be less stressful than avoiding them.
- Use diversion tactics. When conversations get too contentious, just switch to talking about today’s politics. I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t have a strong opinion about what’s going on in Washington. This is the only time it’s considered proper etiquette to talk about politics with others.
- Make sure there is good WiFi at the vacation home. I once saw a sign that said “we have no WiFi, so you’ll have to talk with each other”. Enough said.
- If all else fails, schedule the vacation get-together after June 22. The days start getting shorter and that way you’ll have a few less minutes of daylight to see each other.
Now, get out there and enjoy your summer with your family (yes, it really can happen).
-an anonymous family business member with a great, believable, clever excuse