Work Isn’t Family

Josh Burkwist

Josh Burkwist


VP of Talent


November 1, 2022


“Welcome to the [insert company name] family!”

“We’re a family here at work.”

“We’re a family that lives and breathes the company mission.”

We’ve all seen “family” in job postings and heard it mentioned during meetings when describing company culture. But why? Some aspects such as respect, empathy, and caring can add value to a “family” culture but can quickly become more harmful than helpful.

Lines begin to blur

Not everyone thinks the same, which is why we must understand that “family” has a different meaning to different people. Not everyone wants or feels comfortable connecting with their coworkers on a deep and personal level. Some people are not comfortable sharing about their personal life but when “work is family” this boundary can become blurred. This can leave people feeling like they must share personal things that they would rather not.

Companies are "teams," not "family"

If you're looking for another analogy to explain your business, think of a successful professional sports club. Winnable games are the common objective of good teams. As players move between rosters, coaches deliberately trade or cut players, and so the team evolves.

Develop trust instead of strong familial ties

Aim to be trustworthy rather than pretending to be "family" and create a sincere dynamic by using both words and actions.

Communicate your intentions clearly

Examine the marketing materials and website for your business (about us, careers page, job descriptions). Are they real? When you say "we're family," what do you mean? If you truly care about the well-being of your employees, remove the family-oriented language, and replace it with what really shows your true intentions.

Good teams and businesses work effectively because their members trust one another, not because they are “family.”

What examples can you share about family vs work and positive company culture?

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