Boundaries and Balance between Work and Family

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Last semester, I interviewed a family member, Cemal Ayilmaz, for my leadership style paper. Cemal is married to my aunt for more than 45 years now. He started his career as a merchant and owned several small businesses throughout his career. Doing business in an unstable economy such as Turkey for decades, he faced many difficulties and had a career full of ups and down. The hardships in his career and the way he dealt with them affected directly his employees and his family.

Cemal carries all the characteristics of a business owner from a small town. The family and the relationships are the most important element in his life. He also sees them as a core factor not just in his successes, but also in his failures. The relationships always played a leading role in his decisions. He sometimes had to hire a family member or someone from his hometown just for the sake of relationships. He sometimes found himself in a position where he acted as a father or brother to his employees. Since he was always torn between a professional or personal approach, he ended up making happy neither his family, nor his partners and employees. The boundaries between work and family were always fuzzy, and as a result any decision he made was though.

During his interview, he mentioned that he tried to develop a relationship based on trust and he considered his employees as family. They had a close personal relationship out of work as well and he had to take part even in the resolution of their personal problems. He said his employees were typically under-educated unskilled labor so he had to be very strict, disciplined and controlling.

The family affairs influenced his business life a lot – unfortunately most of the time in a negative way. Doing business with family members put him in difficult positions. The problems at workplace moved to the home as well.

Creating a life and work balance is critical to be able to function effectively in business life. Setting boundaries between family and work is even more critical. My main lesson from Cemal’s experience is that the steps we take for the sake of the personal and family relationships might be the steps that will harm them the most. So position yourself according to your principles and boundaries rather than your obligations.

by Derya Kaya