“Mom and dad were arguing so I just left the room.” One of our employees was relaying the “discussion” to another and although we were all laughing about it after the fact, neither my wife nor I enjoyed that this took place. We’re hyper-conscious that the “freedom” to work with your spouse can have catastrophic consequences, which is why we’ve implemented the tactics below to make sure that becoming business partners didn’t get in the way of ‘happily ever after’.
I had the great pleasure in talking with Tom from Maple Money all about working with your spouse and the do’s and don’t’s based on my family’s experiences. In fact, this post comes directly from that conversation. I was lucky to have the opportunity and I’d really recommend you heading over to listening to Tom’s podcast then stopping back here to read more of the details.
Thanks so much all and here’s the link to Tom’s show!
Alright – you back? Thanks so much for following directions! Now – back to our regularly scheduled programming
Shortly after we purchased our dental practice, I was listening to a podcast that featured Dr. Peter Attia, a former ER doc. He was discussing the delicacy with which you must relay the worst news to a patient’s family… That this person would never come home again.
Dr. Attia discussed the clinical nature that he would use to approach those conversations, but his tactics aren’t what stuck with me. Near the end of this discussion, he mentioned that after a few experiences of giving a death notification, he’d be able to predict with great accuracy exactly how a family would respond to the news.
Here’s what Dr. Attia said
These high-stress situations would amplify the family’s relationship. If they came in as a tight-knit unit who support one another, those families would find a way to close ranks and eventually come closer together.
But the families who came in fractured, and then received this terrible news – they would completely fall apart…
While I’m not saying that working with your spouse is like receiving a death notification, I am saying that the foundation of your marriage plays a huge role in how you’ll interact with your spouse in the workplace.
And after working together for the past 2+ years, here are what my wife and I think are the most important things you can do to succeed as coworkers while staying happily married.
The 6 Most Important Tactics to Live ‘Happily Ever After’ and Work With your Spouse
1- Separate your tasks
“You don’t really like it when I’m up here, do you?” My wife asked me while she was in between patients and waiting for a few things to be ready in the back of the office (her realm).
“Honey – with all the love and respect in the world, no. Please let me do my job.”
We chuckled, winked, and mouthed “I love you” as she started walking back to her office, and then I answered the ringing phone while I typed away on the computer.
We’re both incredibly busy throughout the day, but I couldn’t imagine the tension we’d artificially create if we hadn’t separated our daily tasks.
My wife has her clear responsibilities, I have mine, and when those overlap we do our absolute best to communicate clearly, effectively, and with respect.
Before we started working together, I had serious concerns about a lack of conversation starters around the nightly dinner table. You know, “Anything crazy happen at work today?” – type questions. But because there are long stretches of the day where we go without seeing one another or communicating directly (read: we’ve done well to separate our tasks), there’re still quite a few stories to hear each night for dinner.
2- Don’t micromanage
I asked my wife for input on these tactics and this was the first one she mentioned. Why? Well, she is my unequivocal boss, and if you’ve ever been micromanaged by a boss – you know how terrible of a situation that can be.
Now imagine that micromanaging boss is your spouse…
There’s a time and a place for constructive criticism, no doubt, but one of the main reasons you’re most likely working with your spouse is that you’d trust no one as much as you do them.
You gotta let that birdie spread its wings and try to fly, otherwise, all you’ll have on your hands is a weaker Team Member and a pissed off spouse.
Let them try and let them fail because no one will be more motivated to learn from their mistakes.
3- Separate home and business relationships when you work with your spouse
I love a diverse arsenal of my favorite terms of endearment just as much as the next guy, but referring to my wife with a (cute) nickname in front of a patient or staff member is frowned upon in our establishment.
It has helped us to have a “line of demarcation” in more ways than one. Meaning that there’s a switch we flip when entering our office and then again with leaving – in terms of the way we interact and communicate.
Originally, I thought it’d be most effective to flip this switch before entering the workplace, but it’s been surprising for me to see that the opposite is true even more so.
Leaving the office and turning off “professional Mike” in favor of “dad Mike” or “husband Mike” is a completely relaxing and invigorating feeling.
I’m a true believer in the whole ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’ trope. And during the day, by instituting an absence of those sides to our personality, it makes them so sweet to come home to.
4- Share common large-scale goals
Yes, we both have our own areas of expertise at the office. But when it comes to large-scale goals, they were thought up, discussed, then pursued as a team.
It’s like a personal finance rule that we have in our household – any decisions that would cost over $100 to purchase are discussed (in some capacity) before they’re made.
Similar concept at the office…
We’re currently building a new website for our business. And because I gravitate more toward enjoying and knowing how to do that sort of thing, Monica is happy to let me decide which photo goes where. Or if we need a page with all of the new patient paperwork or not. But the fact that we’re building a new website and the exact scope of what the site would be – well that was picked apart and slept on (by both of us) many times before we pulled the trigger.
The goal, in this case, is the growth of our business. Once we had that goal outlined, now we were free to create our own paths on how to get there.
Welcome to ‘Cliche 101’ but this is the most important thing you do at work – whether it’s with your spouse or not.
- Trying to sell a client – communicate effectively
- Working with a coworker – communicate effectively
- Taking part in an annual review – … (you get the idea)
The communication need is only amplified when you don’t leave your boss (read: spouse) at work.
People have literally written books about communicating effectively, so today I’ll leave you with my top 3 points:
A- Realize that you’re communicating even if you’re not talking – Your body language tells your partner a ton about what you’re thinking (same goes for your staff and customers). Do your best to detach and prevent the over-emphasized shrug or eye roll. Once the job is done and you have a minute to debrief at the end of the day, feel free to relay both your thoughts in that moment as well as a potential solution to help the cause. Don’t just point out problems – provide solutions.
B- Show no signs of outward disagreement or mistrust – Whether in front of customers or our team, if my wife says something within bounds, I’m backing her 100%. Doesn’t matter if I completely agree with her statement or not. She’s got my support. In a quiet moment alone later in the day is when I’ll have the discussion with her to better understand her mindset and to relay my concerns. But in front of the public, our visions are aligned.
C- Tell them they’re “crushing it” often – “Hey, Monica. I think you really did a great job taking care of X.” You may think that multiple times throughout the day, but if you’re constantly reinforcing work well done – you’re putting a smile on your partners face and a little pep in their step. And who couldn’t use a boost of positivity throughout the workday? My guess is that these little statements will pay dividends in the long term.
At the end of the day, I’m in business with my spouse because there’s no one I’d trust more to handle such an important aspect of my personal or professional life. So I’m not looking over her shoulder to check her work or second guessing her motives for no reason.
She’s pursuing the same long-term goals that I am, just in her own way. That’s why it’s so important to provide the environment and support to let your partner do their thing. Because by trusting them in all facets, it frees you up to get your job done.
And with two people working ferociously and independently toward a common goal, so much progress can be made.