Are Family-Based Practices Doomed to Fail?

Beverly FlaxingtonBeverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

Let me preface this by saying I love my family, I really do. I work with my brother, my two sisters and my dad in our financial planning firm. It was always my dad’s business, but he has had some significant health issues over the years and has given most of the reins to us to make the decisions. My brother (not the oldest in the family) has elected himself in charge. He is a bully and he bosses my sisters around. I’m not the oldest either but I don’t enjoy being bossed so I do what I want and don’t really care if he yells at me or not.

My sister (who is the oldest) gets thrown around by his behavior. Some days she doesn’t come into work and tells us he is giving her an ulcer. She feels sick, she mopes around and isn’t productive. That’s fine except she is responsible for our operations and compliance and things fall through the cracks pretty consistently. My other sister and I have tried to counsel her to ignore him, reminding her he is a bully and he enjoys tormenting her, etc.

Nothing works. Our firm is in jeopardy. If my oldest sister left none of the rest of us would know how to do her job. She gets irked if we suggest bringing in an outside resource (and yes, we have tried to broach this many, many times). We have also tried talking to my brother and asking him to tone it down or just leave her alone. My other sister and I don’t really care – we find it irritating; who needs to take harassment from a family member? But, we don’t focus on it so it doesn’t disrupt our day. I know the whole thing really bothers my mom and dad. At one point my sister stopped coming to family events. She started up again when my dad took a really bad turn a few months ago. He is fine now but I think it scared her enough that she isn’t boycotting. However, when she comes she goes to lengths to avoid my brother so my parents totally notice what’s going on.