Work “Family” is not Family

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As a fresh grad out of school, I thought that my workplace would be like my extended family. When new peolpe join our team, we say, “Welcome to Company XYZ family.” I had visions, as a fresh grad, of finding a great company to work for, laughing with my co-workers while working late to meet deadlines, and staying with the company for a long time.

In my 4 years working in the real world, I’ve learned a few things that I’d like to share. My once wide eyed naive self is a little more wise, and sadly, a little more jaded. I’ve seen former co-workers let go and new co-workers take their place. I’ve seen people stay with the company for 25+ years and I’ve seen some people who move on within a year or two.

Co-workers are Important… but not family.

My family is my mom, dad and my 2 sisters. My parents love me and my sisters unconditionally, they always want the best for me and my sisters, even if it means sacrificing things for themselves. My sisters and I are always honest with one another – even if it means saying things one may not want to hear. We look out for one another, and support one another – both morally, and at times, financially.

Does this kind of support and relationship sound like something I would expect at a workplace? Of course not. That would be unrealistic.

My co-workers are people who I work with – day in and day out. It is important that we get along, and that we work together on a united front on our projects, but I would never expect them to put my needs before the theirs or the company’s.

The Workplace is a Business

It’s important to remember why we are at our workplace in the first place.

To state the obvious… We have been hired to fulfill a certain role, complete a certain job or tasks, and we are being compensated for our time and effort in the form of a salary/bonus/shares, etc. Generally, we are compensated because we bring some value to the team, which can cover our own salary, and then some (i.e., benefits, sick leave, vacation, other people’s salary).

At the end of the day, in order for the company to stay in business, it must be generating more money than it is paying out. So, as an employee, you must be bringing in more revenue that your company is paying you. Makes sense, right?

But what about the “family” part?

Good for Morale

I think that when a company promotes their “Company XYZ Family”, it is mostly good for morale. People like feeling that they belong somewhere, and they like to know that they are taken care of and supported by (similar to how we are with our own families).  It makes us feel good.

When people feel good, they usually have more incentive to work harder, thus generating more income for the company. This can be a win-win situation, until there is an imbalance in the system.

Perhaps, there is no work coming in, or perhaps John Doe isn’t able to bring in as much business as he once did. Whatever it may be, the revenue John was bringing may no longer be sufficient.

So what happens now?

Business is Business

Although, I haven’t experienced it, yet (“knocks on wood”), I have had co-workers and friends, describe to me how they were let go. Suffice to say, it was all business. In fact, some weren’t even given a reason – just told that it was their last day, and they could either pack their things that day, or come back another day, after hours, escorted.

At the end of the day, the company needs to look out for their shareholders’ best interest.


Co-workers, bosses, and executives are a very important part of the work environment, but I still feel that the “family” card is played only when it is in favour of what works out best for the company. I often time see employees bend over backwards for a company. However, if the tables were turned, it’s less likely that a company would bend over backwards to help out one of their employees (nor is it usually expected).

Readers, what are your thoughts on work “family”? Do you think the term “family” is being used for mural, or do you think companies really mean it? Perhaps, I might be a little jaded in my perspective.



Filed under Personal

11 responses to “Work “Family” is not Family

  1. When my office closed, I remember some of my co-workers complaining to the corporate heads and saying they were sad that the office was closing because we were like family. I was like “Uhhh, really”? I mean I like ya’ll (for the most part) but I’ve never once felt like this was family. I’ve always kept work and personal very separate. There are a few coworkers who I’ve become friends with outside of work but other than that I am very intentional in separating the two.

    I agree with you, some people kill themselves working but the company would let them go in a millisecond if it was better for the bottom line. When I leave work, I leave. I’m not one of those people so dedicated to the job/career that I take it home with me. When I log off, don’t call me until the next morning at 8:30 am. Don’t get me wrong doing a good job and yielding a superb product is important to me. I take pride in my work but I am also very serious about work/life balance.

  2. I’m with you – my coworkers have never been my family and they shouldn’t be. Because families don’t have layoffs or transfers or any of the things that happen in the workplace. “Sorry, baby Timmy. We can’t afford you anymore, so you’ll have to be out by the end of the day.” I think it’s silly to think of coworkers as family, but I do understand why companies would want to perpetuate that – I’m sure it would make it harder for people to leave if they felt that way.

    I have always enjoyed getting along with the people I work with, and there are some who have become friends outside of work. But for the most part, once I moved on to another job, the friendship kind of fell apart without the common thread of griping about work.

  3. You put into words perfectly how I feel. I think a good company culture is important, and the relationships / friendships / mentorships you build at work is important. But family is a whole another thing. I think “family” in corporate speak is a short-hand way of saying “we all work well, we respect each other, we value our employees.” Which is all fine and good (and maybe even some families don’t do that!), but it’s certainly not a replacement for a real family. If used too frequently it can seem disingenuous.

  4. mochiandmacarons

    Some companies mean it, but every single company has one goal in mind: to make money.

    Then to make money, they can also be nice to their employees so that being their bread and butter, THEY make them that money, but the end goal is to make money.

    Work is one thing. True family is another. At work, you have to be another person entirely, who is not the person I am with friends and family.

    You also have to negotiate/fight with work to get what you’re paid, even if you’re well worth that.. and more.

  5. At the law firm I worked at during college, it truly felt like a family because it was such a small firm – 6 attorneys and a small support staff. We all got along so well and I was really close with all of my co-workers. I miss them so much. Now that I work at a large corporation, the atmosphere is definitely that which you described…. just another fish in the sea 😦

  6. I used to think the same thing about going flatting – that I would have instant best friends and be tight with all the people I lived with like they do on TV. WRONG.

    At my old work we all worked different shifts so it’s hard to hang out outside of work, though we did get a regular pub quiz team going.

  7. Pingback: Link Love: Work Families, Attitude Problems and More! - Young Professional Finances

  8. j

    I feel VERY strongly as you do. I actually started at a nfp several years ago that does highly emotional work at times and even so – I was put off by the insistence that this was a family. After some time the agency was restructured and a department whose mission was no longer a priority focus of ours was let go. Everyone felt so badly about it that they tried to fit some of these folks into other departments, despite it not being their expertise or interest. Needless to say things ended badly and now they were leaving the agency not once but twice. Once when they were redundant and once from the positions they took to keep a salary that didn’t work out. AND the hiring manager in the second role felt like the Wicked Witch for having to let go people who were already let go.

    Additionally I had people on my team not performing and when I had to let them go, the other folks who’d been here as long considered it a huge blow and were hysterical. Trust me, you can’t coach a rock. There was a reason and it was after 5 months of documentation of a job poorly or rarely done.

    Along the years, one or two positions were made redundant or there were performance issues and those folks were let go (usually with a severance and job counseling). Because of the “family” attitude, people were actually asking managers to discuss WHY someone was let go. If they were that close to the person, couldn’t they have asked them directly? Of course not – because part of the ask was the plea to let them stay.

    I can’t imagine a more unprofessional set-up. And unfortunately this was part of my boss’s and my department’s culture before I joined the team. And whenever I mention that while I love and respect my colleagues, this is not a family. It is a JOB. We are here for our relevant skill sets and our work and that is how we stay here.

    I don’t think the family thing is a win/win ever because you rarely have a workplace where there isn’t some staffing issue and the concept bites you in the ass.

  9. I essentially have two jobs: my regular scheduled office career, and working on the family farm. I wouldn’t consider my office coworkers as a family. It is a small company, very community minded, with lots of great people but at the end of the day, the company has to make money. People who don’t help the company make money get replaced, very doesn’t keep my definition of family.

    On the other hand, working on the farm, we are literally a family. We have to take everyone’s weakness and failures in stride, because we need everyone to help out. The farm needs and family and the family needs the farm so to speak.

  10. belowhermeans

    I’m from a small, non-corporate environment and definitely consider my co-workers family. That said, I would never say the same about my previous jobs. 🙂

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